Here’s Why Oliver Stone Is the Only Choice for the Snowden Film



In reference to a previous post on Espionage Films, and in conjunction with the year anniversary of The Guardian‘s publication of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents, let’s talk a little bit about Oliver Stone’s new project. Stone is the clear choice for any political film with a liberal edge and controversial nature, and with the film rights coming from journalist Luke Harding and The Guardian’s announced involvement, Stone’s film about Snowden is bound to be just that.

Stone is a man with an interesting background. He grew up in a conservative family and is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Stone is well-known for directing films about vital political figures and events on which history has hinged, including Nixon, JFK, and Platoon, his well-known film on the horrors of the Vietnam war. He also directed the 2008 biopic on George W. Bush.

Opinion on Snowden is still quite split among safety and security interests who say he betrayed his country and put lives in danger, while privacy proponents are more likely to call him a whistleblower and an American hero. Of the two sides, it makes perfect sense that the film rights were going to go to an experienced filmmaker on the left rather than a critical one on the right, but let’s hope that Stone has enough good sense to make the film with a little grey, rather than all black and white. Judging from past movies, he’ll very likely fit that bit.

After all, his film W managed to “rile ax-grinders of every ideological stripe” as The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis put it, a film that was similarly released in the midst of the political activity, rather than after the fact. The timing is notable for more than one reason. When he did the film on George W. Bush while the politician was still in office, he explained it as a risk that they took on a lower budget film made worthwhile by the interesting nature of the story, according to The New York Times.

Now, with Snowden still taking political asylum from Russia and unable to return to the U.S. without facing serious charges and prison time, a film about Snowden could have influence on public opinion, and place pressure on politicians; though realistically, it is more likely to be divisive and controversial for moviegoers than it is to change the stance of those with real power over his fate. Even so, with Snowden saying “I’d like to go home,” in a recent interview with NBC New, it’s hard not to see the film without keeping that in mind, as it will at the very least increase awareness of his situation. “This is one of the greatest stories of our time,” said Stone in a statement, according to The Guardian. “A real challenge. I’m glad to have The Guardian working with us.”

The film is to be based on Harding’s book, The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, and Stone has already been to Russia to meet with Snowden himself in a visit earlier this spring. This isn’t the only Snowden film in the works, however, and not the only one backed by a journalist from The Guardian. Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. and the U.S. Surveillance State, and the man who published Snowden’s NSA information and served as his initial contact to The Guardian, sold the film rights to his book to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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