EW’s Anthony Breznican gets to scoop the news that James Gandolfini will play Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty:

James Gandolfini will appear as one of the highest-ranking government figures featured in the film — Leon Panetta, the current Secretary of Defense, who was head of the CIA when bin Laden was found and killed.

There’s a too-easy joke to be made here: How awesome is it that Tony Soprano is involved in the effort to whack Osama?
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In this first look of Gandolfini from the film, we see The Sopranos Emmy-winner in character as Panetta, a law school grad who became an Army intelligence officer in the mid-1960s and served in Congress for 16 years before becoming President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff in the mid-’90s. Panetta was confirmed as head of the CIA in 2009, which lead to his involvement in the final effort to track down bin Laden.

The primary focus of the Zero Dark Thirty, out Dec. 19, is on the many intelligence analysts, operatives, and military personnel who spent years tracking the al-Qaeda leader following the Sept. 11 attacks. As head of the CIA, however, Panetta oversaw the search for the terrorist leader, and wrote the memo documenting President Barack Obama’s decision to move forward with the May 2011 raid.

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  • Kevin Klawitter

    It’s really a fascinating sign that Bigelow and Boal have been able to keep this movie so completely under wraps. I mean, James Gandolfini playing a high-ranking contemporary government official, and we’re only hearing about him NOW? Who knows what other surprises are in store?

  • The headline makes it sound like he just got cast?

  • Alex

    He looks more like Paul Sorvino in that picture.

  • John G.

    I’ve met Panetta. This is pretty good casting. Have they cast Bob Gates?

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