Edward Snowden’s Long, Strange Journey to Hollywood
I first spoke to Stone in June 2015, after reading that he was in the midst of shooting a film based on Kucherena’s novel. He said he would be traveling to Moscow again that week to shoot Snowden and agreed to let me tag along. A day later, a peeved Borman called me. “You’ve been disinvited,” he said coolly.
During those 24 hours, this magazine had contacted Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, to arrange an interview with his client. Kucherena may be Snowden’s Russian representative, but in the United States, Wizner runs the show. Wizner was furious. Not just because Stone had invited a reporter to Moscow, but because of how it all looked: that Snowden was involved in a Hollywood movie and that the whole production was seemingly brokered by a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. Borman would later tell me that we had waded into the sticky territory of Snowden’s multiple emissaries. “There are two ways to access him: One is Kucherena and one is Wizner, and it’s completely political,” Borman said. “It’s a political situation that goes way above your head.”
在那24小时里，本杂志联系了斯诺登在美国公民自由联盟(American Civil Liberties Union)的律师本·维茨纳(Ben Wizner)，以便安排采访他的客户。库切列纳是斯诺登在俄罗斯的代理人，但在美国，维茨纳掌管相关事务。维茨纳特别愤怒。不只是因为斯通邀请一位记者去莫斯科，而且因为这一切给人的感觉：斯诺登参与一部好莱坞电影，而整部电影的制作似乎是由一名与俄罗斯政府有关的律师牵线搭桥。博尔曼后来对我说，我们已经陷入斯诺登多名密使的泥潭。“通过两个渠道可以接触他：一个是库切列纳，另一个是维茨纳，纯粹是政治，”博尔曼说，“一个远远超出你理解能力的政治情况。”
When Wizner and I finally got on the phone, he was in damage-control mode. He told me that Snowden wasn’t profiting from Stone’s film in any way. “One hard-and-fast rule Ed always had was, I’m not selling my life rights,” Wizner said. Snowden’s participation in a Hollywood movie would only fuel the claims of his critics — that he was a narcissist eager to cash in. That said, Stone’s film would be seen by millions of people, which meant it could sway public opinion. “We were choosing between two bad options,” Wizner said. “He could have stubbornly stayed completely at arm’s length and had no input whatsoever. Or he could have some input and compromised the arm’s-length relationship. And I didn’t know how to advise him on that.”
According to Wizner, Snowden met with Stone only to make sure that the film told an accurate story. “It’s been us walking this tightrope between clearly not having any formal connection to the project — not deriving any benefit from it — and also not wanting to just be completely helpless and, you know, see what Oliver Stone comes up with,” Wizner said. Despite some initial discomfort, he was tentatively optimistic. “Maybe it’ll be good,” Wizner added. “You know, Oliver Stone wrote ‘Scarface.’ ”
Still, Stone was heading to Moscow to film Snowden for an appearance in the movie, which could be seen as an endorsement. Fact-checking is one thing, I said; a cameo is another. “It is, and I’m not entirely comfortable with it,” Wizner said.
Wizner had negotiated veto control over any footage featuring Snowden in the film. After we spoke, the lawyer says he asked Borman to put that in writing. He also reiterated that if Stone took a reporter along, Snowden would not participate. Stone and I eventually reached a compromise: I wouldn’t observe the shoot, but I could still come and meet Kucherena.
A few days later, I met Stone in Moscow. The director, who is 69, has a forward-leaning gait and unruly eyebrows, so that he looks a bit like a bull that is always about to charge. He emerged from the hotel’s elevator with a pained look on his face. It was drizzling, and Stone’s hair, which is the color of dark shoe polish, was pointing laterally. “I have some bad news,” he said. “I cannot deliver Anatoly.” He had just seen Snowden, who had been in touch with Wizner and was very upset, Stone said. “Ed said he doesn’t want Anatoly talking to you, and he said that very clearly,” Stone added.
I would spend the next few days camped out at the hotel. When Stone wasn’t shooting, we would meet in the lobby bar as he continued to tell me about the making of his film.
Soon after optioning Kucherena’s novel, Stone had returned to Moscow with his co-writer, Kieran Fitzgerald, a recent University of Texas M.F.A. graduate. Anticipating a homesick Snowden, Fitzgerald hauled over a duffel bag packed with the stuff of Americana dreams: Kraft macaroni and cheese, Jell-O cups, Oreos, Pepperidge Farm cookies, Twizzlers, peanut butter, Spam, an Orioles baseball cap and a pair of Converse sneakers. “It was like delivering a care package to a kid at summer camp,” Fitzgerald told me. He also slipped in a copy of “The Odyssey” translated by his grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald. “I thought it was appropriate, since Ed was on his own kind of odyssey trying to get home.”
