USA TODAY US Edition
Stone’s hunt for truth continues
Film director says ‘Snowden’ is ‘an important story’
Oliver Stone’s life’s work has been in pursuit of the truth, and the Oscar-winning director has a special respect for those who seek it out off screen.
It’s why Stone, who initially said no to directing a movie about Edward Snowden, ultimately met with the National Security Agency whistleblower nine times in Moscow to capture the needed authenticity for his drama Snow
den (in theaters Friday). “Films last when they’re about the truth,” says the iconic and often controversial filmmaker behind acclaimed films such as Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK and Nixon.
Snowden stars Joseph GordonLevitt as the former government contractor who leaked classified information involving U.S. surveillance programs in 2013 and was charged with espionage.
The film follows his journey from his military discharge (after breaking both legs in a training accident) to working his way up the CIA ranks and learning about internal measures that make him question whether his country is doing the right thing.
Stone, 70, sees Snowden as a patriot and acknowledges that he, too, is bothered by both eavesdropping and the global threat of cyberwarfare.
“The United States is doing far more than people know,” Stone says. “They see the surface of the news — the Russians are attacking us, the Chinese are hacking us — but they never hear we’re hacking them first.
“But when you do this kind of warfare, it comes back to haunt you.”
Earlier in Stone’s career, he tackled historical topics decades removed from current news cycles and stayed away from living people.
It’s “much safer” that way, he says: The director had long wanted to do a Richard Nixon movie but had to wait until the ex-president died in 1994. “He vowed we’d never make the film when he was alive,” Stone says. The more recent World Trade
Center, George W. Bush-centric W. and now Snowden tap into issues and personalities closer to the present — an unconscious decision, Stone says. He originally turned down Snowden because he found it such a political hot potato.
“You don’t go to things that are bad bets, and this was a bad bet,” says Stone, who found Snowden “a painfully difficult film to make,” mainly because of lack of money. (All the major studios passed on the project.)
Still, he adds, “I got sucked in because it is an important story. You meet (Snowden) and you know it, and you pray that noth- ing ’s going to fall on you. Who knows if (we’re) going to be hacked, who knows if the NSA is going to find something out that’s concrete evidence? There are a thousand issues. It was an intense experience.”
Stone figures that JFK, his 1991 conspiracy thriller, would be impossible to get made today.
He laments that movies from the 1970s such as Three Days of
the Condor and All the President’s Men, both of which took on American political corruption, have given way to pro-military projects such as American Sniper and Lone Survivor.
“You can’t even make a movie critical of America practically, unless you do it in a very lighthearted way,” Stone says.
“I got sucked in because it is an important story. You meet (Snowden) and you know it, and you pray that nothing’s going to fall on you.” Director Oliver Stone