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Zero Steel Thirty?

Written by Dan Gigler on .

In the searing film Zero Dark Thirty, the protagonist Maya (portrayed by Oscar-nominated Jessica Chastain) is said to be based a real CIA analyst whose identity is top secret or a composite of several agents, depending on who you ask. 

But is it possible that the woman (or one of the women) who hunted Osama Bin Laden for a decade is also a Steelers fan? 

Stick with me for a second.

If you've seen the movie, in one of the first scenes after the compound containing Bin Laden is discovered in Abbotabad, Maya is at her desk at Langley. She abruptly gets up and angrily goes to her boss's office and defiantly writes on the window with a dry erase marker the number of days its been since the discovery -- with no action yet taken. 

When I'd seen this on the big screen, I was almost certain that when she gets up, you can see what looked like a Steelers lanyard hanging on the corner of her desk. But, y'know -- no pause or rewind button at the movie theater. 

Sunday night, I watched the movie On Demand, and sure enough I was correct -- 1 hour and 39 minutes in, there is the Steelers lanyard on Maya's desk, one of her only personal effects. (Picture and close up below)

ZD3 1

I'm enough of a movie buff to know that even the smallest prop -- even a lanyard that's on screen for about a second -- does not get in there by accident, especially in a big-time production like this, and on the desk of the main character. Post-Gazette movie critic extraordinaire Barbara Vancheri agreed on that point. 

ZD3 2So is Maya -- or one of her inspirations -- possibly from Western Pennsylvania, or at least a fan of the black & gold? 

We'll likely never know. Some idle thoughts: 

  • The Steelers item is possibly the tiniest of homages to former CIA Director Michael Hayden -- a Pittsburgh native who played on a middle school football team coached by Dan Rooney and once worked briefly as a Steelers equipment manager -- and headed the agency from 2006 to 2009.
  • Rooney Mara was originally cast to play Maya, but backed out. But even though she's a Rooney cousin, any nod to Mara would likely be New York Football Giants related.
  • Hollywood mogul and Steelers minority share owner Thomas Tull did not produce this movie, so that's out.
  • Likewise, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have no apparent ties to Pittsburgh. 
  • Barb notes that ZDT co-star Joel Edgerton was the star of 'Warrior' which was shot here, but he's not involved in any of the Washington scenes of ZDT.
  • The woman, or women, Maya is based on may have some Western Pennsylvania connection.
  • Set decorator Lisa Chugg is either a Steelers fan or lost a bet to one and snuck it in there. 

Either way, a fun little aside from this most excellent and controversial film.

And besides Maya's pugnacious personality reeks of the kinds of Steelers fans that call talk radio and comment on our website -- nothing is ever good enough or done fast enough, they're always questioning the team leadership, but they're probably the most likely to cry after the big win ... (I kid ... sort of) 

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