How Joseph Gordon-Levitt Transformed Himself into Edward Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Snowden
Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Talks Transforming Himself into Edward Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt had heard about Edward Snowden, but only knew the outlines of the story of how the NSA contractor had leaked U.S. documents and fled to Russia. “But the truth is I didn’t know that much about Edward Snowden,” Gordon-Levitt tells Made in Hollywood reporter Julie Harkness Arnold. “I didn’t know many of the specifics. You hear things in the media. You see headlines or little bits on TV. A lot of those things are kind of simple and don’t really give you a sense or understanding of what exactly he did or why he did what he did.”

Having been cast by director Oliver Stone to play him in “Snowden” (opening Sept. 16), Gordon-Levitt says he “dug in” and did the research. “It felt good to pick one thing and really dive into it and try to learn as much as I could about it,” he says. As part of the process, Gordon-Levitt met Snowden.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Recalls Meeting Edward Snowden in Moscow

“A few months before shooting, I went to Moscow and I sat with him, as well as Lindsay Mills, his girlfriend, who’s played in the movie by Shailene Woodley,” the actor says. “And the funny thing about Edward Snowden, though, is that he’s always trying to take the attention off of  himself as a human being and put the attention on the issues that he talks about. But I’m an actor. I have to play him. So I’m of course going to focus on him as a human being, and try to get a sense of what’s he like, how does he sit, how does he stand, how does he eat his lunch, how does he shake your hand. So getting to spend

that time with him was really valuable for me.”

What Gordon-Levitt discovered about the man behind the mannerisms came as a surprise. As dramatized in the movie, Snowden — lauded by some for exposing government invasion into citizen’s privacy, reviled by others as a traitor for revealing American secrets — had enlisted in the Army to fight in the Iraq war. Broken leg bones in basic training scuttled that dream, but his aptitude for computers landed him jobs with the CIA and National Security Agency.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Sees Edward Snowden as a Patriot

“He’s a guy who’s very much a patriot. He really loves his country,” says Gordon-Levitt. “That

asks the question: What is a patriot? In the United States, I think, a patriot is someone who will ask questions, who will not just blanket agree with everything the government does. We are privileged in this country where we have the right to ask those questions. Not everyone in the world has that privilege. So I think it ultimately shows his patriotism that he says: Hey, this thin g that the government is doing goes against the principles of what my country is al about, and I’m going to risk my life to fight against it.”