Emilia Jones, Kathryn Newton & Winner Team On American Politics [Sundance]


  • Winner is a biographical dramedy based on the life of Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who exposed Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • The film explores the full life of Reality, from her youth to her whistleblowing act, and balances sardonic and sincere tones.
  • The director and cast members hope the film will engage young people and prompt them to consider their role in politics and activism.

Sundance Film Festival dabbles in dramatic films and documentaries alike, but Winner straddles the line between both. Filmmaker Susanna Fogel’s latest effort is based on the life of Reality Winner, the NSA contractor from Texas who blew the whistle on Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election and was punished severely for it. Tasked with embodying Reality is Fogel’s frequent collaborator Emilia Jones, best known for Cat Person and the Oscar-winning CODA.

Winner doesn’t simply dramatize the events that led to Reality leaking the government documents proving that the U.S. government was lying to its constituents, it begins in her youth and fleshes her out as a fully-realized person. The tone bounces between sardonic and sincere, chasing Reality’s moods and parsing her emotions for the audience like a diary splashed onto the big screen. Joining Jones in this endeavor are Connie Britton and Zach Galifianakis as Reality’s parents, Kathryn Newton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) as her sister, and Danny Ramirez (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) as her boyfriend.


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Screen Rant interviewed Jones, Newton, Fogel, and more about Winner while at Sundance Film Festival. The actors explained what drew to them to their roles based on real-life people, while the director, composer, and production designer shared how they immersed themselves in Reality’s life to bring out the most three-dimensional version of her story.

Cast & Crew Talk Winner At Sundance

Susanna Fogel

Screen Rant: What was the turning point for you in telling the story the way that you are now?

Susanna Fogel: It’s interesting. It’s a movie we’ve been trying to make for many, many years — like a lot of the movies at Sundance are. And the timing has gone from bad to good to bad to good through the journey of making it.

There was a period of time during COVID, when Trump was president, when nobody wanted a political story of any kind. Everyone was like, “I need escapism. I don’t want this.” And now I think, as the world is in a really complicated spot in terms of the geopolitics of everything, people are wanting to engage in it. It’s a great time for a story about a young woman who came from nothing and became this role model in a way, but also a martyr in another way. For us to look at what happened with her and how our election systems are diseased, basically, and how everything structurally is falling apart. What do you do if you’re a disillusioned young person?

I think it’s hopefully really going to speak to young people who don’t know how to participate, and they don’t know whether they should just check out and give up on their government or try to push back on stuff — and even what the ethics are of that. I think people are ready to take some of those ideas on again because the world feels like it’s pretty dire. Hopefully, through a funny and irreverent person, we can make them do that.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Emilia Jones

Screen Rant: You are back at Sundance with Susanna Fogel. What do you like best about this partnership?

Emilia Jones: Yeah, once again. We love each other. I love Susanna. I love her as a person and as a director, and I think that’s a great combination. She can transform a scene with her instinctive tweaks, and she’s so pushy. She always pushes me, and she’s so giving as a director. She’s such an actor’s director, which I love.

We just we had a great time with Cat Person, and then Winner was so different because it was a different subject matter, but I enjoyed it just as much. I hope I can work with Susanna for the rest of my life.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Kathryn Newton

Screen Rant: What first drew you to Susanna’s interpretation of Reality’s story?

Kathryn Newton: Yeah, I think the first thing that drew me was just Susanna. I love her films, I think she’s incredible filmmaker, and she understands what it is to just be a full human. When you see this movie, you feel like you’re a part of the whole world. It’s not just Reality’s world; you see everything about her and what influences her.

And for me, I felt like it was about so much. When you make one decision, it changes your whole life. I think that’s what I was drawn to. You don’t have to be this important person who presses a button that changes the world. You can change your world every day, in very small ways. Or maybe, seriously, by the click of a button. Maybe you send a text message to the wrong person. You know what I mean? Every decision we make seems small, but it’s a very big deal in the scheme of things.

What about Brittany Winner did you feel was vital to bring to the screen?

Kathryn Newton: I think the vital thing about her is her brain. She’s an incredible scientist, she’s a chemist, and she has brilliant mind. And her life was forever changed by her sister, as everyone’s life is by the people that we love in our in our lives; who we’re influenced by and who we surround ourselves with. You know what they say: you are who you hang out with, right?

This is a really interesting point of view of that. Because even though they’re sisters, and they spend every day together, Reality changed her sister’s life forever. This movie is a small window into that. But I think that was my purpose in this film, to show how much it affects one person.

She’s here today, and we had breakfast this morning. I met her daughter for the first time. We just spent a lot of time talking on the phone, FaceTiming, and seeing her cat. She has a cool podcast, and you should check it out. It’s about chemistry, and you’ll learn a lot. She’s super cute and charming on it as well, and I just listened to that every day. She’s just a really cool, grounded real person who has a brilliant mind.

