October 11th, 2013
05:14 PM ET
Benedict Cumberbatch: 'Fifth Estate' was no payday
Julian Assange has taken a strong stand against the upcoming movie about WikiLeaks, "The Fifth Estate," and the film's star admits Assange's reaction did make him rethink his involvement.
Benedict Cumberbatch was tasked with portraying Assange in the film, and as a result tried to reach out to the WikiLeaks founder. In response, Assange encouraged Cumberbatch to wash his hands of "The Fifth Estate" altogether.
"I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film," Assange said in a letter, via industry trade Variety. "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."
Directed by Bill Condon, "The Fifth Estate" was written by Josh Singer who based his script in part on a book written by Assange's former colleague, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, called "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy."
Assange told Cumberbatch that he believes Domscheit-Berg's book is "deceitful," and that as an actor, Cumberbatch will be "used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. ... I believe that you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise."
During his "Ask Me Anything" chat on Reddit Friday, Cumberbatch acknowledged that Assange's viewpoint made him "second guess" his involvement with "The Fifth Estate."
"To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern," Cumberbatch, 37, said. "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."
Instead of taking on the role because of a paycheck, Cumberbatch said the part was important to him "because of the integrity I wanted to bring to (a) provocative, difficult, but ultimately timely and truly important figure of our modern times. ... 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."
Of course, "The Fifth Estate" is not a documentary - it's a movie, one created to be enjoyed Cumberbatch pointed out.
"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 ... but a true force to be reckoned with," Cumberbatch said. "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('s) journalism and what that is capable of - including finding out the 'truth' for yourself."
"The Fifth Estate" opens October 18.
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