Privacy and celebrity aren’t particularly well-acquainted concepts. But actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and John Cusack appear in a new PSA video calling for an end to NSA surveillance practices.
The video opens with Daniel Ellsberg, the legendary former U.S. military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers; he’s immediately, and inexplicably, followed by former talk-show host Phil Donahue.
Directed by Brian Knappenberger, whose previous work includes the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, the video was produced by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and released by the Stop Watching Us coalition in advance of a rally in Washington on Saturday to protest privacy abuse and call for Congress to reveal the extent of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. The three-and-a-half minute video features Oliver Stone, Democratic Representative John Conyers Jr., Lawrence Lessig, and several activists and whistleblowers.
But the most striking—and surprisingly funny—part of the video is the flat, affectless voice the moonlighting celebrities use. Gyllenhaal and Cusack—and lesser-knowns like Molly Crabapple—are clearly reading their lines for the first time, and don’t try to hide it. It’s not shocking that the celebrities, there to add some flash and draw publicity, can’t muster up the same passion as Mark Klein, the AT&T employee who blew the whistle on the company’s collaboration with the NSA. But you would think they’d be able to bring something else to the table: acting.