500 Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he secretly met Edward Snowden, the former government contractor turned whistleblower, before taking on the role in Oliver Stone's Snowden. Gordon-Levitt, 34, who plays the titular character in the biographical political thriller, said he went to Russia, "wanting to understand this person that I was going to play, observing both his strengths and his weaknesses," reported Entertainment Weekly.
The actor had a four-hour conversation with Snowden, which he was discouraged from recording. In 2013, after leaking documents on National Security Agency surveillance to media outlets, and under threat of US prosecution under the Espionage Act, Snowden sought asylum in Russia.
Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden.
Gordon-Levitt said he wanted people to decide for themeselves whether Snowden is a national hero or a traitor. "I left knowing without a doubt that what (Snowden) did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do, that he believed it would help the country he loves. Now, as he would say, it's not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That's really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don't want to be the actor guy who's like, 'You should listen to me! What he did was right!' I don't think that's my place. Even though that is what I believe – that what he did was right," he said.
The film, titled Snowden, dramatises the events and aftermath surrounding Snowden’s leaking of top-secret intelligence documents to the Guardian and Washington Post in 2013, starting a worldwide debate on the balance between mass surveillance and privacy. Snowden left America after he revealed the mass surveillance of private communications by the National Security Agency. The plot of Stone’s film follows Snowden as arrives at his decision to reveal the extent of the NSA’s snooping to Laura Poitras and former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Poitros' documentary Citizenfour, based on Snowden, won an Oscar.
The movie has been pushed from its original Christmas release date to 2016.