Personal privacy and celebrity aren’t in particular well-acquainted ideas. But famous actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and John Cusack show up in a new PSA video calling for an end to NSA monitoring practices. The video starts with Daniel Ellsberg, the famous former U.S. military analyzer who launched the Pentagon Papers; he’s instantly, and inexplicably, followed by ex – talk-show host Phil Donahue.
Directed by Brian Knappenberger, whose earlier work consists of the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, the video was created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and launched by the Stop Watching Us parti upfront of a rally in Washington on Saturday to protest personal 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 a number of activists and whistleblowers.
But the most impressive—and remarkably funny—part of the video is the flat, affectless voice the moonlighting celebrities use. Gyllenhaal and Cusack—and lesser-knowns like Molly Crabapple—are obviously reading through their lines for the first time, and do not try to hide it. It’s not surprising that the celebs, 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 cooperation with the NSA. But you might think they’d be able to bring some thing else to the table: acting.