After portraying Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt believes Snowden is a different kind of patriot.
“He really was doing what he did out of a sincere love for his country and the principles that the country is founded on,” Gordon-Levitt said during a press conference for Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday.
“There’s the kind of patriotism where you’re just allegiant to your country no matter what and you don’t ask any questions, but there’s another kind of patriotism, and that is what I really wanted to show in this character, which is the kind of patriotism that he grows into over the course of the nine years,” Gordon-Levitt said.
Stone went further, calling out the U.S. government for everything from “illegal” surveillance to cyberwarfare. “What’s going on right now is pretty shocking,” Stone said. “As Edward Snowden said the other day in an interview, the world is really out of control. We don’t know who’s doing what to who.”
The subject of Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning documentary “Citzenfour,” Snowden sought asylum in Russia after leaking classified information to journalists about the U.S. government’s disturbing surveillance practices in 2013. In preparing to make the film, Stone made nine trips to Russia to meet with Snowden, bringing Gordon-Levitt on one of them.
“I know he would love to come home,” Gordon-Levitt said when asked whether he thought Snowden would ever receive a presidential pardon and be allowed to return to the U.S. “I hope for that.”
Gordon-Levitt’s co-star Zachary Quinto, who portrays journalist Glenn Greenwald, said the film made him more aware of how vulnerable every U.S. citizen’s private information becomes simply by Googling things on the internet. “What we’re willing to give up of our own freedoms just in sitting down to our computers is shocking,” Quinto said. “It’s fascinating and unsettling.”
Shailene Woodley, who plays Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, said that the privacy issues at the heart of the movie will only resonate if people educate themselves on how data on U.S. citizens is collected. “Privacy is a privilege only if you’re privy to the fact that it’s a privilege,” she said. “Empowerment comes from awareness.”