Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl probably shouldn’t store any compromising materials on their phones or computers.
The stars of the WikiLeaks cyber-drama The Fifth Estate admit they would be easy targets for vengeful hackers.
Or even friendly ones.
Brühl, who plays conscience-stricken WikiLeaks activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg, met the real-life man during filming and said this computer savvy underwhelmed the tech mastermind.
“When I first met Daniel, he told me it would take him probably five minutes to get into my computer and get all the information. So I changed my passwords – and now I don’t remember them,” Brühl said at the movie’s Toronto International Film Festival press conference.
Cumberbatch, who stars as divisive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, also admitted to being “computer illiterate.”
“I interface with easy, user-friendly software on sleek-looking hardware, not really understanding what the workings of computers are,” Cumberbatch said. “It was fascinating to explore that aspect of [Assange], and Julian’s pioneering work in computer programming and hacking. It was an education, but not one I took too naturally.”
Whle Domscheit-Berg collaborated with the filmmakers, and his own book was adapted as source material for the script, Assange has been hostile. He is currently holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition on sexual misconduct charges (which he says are politically motivated). So there wasn’t much chance for Cumberbatch to encounter him, even if Assange had been willing.
“I didn’t have any direct access to Julian, no,” Cumberatch said Friday. “We didn’t meet in person. He stated very clearly at the beginning of the project he didn’t want to condone the film because of the perspective it was showing of him and the story. So, that was a sort of closed door.”
While the movie, which has divided critics at the festival, depicts Assange as a sometimes reckless and deceptive figure, it also expresses admiration for his efforts to force transparency on powerful institutions like banks, governments, and the military. Assange has said the movie aims to attack him, ”and make me appear to be a sociopathic megalomaniac.”
Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) denies The Fifth Estate had any negative agenda, and said he tried to present a balanced portrait. “He’s an absolute pioneer. He’s made a huge difference. He opened the door that Edward Snowden just walked through,” Condon told reporters. “For all of those reasons, I think he’s an extremely admirable figure. It becomes a question, when there is so much information that he’s responsible for, if he is the kind of person we want to leave that responsibility to.”
Cumberbatch also expressed admiration for Assange’s early work with WikiLeaks, citing the organization’s successes in exposing banking fraud, election malfeasance in Nigeria, and the suppression of Tibetan activists by China. “I think, personally, that we show a man and his idea, and the integrity, and self-sacrifice that he had to pursue to see that through,” the actor said. “I think we show the achievements of WikiLeaks.”
How will Assange feel if – or when – he sees the finished film?
“I really don’t want to venture what his reaction’s going to be,” Cumberbatch said. “I’m not a betting man, but I imagine he won’t particularly want to support the film. But we’ll have to wait and see. I’m not a mind reader, even though I tried to get into his mind to a certain degree for a certain period of his life.”
Right now, there’s little chance Assange will leave the sanctuary of the embassy to catch a matinee when The Fifth Estate opens in October. And if he gets a screener, it will probably give him at least one big laugh …
When the anti-piracy screener shows at the beginning.