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Julian Assange calls The Fifth Estate "wretched" and "toxic" in this letter to Benedict Cumberbatch

10.11.2013by:

Benedict Cumberbatch reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before working on THE FIFTH ESTATE, and although the actor did not end up meeting him, he did get a response from Assange. WikiLeaks has published a letter Assange wrote to Cumberbatch in January, and in it he blasts Dreamworks for the film while praising Benedict Cumberbatch, but Julian Assange also tells Cumberbatch he should reconsider appearing in THE FIFTH ESTATE.

Julian Assange starts by thanking Benedict Cumberbatch for contacting him in the first place.

Thank you for trying to contact me. It is the first approach by anyone from the Dreamworks production to me or WikiLeaks. My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of. I think I would enjoy meeting you. The bond that develops between an actor and a living subject is significant. If the film reaches distribution we will forever be correlated in the public imagination. Our paths will be forever entwined. Each of us will be granted standing to comment on the other for many years to come and others will compare our characters and trajectories.

Assange goes on to say he thinks THE FIFTH ESTATE will be too negative about him and his work, and the book that the film is based on is full of lies.

But I must speak directly. I hope that you will take such directness as a mark of respect, and not as an unkindness. I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about. I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about. It is based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendetta against me and my organisation.

Julian Assange doesn't have too many nice things to say about Dreamworks, and says they purposely decided to use a "toxic" book and script for the film.

There are dozens of positive books about WikiLeaks, but Dreamworks decided to base its script only on the most toxic. So toxic is the first book selected by Dreamworks that it is distributed to US military bases as a mechanism to discourage military personnel from communicating with us. Its author is publicly known to be involved in the Dreamworks production in an ongoing capacity. Dreamworks' second rights purchase is the next most toxic, biased book. Published and written by people we have had a bitter contractual dispute with for years, whose hostility is well known. Neither of these two books were the first to be published and there are many independent authors who have written positive or neutral books, all of whom Dreamworks ignored. Dreamworks has based its entire production on the two most discredited books on the market.

Julian Assange doesn't seem to have a problem with Benedict Cumberbatch though, saying "I believe that you are a decent person, who would not naturally wish to harm good people in dire situations," but also says Cumberbatch is nothing more than a hired gun for those that want to vilify the controversial activist.

You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth. Not because you want to, of course you don't, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched. Your skills play into the hands of people who are out to remove me and WikiLeaks from the world.

Julian Assange then tells Benedict Cumberbatch he should think about removing himself from the project.

I believe that you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise. Consider the consequences of your cooperation with a project that vilifies and marginalises a living political refugee to the benefit of an entrenched, corrupt and dangerous state. Consider the consequences to people who may fall into harm because of this film.

Julian Assange ends the letter by officially turning down Cumberbatch's offer to meet with him for THE FIFTH ESTATE, and says he feels it would not help his cause

I believe you are well intentioned but surely you can see why it is a bad idea for me to meet with you. By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give. I cannot permit this film any claim to authenticity or truthfulness. In its current form it has neither, and doing so would only further aid the campaign against me.It is contrary to my interests, and to those of my organisation, and I thank you for your offer, and what I am sure is your genuine intent, but I must, with inexpressible regret, turn it down.

You can read the full letter from Julian Assange to Benedict Cumberbatch here. Strong words from Assange, but is anyone really surprised? As fellow news editor Paul Shirey said in an e-mail on the news, it's not like Assange was ever going to endorse THE FIFTH ESTATE. Julian Assange makes a couple of interesting points, but he has to realize it's not like he's the most popular figure in the world. He has plenty of supporters and detractors, and I feel like the film was always going to have a hard time finding a balance that would please both sides.

THE FIFTH ESTATE will be in theaters on October 18th, 2013.

Extra Tidbit: I wonder what Julian Assange thinks about the "Bass to Mouth" episode of South Park...
Source: WikiLeaks

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+0
3:22PM on 10/14/2013
Little surprise that the supreme egotist Assange--who is only too happy to capitalize and take credit for the risks and effort taken on by others-- would be deathly afraid of his cinematic portrayal.

He would be only too happy, I'm sure, with some hagiography portraying him as martyr-saint of the information age. And the hypocrisy would be totally lost on him.
Little surprise that the supreme egotist Assange--who is only too happy to capitalize and take credit for the risks and effort taken on by others-- would be deathly afraid of his cinematic portrayal.

He would be only too happy, I'm sure, with some hagiography portraying him as martyr-saint of the information age. And the hypocrisy would be totally lost on him.
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2:43PM on 10/11/2013
I agree with Assange on this. The film is based off a very biased book. Even if Cumberbatch met with him, he still would have to portray the character as shown in the book and not a reflection of the real person.

