The Julian Assange Movie With Benedict Cumberbatch Looks Very Pro-WikiLeaks

Slate's Culture Blog
July 17 2013 9:03 AM

The Julian Assange Movie With Benedict Cumberbatch Looks Very Pro-WikiLeaks

assange_cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estatetrailer

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Julian Assange has called The Fifth Estate, the upcoming movie in which he is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, “a serious propaganda attack on WikiLeaks.” (This was after reading an early version of the script.)

You certainly don’t get that impression from the first trailer, which—though it notes that some people deem Assange a “traitor”—has a decidedly pro-WikiLeaks vibe, presenting its story as one of the people against the powerful. (The title references citizen journalism, the “fourth estate” being a nickname for the professional press.) Then again, Assange is a guy who decided his own (ghostwritten) autobiography was not flattering enough, so perhaps no film would have been hagiographic enough for his taste.

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That’s what director Bill Condon implies in an interview with Vulture. Condon says the movie “celebrates the idea of WikiLeaks and the tremendous potential of it,” while also showing “just how complicated these issues are.” The film is partly based on a book by former Assange associate Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who had a falling out with the WikiLeaks founder, and who is played in the movie by Daniel Brühl.

All eyes will be on Benedict Cumberbatch, though, fresh off Star Trek Into Darkness and looking just as well cast as we thought he would. According to Condon, Cumberbatch emailed with Assange in preparation for the role. Looks like he watched an awful lot of video of him, too.

The Fifth Estate comes out in October.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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