Arts & Life
2:04 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

What 'Edward Snowden' The Movie Would Look Like

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 4:12 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Of course, there is another American who worked for this country's intelligence gathering apparatus who's in legal limbo. The case of Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked classified information to the media, is being followed internationally. Currently, Snowden is holed up in a Moscow airport while he tries to get temporary asylum, as he figures out a way to get to one of several countries that have offered him shelter from U.S. charges of espionage.

Does this sound like a plot out of a movie? Well, we thought that the situation closely resembles just that, and our question is: Exactly how would someone script Snowden, the movie? What's the ending? Who plays Snowden? Here to lend his creative thoughts is David Baldacci, best-selling author of several political and government thrillers, including his most recent novel, "The Hit." David, welcome.

DAVID BALDACCI: Thank you.

CORNISH: So in real life, the story, obviously, is very much ongoing. But is his story being rewritten by people like yourself? Are people, do you think, starting to jot notes down?

BALDACCI: Well, knowing studio executives as I do, I'm sure there's a bunch of people out there trying to figure out how they can capitalize on this and who they would like to cast and how they would like to write the script, either for a film or for television. So, yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of interest in this.

CORNISH: So tell me about the Snowden in your script. Who plays the lead, and why?

BALDACCI: Well, at top of my head, and this was like the sort of five minutes of contemplating the questions. Shia LaBeouf came to mind to play Snowden, sort of this young, impressionable, maybe naive person who has gotten in over his head, trying to do the right thing and has picked the path to do it and now is in the middle of sort of this international mess and probably is trying to figure out how to get back on the dry land.

CORNISH: Now, Snowden has appeared as a solitary figure to the public, save for mention of some family. In your story, would he have friends and colleagues at his former job who could try and help him or stop him?

BALDACCI: I think so. In my mind, at some point, geopolitically, he is going to be seen as someone too silent. If that's so, then he has nobody to help him. So I envisioned sort of this band of young NSA people who befriended him, who care about him, they know he's been abandoned now, and they take it into their own hands to try to go and rescue him and bring him back. But then, what happens when he's brought back to the country? What is Snowden's reaction to all of this? He's probably feeling sort of paranoid right now, at least in the movie version.

CORNISH: And in your imaginary story, he also is facing charges, as he is in real life.

BALDACCI: Yes. Yeah. There's a lot of legal complications out there for someone like him. He's taken classified information. So when he comes back, he is going to be detained. He's going to be put in jail, and he's going to be ultimately tried. And in my mind, I thought, well, at the end of the day, who's going to be left standing with this guy? If he's alienated everyone, certainly, his agency is not going to be with him. Maybe his friends aren't going to be with him. Look at the reaction he had when he came back.

In my mind, the movie version guy comes back paranoid, has alienated everyone and isolated, and he walks into court. Really, the only people he had with him are his lawyers. And because I wanted this story to be sort of ambiguous, gray, not black and white, I really didn't finish it because I wanted to let the viewer or the reader finish in their mind where the case is called, the judge comes in, the jury is in panel. He rises and sits back down, and then you fade to black or you close the last page of the book.

CORNISH: Yeah. You have here Snowden sits back down all alone having great self-doubt now regarding whether or not he did the right thing. And you literally wrote fade to black, which I didn't know you guys did that.

BALDACCI: Yeah.

CORNISH: So I appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDACCI: The end. Yes. Because I think anybody, I don't care how passionate someone is about something, when all the ramifications come forward, anybody being human is going to have some self-doubts and misgivings about was this the right way to do it? Was this the right way to break this door to the public? Have I committed treason? Could I have done it in a different way?

CORNISH: Is that what makes him an attractive character to write about?

BALDACCI: It does because I don't write about white knights because I don't happen to know any. Everybody has flaws and foibles, and that's what makes people interesting. And if you go through life with no self-doubts at all, it's very hard for me to get a reader to connect with a person like that because for him, I think Snowden is a very compelling character for fiction just because he has a lot of flaws and he's made mistakes, and I'm sure that he's scared.

And all of those things make it appealing because as a writer, either it is in a movie form or book form, I can draw that out, and those are the threads that I can take from this person and send them out to the reader or the viewer to let them to connect with Snowden on a human level. You should let them know the fear and realize what the predicament he's in. It's a compelling one.

CORNISH: David Baldacci, thank you so much for talking with us.

BALDACCI: A pleasure.

CORNISH: David Baldacci is a best-selling author of government and political thrillers, including his latest novel, "The Hit." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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