Joseph Gordon-Levitt is well aware that many people consider Edward Snowden a criminal. Levitt does not.
“It’s not simple,” Levitt told CNN at the New York premiere of ‘Snowden’ Tuesday night. “He did break the law. He admits to breaking the law and so I understand why people feel he’s a criminal … But the thing is that the NSA (National Security Agency) was also breaking the law millions of times every day.”
Levitt plays Snowden in the upcoming film of the same name, directed by Oliver Stone. The film follows Snowden’s career from patriotic citizen to being labeled a traitor when the former NSA contrator leaked a trove of classified documents to the press.
Snowden, who has been charged with espionage, fled the United States in 2013 and found asylum in Russia. He s currently campaigning for President Obama to pardon him before his presidential term is up.
“I know that he would love to come home. Look, I feel like I’m an actor, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not really the expert on any of that but I do believe that [he should come home],” Levitt told CNN. “When the government is breaking laws like that, that gets scary to me, that’s our democracy slipping away.”
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When asked if Snowden should be allowed back to the United States, Levitt’s co-star Shailene Woodley said, “I hope so.”
“I think what Edward Snowden did was allow us as a community to hold our government accountable,” Woodley told CNN.
Stone echoed the sentiments of his stars. “I think he should [be pardoned]. He’s done a lot of good for the United States, but he’s concerned about the security and he thinks we are wasting a lot of money and a lot of manpower collecting everything and it’s worthless.”
Levitt said he didn’t know much about Snowden when signing on to portray him.
“The next thought I had right after Oliver offered me this movie, after I got over my excitement was Edward Snowden, I know I’ve heard that name. What exactly did he do again and why?” Levitt told CNN. “I realized I actually didn’t know. So I had some learning to do once I kind looked into it for myself because there are so many different opinions.”
But Levitt came to the realization that even though Snowden was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, what Snowden had done was necessary.
“I find a lot of what you find both on the positive side and the negative side is sort of overly simplistic,” Levitt told CNN. “It takes some time to kind of parse through all of it, but once I had done that I came to be really grateful for what he had done and I considered it an honor to try and tell his story.”