Edward Snowden’s Long, Strange Journey to Hollywood
This January, I drove to Stone’s office in West Los Angeles to watch a rough cut of “Snowden.” Stone works out of a discreet suite in a pristine office complex. The décor is eclectic. There are tribal masks, Indonesian throw pillows, a Che Guevara painting and a lone potted palm tree.
Like “Citizenfour,” “Snowden” takes place in Hong Kong, but this time the story has the eerie feeling of a familiar scene re-enacted by skilled Hollywood actors. Stone was right about Gordon-Levitt. His performance is not an interpretation so much as a direct replica of the whistle-blower’s even demeanor and intonation. Quinto plays Greenwald with such intensity that he appears perpetually enraged. Melissa Leo’s Poitras is in turn warm and protective, almost maternal.
Stone came in just as the credits rolled. He was nursing a cold but was back on caffeine and asked his assistant for Bulletproof, the trendy coffee brand made with “grass-fed butter.” “It’s supposed to be nutritional,” Stone said. “No radicals.”
Since I last saw him, the film’s release had been pushed from December 2015 to May 2016 as Stone rushed to complete it, and then once more to September 2016. The biggest challenge was pacing. Stone likes to structure his movies around a series of plot-pivoting, battlelike scenes — the concerts in “The Doors,” the football games in “Any Given Sunday” or actual warfare in “Alexander.” A story in which the drama hinges on a tech specialist downloading classified documents was more subdued than he was accustomed to. “Coding is not exciting,” Stone said. “At the end of the day, it’s a nerdlike behavior — it’s dull on a screen.”
自我上一次见到他，这部电影的上映时间已经从2015年12月推迟到2016年5月，接着又推迟到2016年9月。斯通在这期间赶着完成影片的制作。其中最大的挑战是节奏。斯通喜欢围绕一系列情节转折、类似战争的场景结构影片，比如影片《门》(The Doors)中的音乐会、《挑战星期天》(Any Given Sunday)中的橄榄球赛，或者《亚历山大大帝》(Alexander)中的战争场面。相比他以往习惯拍摄的影片，这样一个剧情围绕一名下载机密文件的技术专家展开的故事，显得更加波澜不惊。“写代码不会让人觉得兴奋，”斯通说。“说到底，那是一种有点书呆子的行为——在画面上呈现出来是比较乏味的。”
Stone got around the tedium of reality by turning his film into a cross between a cyberthriller and a love story, using Snowden’s relationship with Mills to inject emotional stakes. Cutting between Snowden in Hong Kong and flashbacks to his past, the film speeds through Snowden’s biography with the help of techno music, snappy explanations of N.S.A. programs and tricky camerawork to build in the tension of surveillance. (There are scenes filmed from the perspective of tiny phone cameras — the modern peephole — and suggestive zoom-ins on eye pupils.)
But there are also unmistakable Stone-isms. “I just don’t really like bashing my country,” Gordon-Levitt says to Woodley as they stroll past a Bush-era antiwar protest in front of the White House. “It’s my country, too,” Woodley says. “And right now, it’s got blood on its hands.”
Snowden’s N.S.A. boss is unsubtly named Corbin O’Brian, after the antagonist in Orwell’s “1984.” “Most Americans don’t want freedom,” O’Brian tells Snowden. “They want security.”
Snowden’s many storytellers all tell a similar hero narrative. But if Greenwald’s account is about journalism, Poitras’s is a subtle and artful character study and Kucherena’s is an attempt at the Russian novel — a man alone in a room, wrestling with his conscience — Stone’s is the explicit blockbuster version, told in high gloss with big, emotional music and digestible plot points that will appeal to mass audiences. As Wizner wisely anticipated, it is the narrative most likely to cement Snowden’s story in Americans’ minds.
Snowden declined to comment for this article, but Stone told me he had seen the film and liked it. At a screening at Comic-Con a few months later, Snowden would beam in via satellite to give his somewhat wary approval. “It was something that made me really nervous,” he said of Stone’s film. “But I think he made it work.”
As Stone intended, Snowden shows up at the end of the film. He appears in a wood-paneled room in Kucherena’s dacha, a modest, foreign-looking space, with little to see except a vase of flowers and some curtains in the background. The Snowden who speaks is not the stoic version, but one who manages to deliver a Stone-caliber movie line. “I no longer have to worry about what happens tomorrow,” he says, “because I’m happy with what I’ve done today.” Just before the screen fades to black, Snowden is shown gazing toward a window, a faint, inscrutable smile on his face.
By this summer, whatever anxieties there may have once been seemed to have dissipated. With the film completed, Stone would officially beat Sony’s project. Open Road, the distributor he was worried about, had won an Oscar for “Spotlight.” After “Snowden” earned similar marks to that film during test screenings, everyone seemed optimistic, if a little surprised. “At first I thought there must be something wrong,” said Borman, who told me that he hadn’t seen such high scores in 25 years. Open Road had pushed for a fall release, placing it firmly among Oscar contenders. (“Snowden” will open in theaters on Sept. 16, the day after Stone’s 70th birthday.)
