Benedict Cumberbatch: 'Fifth Estate' was no payday
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.

See Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in 'Fifth Estate'

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."

Trailer Park: WikiLeaks movie, 'The Fifth Estate'

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.

Filed under: Celebrities • movies

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. JellyBean

    Sigh, too bad the Marquee allows all these stupid mod bot spam posts.

    October 14, 2013 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mel Stricker

    Is it lost on everyone that the reason Assange has asked for asylum was because he is accused of rape (among other charges) in Sweden and NOT because of an leaks. Also the European Appeals Court did not over turn the warrant. I am not saying he should be returned to the US but he should stand to the charges in Sweden. When did a rape charge make anyone a hero?

    I am waiting for the replies to this post telling me how the person who is relying knows that the US forced Sweden and the European Appeals court to charge Assange. If you are going to tell me this then are you saying that all countries and courts in the world listen to whatever the US tells them to do? I think not.

    October 14, 2013 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenna

      Britain has never extradited anyone for "wanted for questioning" in Sweden. The whole "rape" business is a ruse to get Assange and send him to the US. He cannot be a traitor to the US since he is not a citizen. The two women in Sweden were having an affair with him until they found out about each other and began comparing notes...then went to the police. Spite? I think so. Entire thing is frivolous...but again being used to get at Assange.

      October 14, 2013 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • elslobbowitz


      October 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hollytannen

    A poster for "The Fifth Estate" shows Julian's face with the word TRAITOR over it. Treason is betrayal of one's country. What allegiance does an Australian citizen owe the government of the United States?
    Propaganda is the deliberate spreading of injurious ideas or information. Might not a poster with the word "traitor" over someone's face influence the public, and members of a jury, if that person were brought to trial?

    October 12, 2013 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • AnotherBird

      First the movie poster does not have traitor written over his face, but at the bottom of the poster. Second there are posters that have hero written on them also.

      October 12, 2013 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • JGN

      I agree. He obviously cannot be a traitor to a country other than his own, but the US can be very vengeful towards those who don't behave here whether or not they are citizens. In general I am for truthful dissemination of information, but I confess there have been times in the past twenty years when I sort of wished we didn't feel the need to reveal quite so much in this country. Privacy in other words should be more of a right for everyone than a privilege only to be purchased with enough money.

      October 14, 2013 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |

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