“Euphoria” and “The White Lotus” star Sydney Sweeney communicated with the real-life Reality Winner to portray her in Tina Satter’s “Reality,” which world premieres at the Berlin Film Festival.
The film, which contains verbatim dialogue from the unedited transcript of an FBI audio recording, follows a tense 90 minutes in the life of whistleblower Winner as the FBI interrogate at her home in 2017. Winner, a former U.S. Air Force member and National Security Agency translator, was sentenced to five years in prison after she leaked an intelligence report to the media.
“I had the honor and privilege to be able actually communicate with Reality. I was able to Zoom with her — Tina connected us — and I would text her throughout the process,” Sweeney told a press conference at Berlin on Saturday.
“And before even I got it, when I was auditioning, I went and found as many interviews that I could of Reality so that I could watch how she speaks, how she moves, her different mannerisms. And I took that into the audition,” Sweeney said. “So then when Tina, connected us I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is a dream for an actor, because I’m actually getting to speak to the real person, I’m getting to dive more into their mind and and what she’s gone through in her life.’”
Also present at the conference were Satter and the Sweeney’s costars Jo-sh Hamilton and Marchant Davis, who play FBI agents. Hamilton and Davis spoke about the difficulty of learning verbatim dialogue but also said that not following a written fiction script was a freeing experience.
“I want the story to help tell Reality Winner’s story,” Satter said. Satter, a celebrated playwright who adapted the FBI transcript into the verbatim theater performance “Is This a Room” before turning it into a film.
“One of the most key things to this that would be interesting for more people in the United States and around the world to understand is the Espionage Act under which she [Winner] was charged, which is an act from 1917 about containing a flow of information — before the digital age,” Satter said. “And so it’s a really old law that there’s no way to defend against. That’s actually a really relevant and interesting thing for people in the United States to understand that’s still being deployed and what that means for all of us living in a democracy.”
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