How Joseph Gordon-Levitt Developed his ‘Snowden’ Voice

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“You’re playing someone that everybody in the world has seen before. It’s a little different than playing a fictitious character.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Even if you don’t know much about exiled American Edward Snowden, who is wanted for leaking classified information, there is one aspect of Snowden trailers that stands out — the deep voice Joseph Gordon-Levitt uses to portray Snowden in the biopic. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Gordon-Levitt speaks about developing that voice and what else about Snowden’s life informed his performance in the Oliver Stone-directed Snowden.

Because Snowden’s life made headlines and millions have heard him speak in interviews, Gordon-Levitt thought it was important to portray that aspect of him. He says, “You’re playing someone that everybody in the world has seen before. It’s a little different than playing a fictitious character. Because everyone had heard Edward Snowden’s voice, I felt compelled to at least sound a little bit like him.”

Since Gordon-Levitt couldn’t spend time with Snowden, he tracked down archive material. He explains, “I found everything I could find on YouTube. I ripped the audio off of the documentary Citizenfour and just put it on my headphones on repeat.”

The actor also was inspired by the fact that Snowden served in the Army. He says, “One thing that I learned that really informed a lot of what I did in the movie is that in 2004 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He wanted to fight in the Iraq War. So he sort of had this soldier mentality. He’s willing to put his life on the line for what he believes in.” In fact, Gordon-Levitt continues, “The thing that I think is at the center of Edward Snowden is his incredibly strong conviction. He didn’t know if he was going to live or die doing what he did.”

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