Kathryn Bigelow's fictionalised chronicle of the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden has been widely criticised since its release in the US, with several critics including senior CIA officials accusing the film of endorsing torture.
"I think we've been surprised by the false accusation that it's pro-torture," Chastain said. "But I think perhaps it's happening because it's an issue people need to talk about, and it's something that America did.
"We want to forget, we want to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened."
Mark Strong, who plays a high-ranking CIA operative, agreed that the film has been "misconstrued".
"I don't know how you tell that story without including that element of 'enhanced interrogation techniques', unless you're going to tell a different story, or you're going to whitewash history, or you're going to censor yourself."
> Kathryn Bigelow defends 'Zero Dark Thirty': 'Depicting torture is not endorsing it'
> 'Zero Dark Thirty': Senate committee probes film's CIA access
Zero Dark Thirty is out in the UK today (January 25).
Watch the trailer below: