Edward Snowden

Oliver Stone to direct film about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden

Oscar-winning Hollywood director to film story of whistle-blower's 'political awakening', based on Guardian journalist's book about scandal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 9:28pm

He has tackled the Kennedy assassination and the Watergate break-in, the Vietnam conflict and the Bush administration's "war on terror".

Now Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone is set to whip up fresh controversy with his adaptation of The Snowden Files, an account of the National Security Agency scandal written by Luke Harding, a journalist with The Guardian.

Stone's thriller will focus on the experiences of the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, a contractor at the NSA who leaked thousands of classified documents to former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald in June last year. The film will be produced by Stone's regular business partner Moritz Borman, with Harding and other Guardian journalists serving as production and story consultants.

"This is one of the greatest stories of our time," Stone, 67, said in a statement. "A real challenge. I'm glad to have The Guardian working with us."

Stone's previous films include Platoon, JFK, Nixon and W.

Snowden's revelations lifted the lid on a culture of mass government surveillance, sparked a global furore and forced the Obama administration onto the back foot.

Secretary of State John Kerry later conceded that the NSA's programme had "reached too far" and should be curtailed. But Snowden's fate remains in the balance. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia but faces a 30-year prison sentence if he returns to the US.

This is one of the great stories of our time. A real challenge

Published earlier this year, The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man charts the political awakening of the twentysomething Snowden, a committed Republican who found his libertarian values increasingly at odds with his government's surveillance programme.

A review in The New York Times hailed Harding's book as "a fast-paced, almost novelistic narrative".

Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian's editor-in-chief, said: "We're delighted to be working with Oliver Stone and Moritz Borman on the film.

"The story of Edward Snowden is truly extraordinary, and the unprecedented revelations he brought to light have forever transformed our understanding of - and relationship with - government and technology."

Conceived as a European co-production, the film is due to start shooting before the end of this year.

But time is of the essence. Stone's film looks set to face competition from No Place to Hide, a rival project adapted from the book by Glenn Greenwald and overseen by James Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

To his critics, Snowden remains a traitor whose actions have caused possibly irreparable damage to US intelligence capabilities. In the wake of last year's revelations, the ex-CIA director James Woolsey argued that if Snowden was convicted of treason, he should face the death penalty.

But his supporters view him as a patriot who acted purely in the public interest. "To me, Snowden is a hero," Stone said last July. "He revealed secrets we should all know - that the United States has repeatedly violated the fourth amendment."

The Guardian and The Washington Post both went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service for their groundbreaking reporting of NSA surveillance.

On accepting the prize, Rusbridger paid tribute to Snowden's role in breaking the story.

"The public service [citation] in this award is significant," he said. "Because Snowden performed a public service."