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Director Says Movie Studios’ Boards Blocked ‘Snowden’

Director/writer Oliver Stone, left, and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt discuss the film "Snowden" on the opening day of Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, July 21, 2016.

Director Oliver Stone said Thursday that every major movie studio turned down his narrative film about Edward Snowden because of censorship from their corporate leaders.

Stone, who has chronicled many American conspiracies in his films, said he does not believe an entity like the National Security Agency is putting pressure on the studios but on the corporate boards who control them. He made that accusation at Comic-Con International, the annual four-day celebration of comics and other arts and culture.

He got financing from France and Germany for the movie, which comes out September 16 and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden.

Stone said he believes Snowden is still "a mystery'' despite many interviews, articles and the Oscar-winning documentary "Citizenfour" exploring the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of classified documents about the government's surveillance programs.

Snowden now lives in Russia. Stone met with him a number of times in Moscow, trying to gain his trust and decide whether to take on the project.

FILE - American whistleblower Edward Snowden delivers remarks via video link in February 2016.
FILE - American whistleblower Edward Snowden delivers remarks via video link in February 2016.

Gordon-Levitt also tried to get to know Snowden before portraying him. The actor said he was particularly surprised at Snowden's optimism about the ability of technology to positively change the future.

The conversation Thursday took a decidedly heady turn, away from the usual fanboy fun and toward big ideas about government transparency and the surveillance state.

“We're promised privacy in the Constitution, and if the government was going to change those rules, they have to be open about it,” Gordon-Levitt said. “We're supposed to have that conversation and decide together.”

The film was screened for the first time Thursday at a secret location at the annual fan convention. Afterward, Snowden himself participated via Google Hangout in a question-and-answer session with Stone and Gordon-Levitt, USA Today reported. After a special screening September 14, Snowden also is scheduled to join, from Moscow, in a live-streamed interview with Stone, who'll be in New York, Open Road Films and Fathom Events announced.

Although Stone and the cast have their own views on Snowden, the filmmaker stressed that the movie is not one-sided.

“We don't want to take sides on this in the movie,” Stone said. “You have to see the movie to explore the positions.”