Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Buena Vista Pictures movie "The Fifth Estaste," has responded to Assange's very public criticism of the movie. In a Reddit chat with the public on Oct. 11, 2013, Cumberbatch was asked to comment on the controversy, and he replied with a lengthy statement defending "The Fifth Estate" and why he did the movie.
"The Fifth Estate" (directed by Bill Condon) opens in U.S. and Canadian theaters on Oct. 18, 2013. The film was partially based on former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s 2011 book "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website." Daniel Brühl plays Domscheit-Berg in "The Fifth Estate." The movie premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and has been getting mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, who have been calling it "dull" and "predictable."
WikiLeaks has denounced the "Fifth Estate" as “irresponsible, counterproductive and harmful.” The secrets-leaking website, which posted the "Fifth Estate" script to protest the movie, also posted this statement about the movie: “As WikiLeaks was never consulted about the upcoming Hollywood film on us, we’ve given our advice for free: It’s bad.”
Meanwhile, this week Assange posted an open letter on WikiLeaks that continued to blast the film as "based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendetta against me and my organisation.” Assange noted that he is "fond” of Cumberbatch’s previous work, and he believes that Cumberbatch is "good" and "decent" person who was a "hired gun" for the movie.
In the statement on Reddit about Assange's criticism of "The Fifth Estate," Cumberbatch responded:
"To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern, however, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie. He accuses me of being a “hired gun” as if I am an easily bought cypher for right wing propaganda. Not only do I NOT operate in a moral vacuum but this was not a pay day for me at all. I’ve worked far less hard for more financial reward. This project was important to me because of the integrity I wanted to bring to provocative difficult but ultimately timely and a truly important figure of our modern times. The idea of making a movie about someone who so far removed from my likeness or situation who brought about an ideal through personal sacrifice that has changed the way we view both social media, the power of the individual to have a voice in that space, and be able to question both the hypocrisies and wrongdoings of organizations and bodies of powerful people that rule our lives… This resonated deeply with my beliefs in civil liberty, a healthy democracy, and the human rights of both communities and individuals to question those in authority. I believe that the film, quite clearly, illuminates the great successes of wikileaks and its extraordinary founder Julians Assange. As well as, examining the personalities involved and what become a dysfunctional relationship within that organization. While the legacy of his actions and the organizations continue to evolve and only history will be the true judge of where this is leading us. The Fifth Estate is a powerful, if dramatized, entry point for a discussion about this extraordinary lurch forward in our society. I wanted to create a three dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods. But a true force to be reckoned with, achieved the realization of the great ideal. I’m proud to be involved in tackling such a contentious character and script. There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus. It should be enjoyable and ultimately empowering to realize that Julian has spearheaded a movement that is the foundations stone of The Fifth Estate, people journalism and what that is capable of including finding out the “truth” for yourself."