Benedict Cumberbatch Responds to Letter From Julian Assange Regarding ‘The Fifth Estate’

Movie Poster for the film 'The Fifth Estate' Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

Movie Poster for the film ‘The Fifth Estate’
Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made no bones about voicing his displeasure at director Bill Condon’s film The Fifth Estate.

It all started back on September 19th when WikiLeaks sent out a tweet giving their take on the film.

Contained in that tweet was a link to an official memo released by WikiLeaks regarding the film and its alleged inaccuracies. Included in the memo was a copy of the film’s entire script. It further went on to point out all of the alleged inaccuracies in the film.

If you’d like to see the entire memo, you can do so here.

There are many words that Assange has used to describe the film, but the words most commonly heard are “irresponsible, counterproductive, and harmful.”

WikiLeaks stoked the flame even more on Wednesday last week when they published a copy of a letter that Assange wrote to the film’s main actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrays Julian Assange, just prior to start of filming of the movie.

The full letter can be found here.

In the letter, Assange goes on to say that he feels that he does not feel that Cumberbatch would intend to cause harm to people, and that he is fond of his previous work.

“I believe that you are a decent person, who would not naturally wish to harm good people in dire situations.” Assange said in his letter.

However, this is where things take on a different light.

“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.” He continues.

The film was partially based on a book by former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg entitled Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website.

On Saturday, Benedict Cumberbatch responded to the letter on his AMA (Ask Me Anything) post on the website Reddit. He was responding to a user who asked him if the letter that Assange sent to him affected the way that he portrayed him in the film, or made him second guess his participation in the film.

Here is the response that Cumberbatch posted to Reddit.

“Yes, of course it did. 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.”

As with every work of cinematic art, there are bound to be some discrepancies between the truth and what you see on the screen. The level of those discrepancies varies from film to film based on the people involved.

I think Cumberbatch hit the nail on the head when he said “There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus.”

We shall see how this plays out when The Fifth Estate hits theaters.

The Fifth Estate is scheduled to be released on October 18, 2013.

Topics: Benedict Cumberbatch, Julian Assange, Movies, The Fifth Estate

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