A movie about the saga of Edward Snowden is powder-keg material already, but add to the mix Oliver Stone, who has directed provocative takes on political figures before (“JFK,” “Nixon“), and you have a picture primed for controversy. Indeed, according to the director, the subject matter was so hot, no one around Hollywood wanted to touch his upcoming film “Snowden,” despite pulling together an ensemble including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Scott Eastwood, and Timothy Olyphant.
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“No studio would support it,” he told THR
at the Sun Valley Film Festival
, which had a work-in-progress screening of the movie. “It was extremely difficult to finance, extremely difficult to cast. We were doing another one of these numbers I had done before, where pre-production is paid for by essentially the producer and myself, where you’re living on a credit card.”
Stone says the production had to hustle the money together, eventually landing financing from Europe. “The contracts were signed, like eight days before we started,” he said. “It’s a very strange thing to do [a story about] an American man, and not be able to finance this movie in America. And that’s very disturbing, if you think about its implications on any subject that is not overtly pro-American. They say we have freedom of expression; but thought is financed, and thought is controlled, and the media is controlled. This country is very tight on that, and there’s no criticism allowed at a certain level. You can make movies about civil rights leaders who are dead, but it’s not easy to make one about a current man.”
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If you think there’s a slight tone of paranoia, you’re not mistaken, and the director says he moved the production of the movie from the United States to Germany, fearing it would come under the eyes of the NSA. And perhaps Stone’s fears were warranted about the government looking in on his movie, as he reveals he met with Edward Snowden “off and on for a year” and has shown him the film.
So it looks like the picture is gearing up to cross the finish line, and from the sounds of it, the drama will get people talking — could a Cannes premiere be in the works? “Snowden” opens on September 16th.