We all knew it was just a matter of time. For over week, a number of major industry giants, including HBO, Sony and 20th Century Fox, have been reportedly considering the film rights to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s forthcoming book on the story of N.S.A whistle-blower and U.S. fugitive, Edward Snowden, and his rise to treasonous fame.
Despite the abundant number of complications such a project entails, the above-mentioned companies appear confident that public interest in the topic, which as of now has no ending (Snowden remains in temporary asylum in Moscow), and thus its return potential outweighs the risks invariably associated with the release of a film with such politically-charged subject matter.
Among the obstacles includes the issue of securing the “life rights” of a number of the central characters, including Greenwald’s journalism partner, Laura Poitras, as well as Snowden himself. As The New York Times’ Michael Cieply explains, “That leaves potential buyers to rely on legal precepts of fair use in portraying them, or on their assurances that they will not seek to interfere with a movie.”
Additionally, production and distribution companies are surely taking into account the role the U.S. government will play, in regards to not only their public response concerning the ethical portrayal of Snowden and his associates, but also the degree to which the film accurately recounts the actual events that took place. The production and release of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty by Sony in 2012, which was met with outspoken congressional disdain for a number of similar issues, was unquestionably a lesson learned in the realm of governmental tolerance for Hollywood opportunism.
Thus, while it has reportedly been confirmed from several sources that rights talks are in fact underway, representatives of such companies willing to comment on their current acquisition efforts are proving hard to come by. “Lucy Stille, a New York-based agent who is representing Mr. Greenwald’s book for the Paradigm agency, declined on Friday to discuss the project. Spokesmen for Fox, Sony and HBO declined to comment. Representatives of The Guardian, a British newspaper in which many of Mr. Snowden’s revelations were first published, also declined to comment.”