The Guardian reports that 67 year-old Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone will “direct a big budget adaptation of Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s book about Snowden’s role in exposing the NSA’s surveillance culture.” Stone’s version, which is scheduled to start shooting later this year, should not be confused with Sony’s adaptation of Glenn Greenwald’s Snowden tale, which will be overseen by the producers behind the James Bond franchise.
That’s correct: Two big-budget Snowden movies are on the way.
We really have no idea what Sony will do with its adaptation. Greenwald is the left-wing journalist who broke the Snowden story and has been defending his source ever since. Sony, on the other hand, loves them some Barack Obama and Snowden’s revelations have done as much to bottom-out Obama’s failed presidency as anything else. It’s hard to imagine a studio that has held fundraisers for Obama turning his nemesis into a hero.
On the flipside, you might think you already know how Stone will approach the material. The historically-challenged director has, after all, already declared Snowden “a hero.” But Stone isn’t as predictable as some believe.
As utterly horrible as “W.” (2008) was, Stone displayed some sympathy for President George W. Bush during a time when the rest of the left had written him off as Hitler with dyslexia. Stone was unexpectedly kind to President Nixon in “Nixon,” his pretty good 1995 biopic of the 37th president. Then there was the surprisingly straight-forward “World Trade Center” (2006).
Stone has also savaged his heroes. The director’s brilliant 1991 biopic “The Doors,” savaged Jim Morrison, which infuriated fans and surviving members of The Doors to no end.
This drives some of my readers crazy, but I’m a huge Oliver Stone fan. Between “Salvador” in (1986) and “U Turn” in 1997, there was no better, more exciting director in America. Politically, Stone drives me crazy, but one of his saving graces is that his stuff is so far “out there,” I just don’t think his lies penetrate in a way that is as damaging as some fear.
The real problem is that Stone just isn’t the director he was 15 years ago. “Savages” (2012) is the closest he’s come to being Oliver Stone in over 15 years. His documentaries have been especially lame and the smaller budgets he’s had to work with on feature films since the staggering failure of “Alexander” in 2004, have given almost all his films a TV-movie feel. Even so, the visceral energy and fever-dream madness that marked his best work has been nowhere to be found.
“Salvador” didn’t have much of a budget but it still knocks you out (James Woods Oscar-worthy performance is the best of the 80’s.)
Stone will also be in a hurry to beat Sony, and hurrying never makes anything better.
Hopefully it all works out with a trifecta: We get an Oliver Stone movie. Snowden is portrayed as the pencil-necked traitor he is. Obama’s dishonest hypocrisy on domestic surveillance gets the beating it deserves.
Note: Headline stolen from The Wire.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC