If this year’s Oscars have proven anything, it’s that now is a great time to be producing true-life stories about very smart men. The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and Selma were all nominated in multiple categories and walked away with an award apiece, and the award for Best Documentary went to Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ account of her experiences with – and involvement in – whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leak of classified NSA documents.
Director Oliver Stone will be the next director to tackle the subject in the upcoming biopic Snowden, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play the hacker in his formative years when he was just “an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.”
The first official still from Snowden has now been released, showing Gordon-Levitt as Snowden during what appears to be the months he spent in the United States Army Reserve as a Special Forces candidate. The actor also posted a photo on Twitter showing himself and Stone on set (see above) and proudly claiming that it is “Oliver Stone’s first selfie.”
Snowden is currently filming in Munich before moving on to other international locations, and the cast also includes Shailene Woodley (Divergent) as Snowden’s long-term girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras and Zachary Quinto as her fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald.
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The subject of Snowden and the documents he leaked is still highly controversial, with some people calling him a hero and others insisting that he’s a traitor. Over the past couple of years the scandal has led to mass debate over the extent to which a government should have access to its citizens’ private files and communications. Snowden expressed his bottom line in an interview with The Guardian last summer, in which he also described instances of people’s private nude photos being passed around the office for the titillation of his fellow hackers.
“It may be that by seizing all of the records of our private activities, by watching everywhere we go, by watching everything we do, by monitoring every person we meet, by analyzing every word we say, by weighting and passing judgement over every association we make and every person we love… that we could uncover a terrorist plot or we could discover more criminals. But is that the kind of society we want to live in?”
A strong subject isn’t necessarily enough to make a great film; Bill Condon’s 2013 drama The Fifth Estate covered similar ground to Snowden but left critics divided and didn’t get a single nomination at last year’s Academy Awards. Nonetheless, the issue continues to inspire stories and discussion about the flow of information in the modern age – and there’s definitely enough talent involved to make Snowden a great film.
Snowden will arrive in theaters on December 25th, 2015.