买下库切列纳的小说改编权后不久，斯通带着刚从德克萨斯大学(University of Texas)获得艺术硕士学位的联合编剧基兰·菲茨杰拉德(Kieran Fitzgerald)返回莫斯科。菲茨杰拉德猜测斯诺登会想家，所以带来一个大行李袋，装满了美国人最喜欢的东西：卡夫(Kraft)奶酪通心粉，Jell-O果冻杯、奥利奥(Oreo)、非凡农庄(Pepperidge Farm)饼干、多滋乐(Twizzlers)、花生酱、斯帕姆(Spam)午餐肉、一顶金莺队(Orioles)棒球帽和一双匡威(Converse)运动鞋。“就像是给一个参加夏令营的孩子送补给包，”菲茨杰拉德对我说。他还塞进了一本他祖父罗伯特·菲茨杰拉德(Robert Fitzgerald)翻译的《奥德赛》(The Odyssey)。“我觉得它很合适，因为埃德也正在努力归乡的旅途中。”
Snowden and Stone had gotten off to a slow start. Snowden was squeamish about a movie being made about his life. Stone, in turn, said the film would be made with or without him. Fitzgerald says he played referee. “Oliver can be a bit of battering ram,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s accustomed to hard men who need to be cracked, but that’s not Edward Snowden. He’s not an alpha-male type. He’s a very sensitive mind. So I was there to say: ‘Everything is going to be O.K. He’s a good guy. It’s going to be a good movie.’ ” Eventually, Snowden began to open up, answering questions about his childhood; his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills; and what he could about his work for the N.S.A.
While Fitzgerald returned to Austin to work on the script, Stone set out to plant his flag in the Snowden story. In Hollywood, book options are the equivalent of calling dibs, and Stone had competition. In May 2014, Sony Pictures optioned Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide.” By June, Stone had announced that he acquired Kucherena’s book and Harding’s “The Snowden Files.” The tactic worked. Sony got nervous. “Now what?” Amy Pascal, then Sony’s co-chairwoman, wrote to another executive. (The email would be leaked during the Sony hack.) Pascal’s colleague reminded her of the case of the dual Steve Jobs biopics — “Jobs,” with Ashton Kutcher, might have come out first, but it was “Steve Jobs,” starring Michael Fassbender, that was the better film. Pascal wasn’t convinced. “Oliver Stone is not Ashton Kutcher,” she responded. She wrote to George Clooney to pique his interest in adapting Greenwald’s book, but Clooney passed. “Stone will do a hatchet job on the movie, but it will still be the film of Snowden,” he replied.
菲茨杰拉德返回奥斯汀继续写剧本。斯通则开始抢占斯诺登的故事。在好莱坞，获得图书改编权相当于宣布抢先占有，斯通面临着竞争。2014年5月，索尼影业(Sony Pictures)买下了格林沃尔德《无处藏身》的电影改编权。当年6月，斯通宣布，他买下了库切列纳的书和哈丁的《斯诺登的文件》。这个策略奏效了。索尼开始不安。“现在怎么办？”索尼当时的联合总裁埃米·帕斯卡尔(Amy Pascal)给另一位高管写邮件问道（这封邮件后来在索尼遭黑客攻击时泄露）。帕斯卡尔的同事提醒她关于史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)的两部传记的事——阿什顿·库彻(Ashton Kutcher)主演的《乔布斯》(Jobs)是更早上映，但迈克尔·法斯宾德(Michael Fassbender)主演的《史蒂夫·乔布斯》更胜一筹。帕斯卡尔没有被说服。“奥利弗·斯通不是阿什顿·库彻，”她回复道。她给乔治·克鲁尼(George Clooney)写信，激发他改编格林沃尔德的书的兴趣，不过克鲁尼谢绝了。“斯通的片子会拍得很糟，不过它仍将是关于斯诺登的电影，”他在回复中说。
For Stone, the impending Sony project was a call to arms. Fitzgerald cranked out a first draft of the script, and that fall Stone went out to studios with a budget of $50 million and a release date in December 2015. Each one turned it down, and Stone became convinced that the studios wanted to quash the project because of its controversial subject matter. “This is why corporations owning movie studios is not a good idea,” he said.
While Borman hustled to find independent financing, Stone dove into casting. For the lead, he chose Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the son of liberals from Sherman Oaks, Calif., and a former child actor who has retained a pleasingly boyish look. “There’s an interesting blandness to him in the same way that Jimmy Stewart might’ve been considered bland,” Stone said. “There’s a neutrality there, which allows him to grow on you.” Shailene Woodley was cast to play Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto as Greenwald and Melissa Leo as Poitras.
