Joseph Gordon-Levitt Really Met Edward Snowden In Russia, Where They Discussed ‘Personal Things’

Early reviews for Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic Snowden are decidedly mixed. Which is fine, for as Uproxx film writer Vince Mancini puts it, “It’s just a movie-movie” that happens to be about “an issue as important as” the former NSA contractor’s monumental intelligence leaks, and his subsequent decision to flee the United States. It’s a story worth telling, which is why actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, director Oliver Stone and writer Kieran Fitzgerald spent time in Russia visiting the man himself. Or at least that’s what Gordon-Levitt told Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Tuesday.

Stone and Fitzgerald “took a number of trips to Moscow” to discuss the script with Snowden. Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, only accompanied the pair on one such excursion to chat with Snowden and his longtime girlfriend Lindsay Mills, who’s played by Shailene Woodley in the film. “Oliver wanted me to meet him, and I just spent about four hours talking with him,” he explained, adding the expat is “always trying to take the attention off of himself and put the attention on the issues that he wants to talk about.”

Colbert disagreed slightly and brought up Tuesday’s pardon request news, but Gordon-Levitt reiterated his point:

“I don’t think he was talking about what he likes to eat for lunch, or how he likes to talk or walk. And those are the things that I wanted to pay attention to… His personal things… You can tell a lot about a person by just like, how they shake your hand.”

To illustrate the meeting’s importance, Gordon-Levitt revealed Snowden was “sort of old-fashioned in his good manners.” Unlike the “stereotype” about “guys that are good at computers,” which assumes such characters are “socially awkward,” the actor found his subject to be “gentlemanly” and forward about himself and the topics they discussed.

Shortly thereafter, he and Colbert discussed the illegality of what Snowden (and the NSA) did, which resulted in a minor regurgitation of ongoing debates about whether the NSA contractor should go on trial. Unfortunately, however, they never discussed Gordon-Levitt’s decision to go breathy.

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