Oliver Stone’s new film, SNOWDEN will be hitting theaters September 16. For those unfamiliar with the story of Edward Snowden, here’s a little rundown for you:
Edward Snowden was a young man hoping to be a soldier. However, after being injured during a training exercise, he wasn’t able to continue. Some time after, he met his girlfriend Lindsay. Around the same time, he began working at the CIA. The job allowed him to travel overseas to Geneva, where he experienced a darker side of what the government was capable of. He quit working for the CIA, but was quickly snatched up by the NSA. He traveled once again, Lindsay in tow. Finally, the pair settled in Hawaii where Snowden was assigned to a special position for the NSA. However, that was the final straw as he famously stole classified information and subsequently (with the help of several fine journalists) released it to the public.
Recently, we got a chance to sit down with director Oliver Stone and the cast of Snowen, and I compiled the 7 most interesting things I was told about the film, it’s production, and the cast.
Oliver Stone didn’t want to make SNOWDEN, but felt he had to.
Oliver Stone: [SNOWDEN] is received as a ‘critical of America’ movie. This guy was an American, and that’s what’s frustrating – that you cannot dissent from this system. We do pro-American movies only. This has been happening more and more since Reagan. Go back to the 70s! In the wake of the Vietnam War, there was a certain disillusionment with what we were doing, and people were actually making movies [that were] critical of our society. Many of them were praised in the early 70s. [Now] everything tends to glorify America. You can’t look in the mirror and see what we actually did in foreign countries. It tells you a lot about where our culture is headed. We’re going to head into the garbage can with this kind of thinking. I see it everywhere. It’s been a nightmare. I didn’t want to do Snowden. I knew I was going to have problems. I sensed it. Also, it’s a current affair. The story can break either way. Something can come out of the woodwork, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I stay from hot potatoes, if you will.
Melissa Leo met the real Laura Poitras (her character in SNOWDEN) by chance in Hong Kong.
Melissa Leo: Yes, by chance encounter, I was able to spend a handful of minutes with Laura Poitras… oddly enough, in the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong. Zach [Quinto] had run into her in the elevator. She was there screening CITIZEN 4 while we were shooting. So, it was just perfectly by chance, and [it] was a really important few moments for me to meet her.
Zachary Quinto was not involved in the filming until five weeks before it was finished, and he felt strongly moved by the film after seeing the final cut.
Zachary Quinto: I felt really moved by this film, more than I expected to. You know, we came in during the last five weeks or so of production, and they had been all around the world and working for five months at that point. So, we had a very… insular experience, very unique to the story that we were telling. [It was] separate from the rest of the film into which our contribution is woven. But I didn’t expect it to have such an emotional impact on me. I was really, really moved by its integrity and its full realization. I thought it was really wonderful and quite beautiful, actually.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt flew to meet Edward Snowden and Lindsay Mills before production commenced.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I went to Moscow, and I got to spend about 4 hours with him and with Lindsay Mills. We talked about all sorts of things. It’s funny because he is always trying to take the attention off of himself and put the attention on the issues that he’s raising. But I’m an actor that was going to play him, so I’m gonna focus on him. I want to get a sense of him as a human being – how he talks, how he sits, how he shakes your hand, how he eats. All those little details are really valuable to me.
Oliver Stone went for the most real version of the Edward Snowden story that he could, even editing the film with him at one point.
Oliver Stone: [Ed Snowden] saw it twice, and helped us… I edited with him because this is tricky stuff. The NSA will say ‘that’s wrong, that’s wrong’, but don’t believe them. I would go with what Ed is saying, but some things we cannot do. We cannot recreate in film what they can do on a computer. You have to show things in film that you can’t see on a computer. It’s a little bit tricky, but I think we found compromises that worked.
People warned Joseph Gordon-Levitt not to take the role in SNOWDEN.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: There were voices in my professional life who cautioned me and said, ‘Hey, this is a polarizing figure in this country’. There were conversations where people said, “This might have an impact on the commercial strength of your career if you alienate the people in this country who dislike Edward Snowden”. But I don’t really make my decisions on the commercial viability of my career. I’ve been lucky enough to make enough money to live comfortably, and I make my decisions based on what I find inspiring and what I want to do.
Shailene Woodley may respect Ed and Lindsay’s relationship, but she’s not sure she could make a relationship with secrets work.
Shailene Woodley: I still wonder how they stayed together for ten years and are still together… But because I’m not her, I’m not him, and I don’t know their relationship very well, I can’t speak as to how they were able to navigate those waters as gracefully as they seemingly have. Their relationship clearly worked with secrets. I don’t know that I could have a relationship with secrets, but you never know what you can do until you fall in love with someone. Everything you think you can or can’t do kind of falls out the window, and you submit to your heart.
SNOWDEN is in theaters on September 16.