'The Report' on Amazon Prime Video: The Real Daniel J. Jones on What the Movie Gets Right and Wrong

Few movies have more to condense than The Report, which takes the 7,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture and the seven years it took to be made public and turns them into a two-hour movie. It stars Adam Driver as real-life Senate investigator Daniel J. Jones, who worked with Select Committee on Intelligence member Senator Dianne Feinstein and spearheaded the attempt to release the details of the so-called 'Torture Report,' which did much to prove the ineffectiveness of torture as an interrogation tactic.

Newsweek spoke to Jones, who now runs anti-corruption non-profit Advance Democracy, just before the European premiere of the Amazon Prime Video movie to find how accurate the film is to real life, the big moments the movie missed and the scenes which did not really happen like they are portrayed in the film.

Newsweek: How involved were you in making sure the film was accurate and what was it like seeing it for the first time?

Daniel J. Jones: [Director] Scott [Burns] asked me to be on set, so I'd hide out in the corner, and a lot of times the talent would say: 'What if we change this word?' And I'd say, 'yeah, you can change that word,' or 'no, you can't change that one word because then that means this.' And then at the Sundance premiere, I saw it as a viewer and it was seven years of my life, so it was pretty intense.

What is the most important thing that happened in real life missing from the movie?

They skipped over quite a few moments that were really important to me, but you only have two hours to tell a seven-year story. There's the scene with John Kerry calling Senator Feinstein [played in The Report by Annette Bening] asking her not to release the report. In real life, there were a series of other things that happened afterward with the Obama administration where they were fighting to not release it.

Scott also covers the tapes investigation, the investigation that launched everything, in about five minutes. It's like 'go to the tapes investigation, next thing, here's the tapes.' It's like, 'wait a minute, Scott, it took two years!' But he had to do it to move the story along.

There's a '70s political thriller-style scene at one point where you meet a journalist in an empty car park. Is that cinematic license, or did that really happen?

That's one of the very few moments that Scott used creatively. He talked to staff, and he said, 'it must have been hard for you, didn't you want to just go release the report?' And everyone says, 'Well, of course you think of these things, but that doesn't mean you do them.' And a journalist did come to me, a very senior level journalist at one point said, 'listen, if we had your report, we'd print it all tomorrow.' That actually did happen.

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Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones in "The Report" Amazon Prime Video

We see very little of your private life in the film. Why is that?

That was a creative decision from the beginning. There's one allusion which shows it was difficult to sustain a healthy relationship during that period of time, given you're working seven days a week and that I wasn't a very good partner⁠—to be a good investigator, you have to be really obsessive, and follow the details and follow all the rabbit holes. It did require a focus that does not treat those elsewhere in your life quite fairly.

You have released the summary of your report as a book. What do we get from that that's missing from the film?

The film only scratches the surface. The book goes into far more detail of detainees naked, chained to the ceiling for 17 days defecating on themselves, rectal rehydration, rectal feeding, beating people, and detainees who died. Some of this is depicted in the film, but the details of that are much more in-depth in the book. It's not a happy read but it's necessary.

You spent seven years dealing with this kind of information. Did you find yourself becoming numb to it?

Adam talked about this in terms of being an actor, how you cut part of yourself off and you become something else. In terms of writing a report like this, you also need to cut a portion of yourself off⁠— this isn't about you, this is about a task you need to carry out.

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Adam Driver and the real-life Daniel J. Jones David M. Benett/Getty

Where were you when you found out the report was being released and what did it feel like?

I sat on the Senate floor. People were coming by and handing me printouts of news articles from around the world that were reporting on this in real-time. And it was relief, then I was really tired, I was just exhausted. I remember walking back from the Senate and passing out. I slept for 12 hours after that.

The film shows you leaving the Senate at the end of the film. Why did you decide to leave after the report had been published?

I spent four years of the FBI and almost a decade in the Senate. I did a bunch of classified investigations, including this one, which became public, but at that time I was so much associated with fighting for this report that it was in the best interest of the committee and the best interest of my own mental health to move on and try something different.

How much of yourself can you see in Adam Driver's performance?

I can see myself a couple of times, and there were a number of people who have said, 'oh, yeah, that little thing that Adam does, he obviously picked that up from you.' People say to be a good investigator, you have to be a bit obsessive and Adam has that obsessiveness in the seriousness to which he brings to a role. I think it's probably fair to say I do something similar.

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Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein in "The Report" Amazon Prime Video

How much time did you spend with him during the making of the film?

Adam would call and want to know more about the story. There's contextual things that he would want to know, so he would call me up or we'd meet for a drink somewhere and discuss the content of it. A lot of the report is classified so I can only talk about the part that's declassified, so some of his questions I just couldn't answer.

Who is missing from the film that you would like to include in a longer version?

Senator [Jay] Rockefeller, who was chairman before, played a critical role, then there's three other key staffers that came in and out through the years that did really incredible work. And then Senator John McCain is in the end of the film, but he also played a critical role throughout in making sure the report was moving along and would eventually be publicly released.

What do you hope the public gets from watching The Report?

We released the report to make sure that a program like that never happens again. Hopefully the film can ensure that a program like this doesn't happen again, not only in U.S. but around the world and other countries that may be thinking that torture works. It doesn't seem effective. It produces false answers. And we showed that conclusively in the Senate report itself.

The Report is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.