Panetta Sees Himself More Like Pacino Than Gandolfini

Photograph by Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Actor James Gandolfini as Leon Panetta in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Just exactly a month ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta steered clear of critiquing “Zero Dark Thirty” when asked about the film by reporters flying with him to Lisbon. Today, though, he offered a casting quibble.

“The guy who plays me isn’t quite, quite right,” Panetta said with a smile during a ceremony at the Pentagon honoring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently stepped down from her Cabinet job.

James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos” fame portrays Panetta in the controversial movie about the hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

“My preference probably would have been Pacino,” he said, referring to Oscar-winner Al Pacino, another Italian-American with less girth than Emmy-winner Gandolfini.

Panetta also said it’s impossible for a movie to do justice to all that went into tracking down and killing bin Laden in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America..

“There’s no way you can take 10 years of all of the work that was done, even in the last four years or the last two years up to that operation, that I was involved with,” he said. “There’s no way you can take that and put it into a two-hour movie.”

The ceremony was among the wrap-up activities by Panetta, 74, who will leave his post once President Barack Obama’s choice to take over the Pentagon post, former Senator Chuck Hagel, wins Senate confirmation.

After citing some of Clinton’s accomplishments, Panetta — a longtime California congressman and former White House chief of staff — provided some personal thoughts.

“Hillary and I are a little older, perhaps a little wiser, a little less patient, particularly with political dysfunction, a little bit less tolerant of B.S. in general — and it is probably a good thing at this point in time that we have a chance to get some damn rest.”

As the audience of military officers and Pentagon employes laughed, he added, “I’m going to have as broad a smile as she does, hopefully, in a few days.”

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