The Surprising Cameo At The End Of Snowden, And How They Pulled It Off


The following story contains very mild spoilers for Oliver Stone's upcoming drama Snowden. You have been warned.

Later this year, you will get the opportunity to see a dramatization of the Edward Snowden saga, as filtered through the unique perspective of Oliver Stone. This is not a Snowden review, as we are embargoed for the next few weeks, but rather a very interesting story about a special cameo in the film, and how it came to pass. I'll even hide it beneath this image of Snowden star Joseph Gordon Levitt, playing the title character.

For two-plus hours, audiences will be mesmerized by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's transformation into Edward Snowden, government agent turned whistleblower who now lives in exile after exposing programs used by our own government to spy on the world's citizens. You will become so engrossed in Gordon-Levitt's portrayal that it'll be stunning when, in a bit of camera trickery, the REAL Edward Snowden shows up in a scene that begins with Gordon-Levitt in the role, and gracefully transitions into the actual Snowden. The mind reels with questions. Why did Oliver Stone do this? Did he actually go to Moscow, where Snowden resides, to shoot this scene?

Thankfully, as part of a special Snowden screening in San Diego, Edward Snowden participated in a live Q-and-A via satellite from Moscow and answered questions alongside Stone, Gordon-Levitt and co-star Shailene Woodley. And he opened up about the creation of this eye-catching scene, explaining:

Oliver [Stone] came out to interview me, talking about maybe [filming me] to contextualize it, maybe for DVD extras. But we had this feeling, as we talked about things. I spoke at length about my personal values, and just how I felt about things that had been happening to me since 2013. And I guess he liked it. People do see, to respond to it. And I think there's kind of a magic in seeing Joe, has been going through the movie, putting this really amazing performance, and then it wipes across the back of the screen. ... It was something that made me really nervous, but I think he made it work.

Does Oliver Stone agree? He took the baton from Snowden and elaborated:

The whole thing is set up by Joe. He's obviously exhausted himself at this point. And I think we just wanted something completely out of the left field. It was a gamble. I think poor Ed [Snowden], he suffered greatly that day. He's minimizing the damage to his psyche. It was very hard for him. We did nine takes, I believe, at least, on several angles. He talks so well in interviews, but it's so hard for him to become a third person. He has that difficulty making that leap. Any actor knows what I'm talking about. ... We got there eventually, but it was a painful day.

Here's a shot of Edward Snowden, live via Moscow following the screening in Comic-Con.

Edward Snowden

See how this scene plays for yourself when Oliver Stone's Snowden opens in theaters on September 16.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.