Benedict Cumberbatch Responds To Julian Assange Critiques Of 'The Fifth Estate'
Benedict Cumberbatch responded to Julian Assange’s recent open letter and WikiLeaks letter condemning the new WikiLeaks film The Fifth Estate.
On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a memo outlining their objections to the story told in The Fifth Estate, which is a fictionalized account of Julian Assange, played by Cumberbatch, and the decision to publish classified documents.
In the memo, WikiLeaks and Assange insist that the film bares little resemblance to what happened when WikiLeaks emerged into social consciousness.
“The film is fictional. Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them. It has real names, real places, and looks like it is covering real events, but it is still a dramatic and cinematic work, and it invents or shapes the facts to fit its narrative goals,” the memo reads.
The memo makes many references to Cumberbatch, pointing out how he has classified the character as a type of egomaniac and villain, and references Assange’s letter to Cumberbatch, written before production on the film began. According to Assange, Cumberbatch reached out to him and asked if he would be open to meeting with him to discuss the role. In anticipation of the film’s theater release, WikiLeaks has published Assange’s answer.
“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,” Assange wrote.
On Friday, Cumberbatch responded publicly to Assange’s letter during a fan Q&A on Reddit (Reddit AMA – Ask Me Anything). Cumberbatch admitted that Assange’s arguments and pleas to reconsider his role in the film did give him pause, and he did not enter into the film as a puppet for the scriptwriters, as Assange alludes to.
“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 believes in civil liberty, a healthy democracy, and the human rights of both communities and individuals to question those in authority,” Cumberbatch said.
Cumberbatch goes on to state that he decided to take on the role of Assange because he believes in the film’s power to begin a conversation, not to vilify him.
“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,” Comberbatch concludes.
Cumberbatch also discussed his popular role in BBC’s Sherlock and his work in this summer’s Star Trek Into Darkness.
The Fifth Estate opens Oct. 18.
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong
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