Right now, mention of the name Benedict Cumberbatch brings to mind characters like Sherlock Holmes and his mystery-until-now Star Trek Into Darkness villain. But later this year the buzz around the British actor will likely shift to another role: Julian Assange, co-creator of the controversial website WikiLeaks.
Assange’s story has already made a trip to the silver screen with We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, a documentary directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room). The film’s producer Marc Shmuger (former co-chairman of Universal Pictures) has revealed some thoughts on the upcoming project starring Cumberbatch as Assange, The Fifth Estate.
“I read the script, so I do know a bit about it,” Shmuger told the audience at a Seattle International Film Festival screening of We Steal Secrets on Saturday that was also attended by Gibney. “It’s a very good cast, and it tells the story of Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Julian Assange coming together and building this organization and the excitement in the early days of these idealists who were trying to change the world. It ultimately kind of [follows] the model of putting the band together and watching them fall apart. It’s a valid approach to tell the story.”
According to Shmuger, Assange himself has denounced The Fifth Estate even more vociferously than We Steal Secrets. Gibney told the SIFF crowd that Assange “denounces [We Steal Secrets], but he hasn’t seen it.”
Shmuger noted, though, that the Australian WikiLeaks co-founder did read The Fifth Estate’s script, “and to his credit, he had a leaked copy of the script.” (Of course he did.)
It’s no surprise that Assange has qualms with The Fifth Estate, considering it’s largely based on Domscheit-Berg’s book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website. Domscheit-Berg partnered with Assange in WikiLeak’s early days in 2007, but departed the organization in 2010. He supplied an interview for Gibney’s film, where he says, “WikiLeaks has become what it detests,” referring to what he saw as a lack of transparency in the organization at the time Assange was facing allegations of sex crimes. Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Brühl plays Domscheit-Berg in The Fifth Estate.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks starts a limited U.S. release next week, on May 24. The Fifth Estate, directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), is set to open in theaters on Nov. 15.
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