In the years since “Zero Dark Thirty” became a box office success and an Oscar contender, inquiring minds (not to mention the Senate Intelligence Committee) have wondered how close director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal got with the CIA. It sure seemed like the filmmakers had a lot of insider knowledge, so how exactly did they come by it?

Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from Vice News, we have some answers. More than 100 pages of internal documents, including the ominously titled “Potential Ethics Violations Involving Film Producers,” shed light on what kind of sensitive information Bigelow and Boal were privy to and how exactly Hollywood types express their thanks.

Here are some of the main takeaways.

The CIA was very generous with its time

Boal’s relationship with the CIA dates back to 2010. He had been working on a movie entitled“Tora Bora” about the government’s inability to capture Osama bin Laden. Clearly, following the events of May 2, 2011, he needed to find a new movie to make. And he did.

According to Vice, less than three weeks after bin Laden’s death, Boal was meeting with CIA officials about his new idea: retelling the events leading up to the mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan. And the CIA was only too happy to help, inviting Boal and Bigelow to a classified awards ceremony and giving the filmmakers access to a number of its agents.

There were meals and gift-giving, but it wasn’t exactly lavish

Boal and Bigelow expressed their gratitude with gifts and free meals. One officer met Boal at the Jefferson Hotel — an off-site meet-up was necessary to avoid jealousy from other agents — and spent about four hours going over unclassified information. During that time she ordered room service, which Boal paid for, but she didn’t go for the lobster. She ordered a grilled cheese, french fries and a soda. That officer also dined with Boal two other times, at both the hotel restaurant and the pricier, now-closed Citronelle.

Hollywood hotshots are prone to hyperbole

Meals weren’t the only things Bigelow and Boal were paying for. The first time that same officer met Bigelow, the director gave the woman a thank-you gift of a pair of Tahitian black pearl earrings — only they weren’t real. When the officer turned over the gift to the CIA watchdog to have them appraised, a jeweler said they weren’t worth a formal appraisal, given that they were actually painted black. They might be worth $60 or $70 on eBay, he concluded.

Boal gave another officer a bottle of tequila that the screenwriter claimed was worth “several hundred dollars,” but when the officer looked up the brand online, it turned out to be worth $169.99, max.

CIA officers were clueless but tried to play by the rules

There are multiple instances of agents coming clean about gifts after a formal investigation began, but there are also examples of officers who were trying to be as transparent as possible, even though they weren’t given any guidance about how to act, what to accept or which topics they could discuss.

One officer said that she became friendly with Boal and Bigelow, but she worried that some of the filmmakers’s invitations were more than she could accept. Bigelow offered to host a private screening for her and her family at the Soho House in L.A., and Boal said he could get her tickets to a Prada fashion show. She declined, and when she followed up with the public affairs office at the CIA, she was told to cut off all communication, which she did.

Washingtonians are just as good as Hollywood power players at getting what they want

So who was playing who? Boal and Bigelow were doling out meals, (faux) jewelry and liquor, trying to get juicy tidbits, and it worked. But the CIA only gave the filmmakers what the agency wanted the American public to see. The result was a very pro-CIA movie.

Agents reviewed the script and recommended that certain scenes be taken out, including one episode involving agents partying and shooting guns. Meanwhile, according to the movie, bin Laden’s death hinges on information obtained using enhanced interrogation techniques. How convenient, considering that the CIA was in the midst of defending that kind of behavior.

Courtesy Trove