EXCLUSIVE: Around the same time that the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour premieres at the New York Film Festival on Friday, studio heads will be reading the drama script that Oliver Stone and producing partner Moritz Borman have been working on about the hot-button subject of a leaker some call gutsy while others call a traitor. Stone will direct Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role of the American who fled to Russia seeking asylum after making public more classified documents than anyone since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War.
The film starts in Munich in January, with Borman producing with Eric Kopeloff. Deadline revealed last month that Gordon-Levitt would play Snowden; he just played Philippe Petit in the Robert Zemeckis-directed The Long Walk for TriStar and now is shooting Xmas with Seth Rogen at Sony.
As Deadline has reported, Stone and Borman have a deal with Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, for film rights to his novel Time Of The Octopus. That is the basis for the story of an American whistle blower who heads to Russia and the back and forth between the leaker and his lawyer as he waits while that country considers his request for asylum. Stone and Borman also bought the screen rights to The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World’s Most Wanted Man, a book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding that’s published by Guardian Faber. Like Julian Assange, Snowden is a polarizing figure that some would call brave, and others — including the U.S. government — would call a turncoat.
Only a small circle of studio heads will get to read it. Given the notoriety of Snowden and the nature of the project, they will do their best to make sure the script doesn’t leak. Feels like this one will sell very quickly.
Stone is positioned to beat several other movie projects based on the Snowden story. Sony Pictures acquired film rights to Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald‘s upcoming book No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, And The U.S. Surveillance State, with 007 producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli attached.