Now that the Young Avengers are slowly being introduced to the MCU, what parts of Cassie Lang’s life would you like to see explored in a movie about them?

Kathryn Newton: I’d like to see her on a team. I feel like for me when I was in high school on my golf team, championship ring right here, I was obsessed with being number one. I wanted to be the team captain, and my coach was like, “No captain, that’s not how we do it here. We’re all equal, and be on a team and win and lose together.” So I feel like that’s something that everyone can relate to, is having to be together on the team on the rise and be together in trenches. So, I’d like to see some more of that.

I like being on team; I think that’s why I like making movies, and I think that’s what’s special about Sundance. It feels like you’re a part of a team versus just like, “Here’s my movie. Watch it.” You’re more interested in the people who made it and the process of making it. Making independent film is hard — way different than a Marvel movie. Marvel’s the most fun I’ve ever had, but Winner was fun too. It reminded me why I wanted to be an actor.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Heather McIntosh

Screen Rant: What pulled you into Susanna’s approach to Winner?

Heather McIntosh: I love Susanna’s attenuation to the story and her as a person, and [her choice] to look at the full breadth of Winner as a person. She’s not just one thing; you can really see the nuance. I feel like it’s almost its own statement of, “This is a real life human being. This is a fully fleshed out, complicated person that’s not one thing, or just one other thing.” I feel like so many times in women’s stories, you kind of get pegged. “Well, now we know what you are!” To be able to find this really dynamic person and where she came from and her sense of justice was just really powerful.

I love working with Susanna; she’s the best. I scored Cat Person last year with her, so any chance to get back in the room was lovely.

Did that give you extra shorthand in the collaboration process?

Heather: McIntosh: I feel like when we were working on Cat Person, the film structure was so based on less. We didn’t want to push the audience to be like, “Okay, this is how I feel now. I get this story. I know what it’s going to be.” We had to really step back a little and just let the story exist and let the audience figure out the moves, then slowly sneak in and build.

There’s a little bit of that here, but I feel like I got to let it rip a little bit more in this one. I got to do some really funky stuff at the beginning and some rock’n’roll guitar moments. It’s just extra fun.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Sarah K. White

Screen Rant: What first sparked your interest when it came to Susanna’s approach to Reality’s story?

Sarah K. White: I was really excited about the way that she was looking at the comprehensive experience of Reality’s life. Using that as a template to evoke her energy and her spirit, and to tell her story of how she became the person who would be where she was and make the decisions she made.

There are plenty of Wikipedia-like projects around her story, because it is so compelling, and everybody wants to know every detail. But taking a more evocative approach, I think, was really exciting. And it was exciting to see that come together in the end.

What are the first steps that you take when it comes to the production design of something set in the not-too-distant past, where you have the subjects at hand?

Sarah K. White: It’s really working with the special pieces and details that tell the story; making sure that you can communicate the spirit of the people with the audience. You’re connecting those two pieces, so there were certain elements of Reality’s bedroom that I was able to talk to her about. She would tape up paper to the wall and paint on it, and her wall was a canvas, so we were able to do some of that detailing. Making her home feel authentically Texas was something that was a little tricky shooting in Winnipeg, but we were able to really pull that together, and it made it really special.

You’ve also worked on some amazing shows like Swarm and The Flight Attendant. What is your secret to finding the soul of a project?

Sarah K. White: I think that, for me, every story is really different and exciting and unique. That’s why I like production design. I trained as an interior designer, and I found in that practice, it was really hard to continue to expand your visual style. But in this industry, not only do I get to tell the stories of a variety of different people, but there are differences at an economic level and people who have different backstories. That was what always interested me about design; how to support the human in a human environment.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

About Winner

reality winner climbing steps & looking up in Winner

Reality Winner is a brilliant young misfit from a Texas border town who finds her morals challenged while serving as an NSA contractor. A sarcastic, gun-loving, vegan, yogi, and CrossFit fanatic, Reality is an unconventional whistleblower who ends up being prosecuted for exposing Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election.

Winner premiered on January 20 at Sundance Film Festival and is currently seeking distribution.

Winner 2024 Temp Movie Poster Still


Winner is a biographical comedy by director Susanna Fogel that premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The film retells the story of Reality Winner, an NSA contractor who leaked information about Russian interference during the presidential election of 2016.

Release Date
January 20, 2024

Susanna Fogel

Emilia Jones , Kathryn Newton , Connie Britton , Zach Galifianakis

103 Minutes

Kerry Howley

Big Beach , ShivHans Pictures , 1Community

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