Joseph Gordon-Levitt is set to play former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in an Oliver Stone biopic early next year – and in an interview with the Guardian, the actor details a secret meeting he had with Snowden in Russia to prepare for the role.
Gordon-Levitt told the paper that the pair met for four hours, and described Snowden as being in “good spirits.”
“Certainly there was that note, that he very much would like to come home,” he said. “He doesn’t want to live in Russia at all.”
The actor’s lawyers reportedly advised him not to keep a record of the meeting with Snowden, and even advised him not to speak about it publicly. And while Gordon-Levitt stressed that as an actor, he does not want to be seen as an authority on what Snowden did, he told the paper that he believes the controversial whistleblower did the “right” thing in leaking sensitive NSA program documents to the media.
“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.”
The actor also described Snowden as “someone warm, kind, thoughtful,” and told the Guardian that the controversial figure reminded him of Philippe Petit, the daredevil who infamously wire-walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gordon-Levitt is set to play Petit in the Robert Zemeckis-directed The Walk, due out next month.
“Both of them are incredibly driven towards something they believe in,” he explained.
Oliver Stone’s Snowden is set to to be the first “Hollywood-style” fictionalized account of Snowden’s career and his infamous actions in 2013; the film comes after the documentary Citizenfour, which features interviews with Snowden conducted in Hong Kong, won the Best Documentary Oscar earlier this year.
In addition to Gordon-Levitt, Snowden boasts a star-studded case including Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo and Zachary Quinto. The Stone-scripted film is based on the 2014 book The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Guardian correspondent Luke Harding.
The film was pushed back from its planned Christmas Day release earlier this week, according to the Hollywood Reporter, a move that takes it out of this year’s Oscar race. Sources tell THR the film has not yet been completed.