Snowden (and Pokemon Go) with Oliver Stone (Comic Con 2016)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Oliver Stone is already known to be one of our most controversial filmmakers and he couldn’t have picked a more hot-button topic for his next project than Edward Snowden. Stone made his first-ever Comic Con appearance, giving Hall H a sneak peek at his latest film SNOWDEN, along with actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto in tow.

The panel opened with an over-the-top Oliver Stone sizzle reel, featuring highlights from his films with text reminding the audience that his films have “inspired,” “intrigued” and “thrilled” us and that “Great storytelling lives forever.” It ended with an amusing montage of pop culture references to all his movies, from The Simpsons to Seinfeld to BASEKETBALL.

They also showed the latest trailer for the film, which really sells SNOWDEN as a paranoid conspiracy thriller:


– The movie is based on two different books: one is “No Place to Hide” by Glenn Greenwald, who originally broke the story at The Guardian, and the other is a fictionalized thriller that was based on Snowden.

– Oliver Stone first met Snowden in January 2014 in Moscow. Both parties were originally hesitant to make the film. Stone knew he would get beat up in press (or worse), but decided that the story worked so well dramatically that it should be made. He also mentioned making a film aimed at a younger generation, a first for him. Snowden had no interest in seeing his life dramatized, but after months of conversations with Stone, eventually relented. Together, along with another writer that Snowden approved, they continually worked on the screenplay, all the way through editing.

– Steven Soderbergh’s Snowden documentary CITIZENFOUR was immediately brought up. Stone was asked what his movie could add that the documentary missed. He said they could put Snowden’s past as a soldier and his relationship with his girlfriend into perspective. Although Stone said they worked with Snowden in Russia, spoke to journalists that broke the story, and investigated public documents, SNOWDEN is still “left to the realm of dramatization.”

– The film was turned down by every major studio and was eventually funded by French and German companies. Stone says he doesn’t think the NSA actively interfered with the making of the movie, but “you never know who’s listening” to what you’re doing. (And also added “People may not go to their favorite porno sites anymore.”)

– Joseph Gordon Levitt wore an American Flag shirt to the panel and first announced, “I’m sitting next to one of the most patriotic filmmakers in the history of cinema.” In order to get Snowden’s trademark voice, Levitt said he ripped audio from CITIZENFOUR and listened to it on repeat.

– Levitt also said that the film isn’’t concerned with whether or not you personally care about privacy, but the fact that the American people are promised privacy in the Constitution. The government changed that without telling anyone, so transparency is the real issue SNOWDEN deals with. He donated his acting fee from the film to the ACLU and his company HitRecord’s collaborations with the ACLU.

– All three actors met their real life counterparts. Levitt had dinner with Snowden and his girlfriend in Russia and the first thing Snowden did was to ask him how to pronounce “HitRecord.” Shailene Woodley based her character on Snowden’s girlfriend’s past social media postings, but eventually met her while they were filming in Washington D.C.

– JGL was working a lot when the story first broke and wasn’t very familiar with Snowden before the movie. He expected him to be egotistical based on the documentary, but was relieved to find he’s not and that changed the way he played him. He said Snowden was very polite and shockingly “optimistic about technology and how it can improve democracy and state of the human race.”

– Stone made an effort to point out that they don’t take political sides in SNOWDEN in the name of fairness. “We represent the government’s position as well with certain characters.” There’s a line in the movie about the difficult threat the United States faces with cyberwarfare: “Terrorism is a short term threat. The longer threats are China and Russia.”

– This was the first film Stone shot on digital, shooting 65 mm on a new Alexa camera. He said it’s not quite the same as film, but close enough.

– The moderator joked about studios not wanting Oliver Stone to make romantic comedies, to which Stone replied, “Studios don’t want me to make anything.” He then asked if Shaleine could get him a job in her next movie.

– Someone brought up Pokemon Go as a joke, but Stone got fired up and went on a rant against the popular game. When people laughed, he said it wasn’t really funny and called Pokemon Go “a new level of invasion” where the government has turned to new ways of data mining as surveillance, calling the game “Surveilance Capitalism.” He said it’s leading us all to a new robot society, a new form of behavior, and ”a new form of totalitarianism.”

– Zachary Quinto also hates Pokemon Go.


About the Author