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How Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney became America’s most unlikely whistleblower

'It was completely irresistible.  She was just a girl.  she went on a saturday she later she had a date at the gym': Sydney Sweeney in 'Reality' (Dizzy Release / iStock)

‘It was absolutely irresistible. She was just a girl. she went on a saturday she later she had a date at the gym’: Sydney Sweeney in ‘Reality’ (Vertigo Releasing/iStock)

Before being charged with betraying her country and sympathizing with terrorists, the former US Air Force intelligence translator turned whistleblower Reality Winner scribbled anime cartoons on her notepad and slept under a Pikachu quilt. . She believed in her country’s freedoms and potential, which is why she says she leaked a classified National Security Agency report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. She despised Donald Trump, but you’d also have to take out his huge pink and black AR-15 out of his cold, dead hands. If there was a guide for Americans on how to adopt coherent and easily decipherable political stances that would allow for clear film adaptations, Winner had never read it.

“Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were ready to burn it all down,” explains playwright and filmmaker Tina Satter, who made her directorial debut with a dramatic film based on Winner’s arrest. “But it was hard for Reality to be [claimed] by any of the political factions. He had served in the army and owned a lot of automatic weapons. She had the profile of, in a very general way, a patriotic Republican. But she then she took this other action, going against the government and against Trump. So she was not a good fit. She has all these complexities.”

Until Winner received the longest prison sentence in US history for leaking government information (five years and three months), the most interesting thing about her was her name. It was a half joke that her father hoped she would become a prophecy: a true winner in life, someone might say one day. But then 2017 rolled around, and Winner’s life was defined by her apparent betrayal. Working as a translator for an NSA contractor in Georgia and fatigued by the Trump administration, the then-25-year-old printed top-secret documents exposing Moscow’s interference in the presidential election, stuffed them into her leggings to circumvent security his office, then mailed them to a news website.

Realitywhich features a non-glamorous and almost revealing performance of the Euphoria stars Sydney Sweeney as Winner, it continues from there, with the FBI identifying the analyst as the source of the leak and descending on his house. The film is a tight 83-minute suspense of interrogation ripped from the actual transcript – think a history lesson taught by Alfred Hitchcock. Satter, 49, had previously dramatized the transcript of Winner’s arrest for the stage, in a play titled Is this a room? that was performed on and off Broadway, but the cinema gives it a new dimension: rooms seem smaller, faces seem bigger, bureaucratic talk oozes more menace.

Satter says it was Winner’s utter normality, particularly in the context of the severity of her situation, that piqued her initial interest. “She was completely irresistible,” she says. “She was just a girl. she went on a Saturday she Later she had a date at the gym ”.

Satter hadn’t seen Sweeney perform before she sat down to watch her audition tape, but her friends vouched for her, urging the playwright to check her credits. “In the white lotus and EuphoriaShe’s almost deceptively good, she has amazing abilities.” They ran into each other and Sweeney convinced Satter to take a chance on her. “She was telling me that she had never done anything like this, and I saw that she was really up for the challenge. She wanted to sink her teeth into something.”

Reality told us it’s too much for her [to see the film] and too traumatic to see herself at that moment. She’s not ready to do that yet.

tina satter

Reality was filmed over the course of 16 days, largely in the bare back room of a single-story house in upstate New York, every umm and ahh forensically excised from the FBI transcript. At times it looks like a horror movie, its blonde hero sliding towards an inevitable fate. More than anything, it’s a shocking depiction of the consequences of speaking truth to power and an indictment of American intelligence under the Trump administration and beyond. However, it should be noted that Barack Obama used the Espionage Act, a means of prosecuting government employees who discussed classified information with foreign powers or, more commonly, the media, more than any other US president in history. .

Winner spent four years behind bars, followed by five more months on probation. She currently lives under court-ordered supervision in Texas, an order she will not expire until the end of 2024. After she was released in 2021, she Winner declined invitations to see Is this a room? but she has had regular communication with Satter, Sweeney, and Emily Davis, the actor who played her on stage. Winner’s mother and sister also long ago signed off on Satter’s work, hoping that both the work and the film would help in her collective fight to see her pardoned.

Whistleblower: Sydney Sweeney on 'Reality' (Dizzy Release)

Whistleblower: Sydney Sweeney on ‘Reality’ (Vertigo Releasing)

“What Reality told us recently was that it is too much for her. [to see the film] and too traumatic to see herself at that moment,” says Satter. “She’s still not ready to do that.” However, she is happy that the film brings more attention to whistleblowers and the failures of the Espionage Act. “I’m paraphrasing her a bit,” Satter notes, “but she told me that what she happened to [her] It’s happened to other people and it happens all the time, that imbalance of power, and more often to people who aren’t white and don’t have supportive families. And that it’s important for our culture to understand that these things happen every day.”

Satter has been involved in the world of Winner for six years and it has resulted in a change in her perspective and a new understanding of what it means to fight for her country. “She was kind of a jaded, cynical American artist,” she laughs. “Like, ‘ugh, America is humiliating, everything is so terrible.’ But Reality said, ‘We shouldn’t be lying to each other, and I can see that’s wrong.’ that is the simplest Reality: How Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney transformed into America’s most unlikely whistleblower  AOL of what she did. So she made me think that, wow, she really cares about our country and how it could be better. What if he wasn’t so cynical? What if I cared more that the state operates a certain way? What could happen if we all paid more attention?

‘Reality’ is in theaters from June 2

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