You might think that while researching the role of Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have only focused on the positive coverage of famous figure. After all, the former NSA contractor ultimately fully believed that what he was doing was the right thing, and reading material that supports that mindset would presumably provide the most insight to the character. This, however, would be a false assumption, as Gordon-Levitt recognized that the real Snowden was entirely conscious of the negative backlash that would come as a result of his actions, and so the actor felt it was an important thing to recognize all perspectives on the man while getting into his mindset.
The incredible controversy surrounding Edward Snowden and the confidential files he leaked back in 2013 was one of the many subjects that I discussed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt when I had the chance to sit down with him recently during the Los Angeles press day for Snowden. While Gordon-Levitt was discussing the way he got into the mindset of the character and the research that he did early in the process, I asked about what kind of coverage he was reading, and if it skewed more towards stuff that agreed with Snowden's actions, or rebuked him. The actor said that he ultimately decided to take a balanced approach, and explained why:
I wouldn't ignore [the negative press], because that perspective is a perspective that Snowden himself was very aware of. He's a very thoughtful and kind of analytical mind. He's an engineer. He's a coder. I'm not a coder, but I know enough about it to know that you have to think of every case. That's kind of what writing code is all about. So I think he was very much aware of the consequences he would face if he succeeded.
It's a heated controversy that continues as Oliver Stone's Snowden prepares to launch into theaters. Some argue that Edward Snowden did the right thing -- performing a duty as a privacy-respecting individual by dragging immoral behavior into the spotlight. Others believe that he is a traitor who compromised national security by revealing protected information to America's enemies. And still others believe that he was correct in his actions, but was wrong for not facing the consequences by staying in the country instead of fleeing to Russia. It's not by any stretch a simple issue, and because this was something that Joseph Gordon-Levitt believed Snowden considered before his actions, he felt it was important to have it inform his performance.