Sony Pictures buys film rights to Greenwald's book on Snowden, NSA

"Zero Dark Thirty" maker nabs rights to Glenn Greenwald's look at working with Edward Snowden to reveal reach of NSA.

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Metropolitan Books

Sony Pictures Entertainment has secured the film rights to journalist Glenn Greenwald's book "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State," to bring to the silver screen the tale of meeting the former NSA contractor in a Hong Kong hotel -- and the ensuing document dump that led to both Pulitzer Prizes and the shaking of the foundations of government surveillance efforts.

Tackling the real-life story of unraveling the international spying apparatuses of the US and UK governments for Sony will be producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. By no accident, it would seem, both producers are well known for their work on recent James Bond spy films "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall." The news was initially reported by The New York Times on Wednesday.

Greenwald, who worked with filmmaker Laura Poitras on parsing the initial NSA documents, went on to publish numerous articles in The Guardian last year -- and continues to do so under his new venture, The Intercept -- detailing the government surveillance overreach. He and Snowden shared the information with The Washington Post, and later The New York Times. Ten months after the first report on the NSA leaks was published, Greenwald and The Guardian, along with The Washington Post, shared the Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Greenwald's book, published May 13, 2014, had been on the table for a film adaptation since last fall, but couldn't lock down a studio willing to wade into the ongoing narrative surrounding the legally murky practices of the NSA and the man who spilled its secrets. Snowden remains in Russia and is actively attempting to reach a plea deal with the US to avoid or lessen the federal charges levied against him.

In Sony -- which put out the cinematic retelling of the killing of Osama bin Laden, "Zero Dark Thirty" -- the book has found an experienced purveyor of complex stories centered around the inner-workings of powerful establishments. ("Zero Dark Thirty" was also attacked, however, for what some said was its misrepresentation of the role played by torture in locating bin Laden's hiding place.) Sony also released the popular retelling of the founding of Facebook, "The Social Network," adapted from Ben Mezrich's book "The Accidental Billionaires."

Greenwald's nonfiction book and its potential future movie counterpart join a growing number of narratives that are released increasingly closer in time to the real-world happenings they represent. "Zero Dark Thirty," for instance, came out only 19 months after the death of bin Laden. And "The Fifth Estate," in which Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, was released not long after the flurry of news stories regarding WikiLeaks publishing of secret US military files and diplomatic documents.

Whatever Snowden's fate, if the film does indeed get made he'll become yet another historical figure of the Information Age whose actions have inspired a film of James Bond-like proportions.

Update, 12:39 p.m. PT: Adds details about "Zero Dark Thirty."

About the author

Nick Statt is a staff writer for CNET. He previously wrote for ReadWrite and was a news associate at the social magazine app Flipboard. He spends a questionable amount of his free time contemplating his relationship with video games while continuously exploring the convergence of tech, science and pop culture.

 

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