Gordon-Levitt was so moved by Snowden’s story that he donated most of his salary from the film to the A.C.L.U. and used the rest to collaborate with Wizner on a series of videos about democracy. Wizner was preparing to petition Obama to grant Snowden a presidential pardon in the fall, and he hoped Stone’s film would help transform the public’s perception of his client. Kucherena, meanwhile, had turned “Time of the Octopus” into a trilogy — in the sequel, the N.S.A. sends an assassin to Russia to “eliminate” Joshua Cold. He hoped to come to the United States for the premiere of the film, in which he has a cameo as a Russian banker who encounters Snowden at a party. “If I can get a visa, why not?” he said.
In July, Stone and Wizner joined forces for an A.C.L.U. event. The evening was billed as a conversation with Wizner about surveillance and Edward Snowden, with Stone hosting at his Tudor-style home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
As several dozen West Coast supporters of the A.C.L.U. filtered into Stone’s backyard, the director sat camped out on a bench by the pool, taking the party in from a distance. He boasted that he had recently cut four more minutes from the film, bringing the run time to a lean 134 minutes. I asked if he would keep finessing until the end. “No, it’s over,” he said. “This is it. Now I die.”
Wizner roamed around, inspecting a meditation gazebo outfitted with a large gold Buddha. After several people inquired who was playing him in the movie, the lawyer came up with a pithy reply. “Kevin Spacey, reprising his role as Keyser Soze,” he joked. “The guy behind the guy behind the guy — hiding in plain sight.” (Wizner is not a character in Stone’s film.)
维茨纳四处闲逛，审视一个安置着金制大佛像的冥想露台。有几个人询问谁在片中饰演他，这位律师给出了一个简洁的回答。“凯文·斯佩西(Kevin Spacey)，重演凯撒·苏尔(Keyser Soze)这个角色，”他开玩笑说，“那个家伙背后的那个家伙背后的那个家伙——就藏在眼前”（斯通的电影中没有出现与维茨纳对应的人物）。
That week, NPR ran an interview with a Russian security official who posited that Snowden is maybe, probably, most definitely cooperating with Russian intelligence. This inevitably set Wizner off. “Of course, this is the same week that Snowden is blasting Putin on Twitter every day,” Wizner said to Borman, who nodded along. The producer suggested that Snowden’s critics would claim it’s a cover. “That’s what they say!” Wizner said. “This is preapproved criticism so that it’ll seem like he’s free, but actually Putin is the master pulling the strings.”
Eventually, everyone moved to the den, a spacious, brightly lit room filled with family photos. Matthew Weiner, the “Mad Men” creator, took a seat by a stack of DVDs, which included multiple seasons of his own hit TV show. Others arranged themselves along wicker chairs that lined the room’s perimeter. The whole thing had the feeling of a P.T.A. meeting, but without the stale cookies.
最后，大家来到会场，那是一个灯光明亮的宽敞房间，挂满了家人的照片。《广告狂人》(Mad Men)的创作者马修·韦纳(Matthew Weiner)在一堆DVD旁坐下，里面有他自己的热门电视剧中的好几季。其他人在房间周围的藤椅上坐下。整场活动有一种家长教师联谊会的感觉，不过没有不新鲜的饼干。
Wizner got up and spoke for some time about his efforts as Snowden’s lawyer. As he opened the room to questions, someone asked how long Russia could be relied on to keep Snowden safe. Wizner turned the question over to Stone. “Oliver is the Russia expert,” he said with a hint of passive-aggression. Since completing “Snowden,” Stone had become absorbed in his newfound interest in Russia and announced that he was making a documentary about Putin. In recent months, he had accompanied the Russian president to a theater performance and a World War II Victory Day parade in Moscow. “He represents a different point of view that Americans don’t want to hear,” Stone had told RIA Novosti, a Russian news service.
维茨纳站起来，讲了一会儿他作为斯诺登的律师所做的努力。在提问时间，有人询问，我们可以信任俄罗斯能让斯诺登安全地待多久。维茨纳把这个问题交给了斯通。“奥利弗是俄罗斯专家，”他用带点被动攻击的口吻说道。斯通拍完《斯诺登》后，全心投入到对俄罗斯新产生的兴趣中，宣布他在拍摄一部关于普京的纪录片。近几个月，他陪同这位俄罗斯总统去剧院看表演，在莫斯科参加二战胜利日(World War II Victory Day)阅兵。“他代表着美国人不想听到的一种不同的观点，”斯通对俄罗斯新闻机构俄罗斯新闻社(RIA Novosti)说。
When someone else asked about Stone’s experience of making “Snowden,” his answer was despondent. “It was really a horrible experience in every way,” he said. Everyone laughed except for Stone.
As the guests dispersed, Wizner lingered in the foyer, admiring Stone’s art collection depicting important and mostly dead men. He thought that a print of Jean-Paul Sartre looked like Steve Buscemi and that a pained-looking Beethoven was actually Stone. On the opposite wall was a sketch of Genghis Khan, the feared Mongolian emperor. Stone called him a liberal.
客人散去后，维茨纳在门厅逗留，欣赏斯通的艺术收藏品，它们描绘的是大多已过世的重要人物。他觉得让-保罗·萨特(Jean-Paul Sartre)的一幅照片看起来像史蒂夫·布西密(Steve Buscemi)，还说表情痛苦的贝多芬(Beethoven)实际上是斯通。对面墙上有一幅成吉思汗的素描——那位可怕的蒙古皇帝。斯通说他是自由主义者。
“Yes, Genghis Khan — misunderstood,” Wizner teased.
Stone smiled and cocked his head. “Listen, the A.C.L.U. should defend him!”