博尔曼忙着寻找独立投资，斯通则开始了选角工作。他选了约瑟夫·高登-莱维特(Joseph Gordon-Levitt)来担任主角，他父母是加利福尼亚州舍曼奥克斯市的自由主义者，小时候当过童星，现在还有一付讨人喜欢的男孩子气相貌。“他有一种有趣的沉静气质，是吉米·斯图尔特(Jimmy Stewart)的那种沉静，”斯通说。“他身上有种中立性的色彩，让你越来越喜欢他。”谢琳·伍德蕾(Shailene Woodley)出演林赛·米尔斯(Lindsay Mills)，扎克瑞·昆图(Zachary Quinto)饰演格林沃尔德，梅丽莎·里奥(Melissa Leo)饰演普瓦特拉斯。
By early 2015, Borman and Stone had racked up several hundred thousand dollars in debt, but the money was still short. The shoot was ultimately delayed three weeks as the producer cobbled together European partners. In the United States, “Snowden” was picked up by Open Road Films, a small production company that had just put out “Jobs” — the Kutcher version.
2015年初，博尔曼和斯通已经欠下几十万美元的债务，但是资金仍然短缺。最后，制作人拉到一些欧洲合作伙伴，拍摄也推迟了三个星期。在美国，“开放之路”电影公司(Open Road Films)接受了《斯诺登》，这家小型制片公司曾经推出过库彻那个版本的《乔布斯》。
“It was painful that we ended up with this independent distributor,” Stone said.
Borman offered that Open Road was not so independent anymore.
“I’d never heard of it,” Stone said, adding: “I’ve been there before, but not on this level and not at this age. So for me, it was very difficult personally.”
The cover of “Time of the Octopus” features a blown-up image of Snowden’s face and a globe peeled like an orange to reveal the logo of the C.I.A. In his author photo, Kucherena indeed looks bearish, with a round face, matted white hair and a cellphone pressed to his right ear — as if he were midnegotiation. “The whole truth about the American agent on the run,” the cover boasts. Also: “Oliver Stone is currently shooting a film based on this book.”
《章鱼时间》(Time of the Octopus)的封面上是斯诺登被放大的脸，以及地球像橘子一样被剥去皮，露出中央情报局的标识。在作者照片中，库切列纳一张圆脸，白发浓密蓬乱，手机放在右耳边，好像正在谈判，看上去的确有点像一头熊。“关于这位逃亡中的美国特工的全部真相，”封面上这样宣告，“奥利佛·斯通正在拍摄根据此书改编的电影。”
I had gotten my copy from Stone, who handed it to me with a disclaimer. “Now, it’s easy to take a shot at this,” he said. “You know, it wasn’t the basis of the movie. But it’s fun. I enjoyed reading it.”
“Time of the Octopus” takes place in a single night. The protagonist, Joshua Cold, is sequestered in a bunker at Sheremetyevo Airport, where his Russian lawyer keeps him company. The chapters alternate between their time-stamped conversations and those labeled as digital files (“File 004.wav”), suggesting that they are the lawyer’s transcribed recordings. The basic facts of Cold’s case sound familiar, as do the character names: There are journalists named Boitras and Greywold and an organization called Mikileaks run by an Augusto Cassangie. For the most part, Cold and the lawyer sit and talk about life, quoting Laozi to each other. But there is also a distinctly post-Soviet tone to the novel, which reads both like a love letter to American culture — Steven Spielberg, B.B. King, “The Terminator,” Penthouse magazine, Popeye, “The X-Files,” Paul Newman, Bon Jovi, “Spider-Man,” “Braveheart,” Quentin Tarantino and Tupac Shakur are all mentioned — and a gleeful taunt to its government. “Not only did [Cold] snap the beak of the American eagle,” Kucherena writes, “but he also gave him a good kick and a very humiliating one, as if it was not a menacing predator but a rural hen.”
《章鱼时间》的故事发生在一个晚上。主人公乔舒亚·科尔德(Joshua Cold)在他的俄罗斯律师陪伴下，躲在谢列梅捷沃机场的藏匿处。各章节交替使用两种时间，有的是打了时间戳记的对话，有的是标注为电子档案的对话（比如“File 004.wav”），说明是根据律师录音整理的文字记录。科尔德故事的基本事实听上去很熟悉，人物的名字也很熟悉：书中有两个记者，名叫波依特拉斯(Boitras)和格雷沃尔德(Greywold)，有个组织名叫“米基解密”(Mikileaks)，主办者名叫奥古斯托·卡桑奇(Augusto Cassangie)。书的大部分内容是科尔德和那个律师坐在那儿谈人生，互相引用老子。但是小说中也有一种明显的后苏联时代的调子，读来仿佛是一封写给美国文化的情书——里面提到了史蒂芬·斯皮尔伯格(Steven Spielberg)、B·B·金(B. B. King)、《终结者》(The Terminator)、《顶层》(Penthouse)杂志、大力水手(Popeye)、《X档案》(The X-Files)、保罗·纽曼(Paul Newman)、“邦·乔维”(Bon Jovi)、《蜘蛛侠》(Spider-Man)、《勇敢的心》(Braveheart)、昆汀·塔伦蒂诺(Quentin Tarantino)和图帕克·沙克尔(Tupac Shakur)——但它也像是对美国政府欢快的奚落。“［科尔德］不仅折断了美国鹰的嘴，”库切连纳写道，“而且给了他狠狠的一脚，极尽羞辱的一脚，仿佛它不是一只危险的猛禽，而是一只农村的母鸡。”
In the bunker, Cold enjoys pizza and whiskey, but he is worried about American agents coming to retrieve him. “Believe me, Russia is not the worst option for you,” the lawyer tells Cold. “And you needn’t regard us with such mistrust.”
