Casting Call: Who Should Play Snowden and Greenwald?

Two pieces of recent entertainment news — Oliver Stone picking up the rights to Luke Harding’s book on the Edward Snowden saga; and Sony’s purchase of the rights to Glenn Greenwald’s book — have sparked a heated debate here at FP headquarters: Who should play Greenwald and Snowden? This won’t be the first time espionage ...

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Two pieces of recent entertainment news -- Oliver Stone picking up the rights to Luke Harding's book on the Edward Snowden saga; and Sony's purchase of the rights to Glenn Greenwald's book -- have sparked a heated debate here at FP headquarters: Who should play Greenwald and Snowden?

This won't be the first time espionage and journalism intersect on the silver screen. Last year, Benedict Cumberbatch delivered a masterful performance as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. Although Snowden and Greenwald lack some of Assange's more cinematic qualities -- the silver hair, the affect -- they too will surely serve as central characters in the upcoming films.

Two pieces of recent entertainment news — Oliver Stone picking up the rights to Luke Harding’s book on the Edward Snowden saga; and Sony’s purchase of the rights to Glenn Greenwald’s book — have sparked a heated debate here at FP headquarters: Who should play Greenwald and Snowden?

This won’t be the first time espionage and journalism intersect on the silver screen. Last year, Benedict Cumberbatch delivered a masterful performance as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. Although Snowden and Greenwald lack some of Assange’s more cinematic qualities — the silver hair, the affect — they too will surely serve as central characters in the upcoming films.

Here are our top candidates.

Number One: Ed Norton, whose name has been bandied about here at FP to play either role. It’s perhaps not surprising that an actor of Norton’s range would be a favorite for both roles. With an intellectual intensity that would seem to match both Greenwald and Snowden, he also falls so deeply into the category of “generic white dude” that he could probably pull off either role.  

Andrew Garfield is another name perpetually mentioned here at FP as a potential cinematic Snowden. He’s certainly got that vaguely nerdy thing going on, but he’d be doing incredible favors for Snowden’s hair.

Beyond a vague resemblance to Greenwald, Mark Ruffalo knows how to play driven. He’s currently starring as AIDS activist Ned Weeks in the film The Normal Heart, which tells the story of the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Perhaps best known for his role in The Office, B.J. Novak also appeared in Inglorious Basterds. A more attractive, less serious version of Greenwald, he’d perhaps inject a much-need dose of humor into the role.

Snowden has often been described by detractors as a disaffected, lonely, slightly weird man. If that’s a caricature any of the filmmakers would care to embrace, we have your guy: Jimmi Simpson. You may remember him as the creepy hacker in the most recent season of House of Cards.

So he’d have to dye those brows — or perhaps pluck them — but isn’t Daniel Radcliffe born to play Snowden? He began his career as the essential hero of coming-of-age millennials; now he could be inserted into a new morality play, this one about the evil of surveillance.

Peter Dinklage might not be around much longer on Game of Thrones, but his burgeoning on-screen buddy comedy with his brother, played by Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, has me dreading his departure. I can only pray they reunite as Greenwald and Snowden. Who’s who? Come on now.

Twitter: @EliasGroll
Tag: Media

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.