Negotiations on the deal have not yet begun, but both men are keen on making it happen. Production on The Snowden Files, titled after the book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding, is due to begin late this year or in the early part of 2015.
The film, which Stone is writing and directing, now looks likely to be based on two books, Harding’s account – full title The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man – and Time of the Octopus by Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena. Stone recently picked up the screen rights to the latter tome after optioning Harding’s book in June.
Snowden’s revelations, first reported in the Guardian, lifted the lid on a culture of mass government surveillance and sparked a global furore. The former NSA employee has been granted temporary asylum in Russia but faces a 30-year prison sentence if he returns to the US.
Stone’s film could compete with a rival project titled No Place to Hide after the book by Glenn Greenwald, the freelance journalist to whom Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents in June 2013. That film is being brought to cinemas by James Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, though the Stone version looks likely to arrive on the big screen first.
Gordon-Levitt, 33, has successfully combined turns in critically acclaimed genre fare such as Rian Johnson’s Looper and Batman film The Dark Knight Rises with starring roles in indie comedy drama fare such as 50-50, (500) Days of Summer and Don Jon, which he also directed. He will play the high wire artist Philippe Petit in forthcoming biopic The Walk, about the latter’s successful crossing of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in August 1974.
Stone has experience with biographical political films, having previously directed movies about the Kennedy assassination (JFK), the Watergate break-in (Nixon), the Vietnam conflict (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven & Earth) and the Bush administration’s “war on terror” (W).