Once Cold is granted asylum, the propaganda is dialed up. “I shall work in Russia and get an apartment!” Cold announces. “I thought I would spend the rest of my life in this underground prison.”
“As far as I know Mr. Putin, he is not one to change his mind easily,” the lawyer assures him. “All will be O.K.” The novel concludes with Cold vowing to learn to drink like the Russians, but the lawyer suggests he try Kvass instead, a fermented beverage made from rye bread. (“It is the Russian Coca-Cola,” the lawyer says.) Then they leave the bunker.
“Weird, huh?” Fitzgerald said when I asked about the novel. In fact, few people associated with either Snowden or “Snowden” wanted to discuss it. “I don’t want to say anything on the record about that book,” Gordon-Levitt told me.
According to WikiLeaks, Stone paid a million dollars for “Time of the Octopus,” which seemed like a hefty amount to pay for material that Stone admitted he had no plans of using. (That’s the same figure Sony reportedly paid for the rights to “Eat, Pray, Love.”) “We bought it because we did get good access to Ed,” Stone explained. “He had to be brought along.”
根据维基解密(WikiLeaks)，斯通付了100万美元，得到《章鱼时间》的改编权，但是斯通承认，他不打算用这本书，所以这似乎是一笔过于高昂的费用（据报道，索尼付给《美食，祈祷，恋爱》[Eat, Pray, Love]的改编权费用也是这么多）。“我们买下它，是因为这样我们就可以接触到埃德，”斯通解释说。“必须见到他。”
During Stone’s visits, Kucherena hosted the director at his favorite restaurants and at his dacha outside Moscow. “They had a kind of bromance,” Fitzgerald told me. Photos from the trips look like vacation postcards, with Stone and Fitzgerald grinning in Red Army caps (a gift from Kucherena) and Fitzgerald and Gordon-Levitt posing for a selfie in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. While out in public, the group referred to Snowden as “Sasha,” a nickname Kucherena had given him.
Kucherena and I would eventually speak by phone. He said he wrote the novel because he had received calls from many “representatives of Hollywood,” writers and filmmakers. “At some point, I just thought to myself, Why don’t I try to write the book?” he said. I asked which writers and directors had called him. “Very many people called me,” he replied. “But I honestly don’t remember their names now.”
The lawyer was deeply troubled by the news media’s insinuations that he is connected to the Kremlin. He pointed to several clients he has defended against the F.S.B., including Platon Obukhov, a writer accused of spying for Britain. “I never had any kind of agreement with the Kremlin,” he said. “They tried to say I’m tied to the F.S.B., but that’s complete nonsense, excuse me.”
Kucherena said he was inspired by his favorite authors, who include Tom Clancy, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. “The Octopus in my novel is, you can say, a direct offspring of Big Brother,” he said. Like most writers of fiction, he was reluctant to discuss which parts of his book were based in reality. “A person can only be open with someone he trusts,” Kucherena said. “And here, because he had no one else, it turned out that I took on the role of mother and father. Accordingly, we had confidential conversations of various sorts.”
库切列纳说，他喜爱的那些作家给了他灵感，其中包括汤姆·克兰西(Tom Clancy)、阿尔都斯·赫胥黎(Aldous Huxley)和乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)。“你可以说，我小说中的章鱼就是‘老大哥’的直系后裔，”他说。和大多数小说作家一样，他不太情愿讨论自己小说中有哪些章节是基于现实的。“一个人只能对自己信任的人敞开心扉，”库切列纳说。“在这里，他身边没有任何人，最后我就承担了父亲和母亲的角色。于是，我们就有了各种私密的交谈。”
He did not see a conflict of interest in his writing the novel. “I wrote an artistic book,” Kucherena said. Because he represents Snowden pro bono, he never expected to capitalize on the relationship. “I don’t take any money from him,” Kucherena said. “He doesn’t have any. So I wrote a book, yes, fine. So I got a little, as we say in Russian.”
Despite being the one to put the “Snowden” project into motion, Kucherena shied away from assuming any credit. “I’m very far from all that,” he said. “I’m just an advocate. Look at where I am and where Hollywood is!”