The only thing surprising about Oliver Stone making a movie about American whistleblower Edward Snowden was how long it took. The 67-year-old director — who loves nothing more then tackling big, prickly, political topics like Vietnam (Platoon), the Kennedy assassination (JFK), or George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” (W.) — waited a whole year to sign on to adapt the story of Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of documents to the British newspaper The Guardian back in 2013.
Snowden’s initial act may be a year old, but his impact is still being felt today, just as his status as traitor or patriot is still being debated.
Stone, who most recently helmed documentaries on Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, will adapt Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s book The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man with his business partner, Moritz Borman. Harding and other Guardian journalists will consult on the project.
“The is one of the greatest stories of our time. A real challenge. I’m glad to have The Guardian working with us,” Stone said in a statement. He declined to comment further, saying he was already hard at work on the script.
Stone has yet to set up distribution for what is being called a “big-budget” project, but the film is being financed as a European co-production that, according to The Guardian, will start shooting before the end of the year.
Who distributes the film in the U.S. could be tricky. Last year’s DreamWorks film about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange underperformed at the box office, grossing only $3.2 million. But Snowden performed well recently during his interview with Brian Williams on NBC, winning the 10 p.m. hour and ranking second overall for the night among adults 18-49.
Stone will also face competition from another Snowden film based on the book No Place to Hide by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who released the initial documents. That film is currently set up at Columbia Pictures with a tentative 2017 release date. Let’s see if Stone can get there first.