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Joseph Gordon-Levitt secretly met Edward Snowden before biopic role

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An actor meeting the real-life person they’re about to portray in a movie is more or less expected these days, but for the new Oliver Stone film Snowden, that courtesy was a little more difficult for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to fulfill.

In an interview with The Guardian, Gordon-Levitt opened up about his secret trip to Russia to meet Edward Snowden, the notorious government contractor who leaked NSA secrets. Meeting the man he would later play on film, Gordon-Levitt made the clandestine voyage “wanting to understand this person that I was going to play, observing both his strengths and his weaknesses.”

Speaking for the first time about the conversation, which he was discouraged from recording, Gordon-Levitt admitted that even though he has first-hand experience with the man behind a million news stories, he wants people to decide for themeselves whether Snowden is a national hero or a traitor.

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“I left knowing without a doubt that what [Snowden] did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do, that he believed it would help the country he loves,” Gordon-Levitt said. “Now, as he would say, it’s not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That’s really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don’t want to be the actor guy who’s like, ‘You should listen to me! What he did was right!’ I don’t think that’s my place. Even though that is what I believe – that what he did was right.”

Snowden, which was originally set for a Fall 2015 release, will now hit theaters next year. You can read his full Guardian interview here