Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden
in Oliver Stone’s new “Snowden” biopic, and the actor’s portrayal of the N.S.A. contractor turned whistleblower has drawn a wide range of reviews — most of which zero in on his somewhat jarring vocal impression.
Entertainment Weekly criticised Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden voice as being “almost cartoonishly odd, like a kid doing his rec-room version of Buffalo Bill’s monotone from ‘Silence of the Lambs'” in a recent review.
Though Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson admitted that the voice initally sounds “too synthetic and effortful for a movie that’s about some very dire real-world things,” he suggests that the actor’s performance will win audiences over.
Vanity Fair also tracked down Gordon-Levitt to explain his process behind the divisive impression. He says he “felt compelled” to nail Snowden’s voice and put in some hours practicing.
“I found everything I could find on YouTube,” he told the publication in a video. “I ripped the audio off of the [Snowden] documentary ‘Citizenfour’ and just put it on my headphones on repeat.”
While the actor’s Snowden voice does at least sound accurate to its baritone source material, hearing it directly juxtaposed to Gordon-Levitt’s real voice in the video is unnerving to say the least.
Edward Snowden himself previously admitted to Yahoo that he didn’t think Gordon-Levitt’s voice sounded like his own, but it nonetheless passed what he called the “family test.”
“What I can say is some of my family members have said, ‘He sounds just like you,'” Snowden said. “To me, the voice in my head doesn’t sound the same. But if he can pass the family test, he’s doing all right.”
Hear the impression for yourself and how Gordon-Levitt came up with it in Vanity Fair’s interview below:
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