The corpse of the 2015 Oscar telecast is barely cold, but we’re already getting our first look at what’s sure to be a contender in next year’s contest – the first image from Oliver Stone’s upcoming biopic Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, hit the Web today.
As you can see above, the still – released on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Facebook page – appears to depict Snowden during his time in the U.S. Army, an aspect of his life that’s been little-discussed in the media or public debate about his guilt or innocence. Before working for the NSA and the CIA, Snowden joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2004, hoping to fight in the Iraq War. Snowden received special forces training, before an accident left both of his legs broken, earning him an administrative discharge.
Snowden will, of course, focus on the life of the notorious whistleblower who made headlines in mid-2013 after leaking sensitive documents to Glenn Greenwald of The UK Guardian – documents which uncovered a vast NSA surveillance program spying on American citizens and sent Snowden into hiding (though as of this writing he’s expressed an interest in returning home pending a “fair and impartial” trial). The leaks spurred a national debate on the USA’s intelligence apparatus, right to privacy and whether Snowden himself is a traitor or a true patriot.
A biopic like this – especially one on such a controversial and divisive figure as Snowden – is sure to be award bait in the 2016 landscape. That potential buzz is surely helped by the fact that Laura Potrias’ Snowden documentary CITIZENFOUR just took home an Oscar for best documentary a couple of Sundays ago. That said, the timing is interesting, because the biopic focuses on a figure that’s still a regular newsmaker – both in ongoing coverage of the documents he leaked and in his status as a fugitive – making it entirely possible that Snowden will appear woefully out of date by the time it hits theaters this Christmas.
Besides JGL, Snowden will boast an all-star cast. Nicolas Cage officially joined the cast last Monday playing an as-yet-unnamed former U.S. Intelligence official. In addition, Shailene Woodley of Divergent fame will play Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, while Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto will play Greenwald. Melissa Leo will play Potrias and Tom Wilkinson will play Ewan McCaskill.