The race is on in the US to win the rights for a film about NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden, currently holed up in asylum somewhere in Russia.
Screen Daily reports today that Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way , which has a production deal with Warner Bros., is the front-runner in the race to secure rights. The production company was unavailable for comment.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Guardian’s expose story about the NSA’s mass surveillance operation and who is now writing a book about Snowden and the NSA, confirmed to Screen that “there have been negotiations” [with an unnamed company/companies] for rights but that a deal has yet to be concluded.
Greenwald recently struck a deal with Metropolitan Books to write a book about NSA surveillance, due for publication in March 2014. The publisher has promised “new revelations exposing the extraordinary cooperation of private industry and the far-reaching consequences of the government’s programme, both domestically and abroad.”
Three of Greenwald’s four previous books have already made it onto the New York Times bestseller list .
Screen also understands that at least one US executive has met with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to discuss a potential film.
Leonardo DiCaprio could star in the film, as he has in other films in which Appian Way has been involved, such as Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street.
Screen said that if the rights are assigned in the coming weeks "the project would be among the hottest pre-script properties at the American Film Market (AFM) in November."
The Guardian first reported on the NSA scandal in June when Greenwald revealed that the NSA had been collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top secret court order granting the US government unlimited authority to obtain communications data.
Snowden, a US computer specialist and former CIA and NSA employee, later accused of espionage by the US government, fled to Hong Kong and then Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum by the Russian government.
Other are keen to make a film about Snowden. Canadian producer Travis Doering told Screen of his project Classified: The Edward Snowden Story, a feature-length biopic about Snowden which he hopes to shoot in early 2014.
Meanwhile a film about Snowden by Verax, a five-minute video made for about $550, has drawn more than 270,000 views on YouTube. Snowden himself is listed as the director.
The short, produced by the group J.Shot Videos, documents Snowden’s three-week stay in the Far East and "includes a large degree of creative licence ," says Screen.
Verax stars Andrew Cromeek, an American school teacher in Hong Kong who bears an uncanny resemblance to Snowden.