Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden Film Fails to Find Major Studio Home

Oliver Stone Edward Snowden Split - H 2013
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Oliver Stone Edward Snowden Split - H 2013

Instead, indie distributor Open Road Films is acquiring U.S. rights

Oliver Stone's untitled Edward Snowden film, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the NSA whistleblower, is going the indie route after failing to find a taker among the major Hollywood studios.

Open Road Films is picking up U.S. rights to the movie, while Wild Bunch is preselling foreign rights to international buyers at the American Film Market this week in Santa Monica. Earlier this month, the project was shopped to several Hollywood studios, but no deal materialized, according to insiders.

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Sources say studios are nervous after DreamWorks' The Fifth Estate, about whistleblower Julian Assange, bombed at the box office in fall 2013 — grossing just $8.6 million worldwide.

Open Road is no stranger to political films. It is also handling Jon Stewart's upcoming Rosewater in the U.S.

Stone's screenplay is based on Luke Harding's The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man and Time of the Octopus, the upcoming novel from Snowden's Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena. CAA is representing domestic rights.

Harding's nonfiction book traces Snowden's move from Hawaii to Hong Kong, where he met with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald and handed over top-secret NSA documents. Snowden later flew to Moscow, where he sought asylum. Kucherena's fictional take on the story is based on the lawyer's time with Snowden while he waited in limbo at the Moscow airport before the Russian government decided to grant him asylum.

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Stone is producing the untitled film with longtime producing partner Moritz Borman. The project is currently in preproduction in Germany with principal photography set to start in January.

Poitras' documentary on Snowden, Citizenfour, is getting Oscar buzz following its premiere at the New York Film Festival and theatrical release on Oct. 24.

Twitter: @pameladaym

Nov. 6, 5:13 p.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Open Roads released Stone's film W. Lionsgate opened the film. THR regrets the error.