TORONTO – It’s a quick, oft-used antidote for one of the pervasive online privacy threats exposed in the new film “Snowden”: a Band-Aid.
In one scene, when National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) realizes the government and others are able to spy on people via their laptop webcams, he covers his up with an adhesive bandage.
“I almost think there’s a weird metaphor, an unintentional metaphor going on with the Band-Aid,” Gordon-Levitt said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Snowden” made its world premiere.
“Like, because it’s a Band-Aid, (we think), ‘Oh, this will fix it.’ And I don’t think it will.”
“Snowden,” which opened in theatres across Canada on Friday, is a dramatization of the North Carolina native’s life between 2004 and 2013 — from his military training, to his work at intelligence agencies, and his leaking of classified NSA surveillance documents and tactics in 2013.
Three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, who directed and co-wrote the drama, said the film only scratches the surface in terms of the digital spying the U.S. government is capable of.
“They have so many programs. It takes time to understand this (stuff) and they’re ahead of us,” said the “Born on the Fourth of July” director, using an unprintable expletive.
“They completely, in my opinion, trampled on the constitution and they just started listening because they could — they had the technology, they could do it.”
Stone said he started working on the project in 2014 and found it a “painstaking” process to boil down the “immensely complicated” subject matter into a two-hour film.
He visited Snowden nine times and found him to be a stoic and patriotic man who “worships the constitution” and has a “boy scout quality to him.”
“He cares about America, he wants to improve the U.S.A.,” said Stone.
“He should be the head of the NSA, throw out the crooks that are there and put him in because I really think he’d do a far more efficient job at protecting us, as opposed to taking offensive measures to attack other countries with cyber warfare, which is what we did during the Bush administration.”
Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, who co-stars as Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, also spoke with Snowden, via Skype.
Woodley said she thinks Snowden “did one of the greatest services to the world and to future generations” and has great empathy for Mills.
“I am an actor pretending to be Lindsay Mills but the real Lindsay Mills, in real time, is still walking down the chaotic road that is being with, in some ways, the world’s most-wanted man,” she said.
Stone said he took security precautions during production — shooting in Germany, going “off grid” and trying “to vanish into paper and not have any emails or anything of that nature of importance.”
“It’s depressing to be my age, to have been a veteran of this ship, gone through the Cold War, seen the Vietnam War and then see the whole … thing repeat again,” he said, using salty language. “It’s disgusting, I repeat, disgusting.”