The filmmakers should have done their own research, and wrote an original script based on the events & people. Only then would meeting with Assange have made any sense. Basing the script off of a singular biased book does the actual story injustice.
I agree with Assange on this. The film is based off a very biased book. Even if Cumberbatch met with him, he still would have to portray the character as shown in the book and not a reflection of the real person.

The filmmakers should have done their own research, and wrote an original script based on the events & people. Only then would meeting with Assange have made any sense. Basing the script off of a singular biased book does the actual story injustice.
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2:29PM on 10/11/2013
I'm on Assange's side with this. He doesn't attack Cumberbatch and politely refused a meeting based on completely understandable principles. He points out in his letter that there have been plenty of books written that either sit on the fence about what WikiLeaks is, or cast WikiLeaks in a positive light. The fact that DreamWorks decided to use the two books that take a negative stance and try to cast him as a villain gives Assange every right to call bullshit on the movie. Whether we as
I'm on Assange's side with this. He doesn't attack Cumberbatch and politely refused a meeting based on completely understandable principles. He points out in his letter that there have been plenty of books written that either sit on the fence about what WikiLeaks is, or cast WikiLeaks in a positive light. The fact that DreamWorks decided to use the two books that take a negative stance and try to cast him as a villain gives Assange every right to call bullshit on the movie. Whether we as the public choose to look at what he's doing as either a good or bad thing, he is entitled to defend himself and what he stands for.
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11:42AM on 10/11/2013
Assange must know that people aren't going to the see the film because of him but because of the actor
Assange must know that people aren't going to the see the film because of him but because of the actor
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2:09PM on 10/11/2013
You are completely wrong about that. This is a huge story of this millenium and perfectly encaptures so much about the [link] age we are currently in. Not to undermind Cumberbatch, but people would see this film regardless of who was in the role.
You are completely wrong about that. This is a huge story of this millenium and perfectly encaptures so much about the [link] age we are currently in. Not to undermind Cumberbatch, but people would see this film regardless of who was in the role.
+3
10:41AM on 10/11/2013
Sounds like it would've been nice for Benedict to try and meet him to possibly iron out some odds and ends. Oh, wait...
Sounds like it would've been nice for Benedict to try and meet him to possibly iron out some odds and ends. Oh, wait...
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10:30AM on 10/11/2013
The movie isn't getting very good reviews anyway. But when was this letter published? Did he not know that this has been set for distribution for some time
The movie isn't getting very good reviews anyway. But when was this letter published? Did he not know that this has been set for distribution for some time
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8:06AM on 10/12/2013
Cumberbatch tried to contact him in April. So yeah, it's probably a little old.
Cumberbatch tried to contact him in April. So yeah, it's probably a little old.
-2
10:20AM on 10/11/2013

Hmmm

So I'm guessing Assange downloaded the movie off the internet?
So I'm guessing Assange downloaded the movie off the internet?
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10:43AM on 10/11/2013
He leaked the screenplay on Wikileaks, with his annotations. I think one of the things he took issue with was the film's portrayal of Assange dyeing his hair.
He leaked the screenplay on Wikileaks, with his annotations. I think one of the things he took issue with was the film's portrayal of Assange dyeing his hair.
9:42AM on 10/11/2013
All Assange is doing is giving even more publicity to the film. He cannot be expected to be portrayed as a saint. That said, it is interesting that he has penned this open letter; I don't think many real-life subjects would attack a biopic they disapprove of so openly and with such ferocity. The common thing to do would be to brush it aside.
All Assange is doing is giving even more publicity to the film. He cannot be expected to be portrayed as a saint. That said, it is interesting that he has penned this open letter; I don't think many real-life subjects would attack a biopic they disapprove of so openly and with such ferocity. The common thing to do would be to brush it aside.
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10:34AM on 10/11/2013
Ya, I think he maybe thinks this is a huge Hollywood film or something. Why would he give attention to this and not the books the film is based on? Maybe he has I duno
Ya, I think he maybe thinks this is a huge Hollywood film or something. Why would he give attention to this and not the books the film is based on? Maybe he has I duno
8:48AM on 10/11/2013
Assange's letter, while extremely well-worded, fails to take into account that ANY film based on his life and the founding of WikiLeaks will have to contain – at least to some extent – some element of controversy, or drama, in order to work as a narrative piece. The alternative is a documentary, and that is not what DreamWorks was after. He is entitled to his concern (and perhaps the books that the film is based on ARE full of mistruths) but I have no doubt without said mistruths, the film
Assange's letter, while extremely well-worded, fails to take into account that ANY film based on his life and the founding of WikiLeaks will have to contain – at least to some extent – some element of controversy, or drama, in order to work as a narrative piece. The alternative is a documentary, and that is not what DreamWorks was after. He is entitled to his concern (and perhaps the books that the film is based on ARE full of mistruths) but I have no doubt without said mistruths, the film would be less than half as interesting. Audiences just need to go in with their brains turned on and realise that not everything they are watching is necessarily exactly how things played out.
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