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Martin Sheen & 'Zero Dark Thirty': Actor Walks Back Criticism, Says Movie 'Does Great, Great Service' On Torture

01/31/2013 09:34 am ET

Two weeks after his name appeared on a statement that criticized "Zero Dark Thirty" as promoting torture, Martin Sheen says he didn't mean to come out against the film at all.

"It's my own fault," Sheen told the New York Times about the mix-up. The actor erroneously believed the statement was a condemnation of torture -- not of the depiction of it in director Kathryn Bigelow's controversial movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Instead, Sheen said he believes "Zero Dark Thirty" has "done great, great service to the issue" by forcing the viewer to confront the brutality of torture.

Sheen's shift comes amid a flurry of good press for the embattled movie. Though it has been derided by former CIA officials and called "grossly inaccurate and misleading" by the likes of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a number of entertainment figures and officials have recently praised the film, which is up for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. (In a shocking snub, Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director.)

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore said the movie "made an incredible statement against torture" in an appearance on HuffPost Live. "The film shows the abject brutality [of torture]," Moore said. "It doesn't matter if it works. It's wrong."

Voices within the government have also cautiously lauded "Zero Dark Thirty." Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta told ABC News' Martha Raddatz that he was pleased with actor James Gandolfini's performance. Gandolfini plays Panetta in the movie, which takes place during the latter's tenure as Director of the CIA.

"It's a great movie," Panetta said. "You know, it's a great movie. But when you've lived what happened, as far as the main subject of that movie is concerned you know a lot about the kind of human effort that was involved here on all sides to deal with it and -- I wish you could tell that story, but in two hours you can't."

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have undertaken a two-pronged defense of the film, simultaneously arguing that the movie is true to history and also a work of art. Bigelow -- who has denounced torture -- crystallizes the latter defense by repeatedly saying that "depiction is not endorsement."

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