Money, roadblocks and drama; Oliver Stone's battles over 'Snowden'

Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:58am EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From presidents to serial killers, Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone hasn't shied away from exploring controversial figures, but he initially balked when asked to make a film about former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

"I didn't want to do it, I wasn't looking for trouble," Stone told Reuters.

But the 70-year-old director, known for films such as "JFK," "Natural Born Killers" and "Wall Street," said he changed his mind after he met with Snowden in Russia.

"Although I was worried about it still being boring and dull, I saw it as a dramatic thriller. I felt like it wouldn't get an audience as a documentary-type film," Stone said.

"Snowden," out in theaters on Friday, traces Snowden's journey from a conservative CIA agent to a disillusioned NSA operative until he fled the United States in 2013 and exposed the government's mass surveillance programs of ordinary people.

He is now living in Russia and is wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges. Amnesty International and two other groups this week launched a campaign to have him pardoned.

Stone and Snowden met a few times in Russia and agreed that the film was going to be a dramatization. Then the film hit a wall when Stone went to studios for financing. The director declined to name which studios he had approached.

"We live in that climate - this is definitely, I believe, self-censorship," Stone said.   Continued...

Director Oliver Stone attends the premiere of the film "Snowden" in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly