Film & Video
1 min

Controversy abounds over Julian Assange biopic

The Fifth Estate opens in the middle of a media maelstrom connected to the WikiLeaks founder

The Fifth Estate is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange that arrives in theatres after premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The Fifth Estate is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange that arrives in theatres Oct 18 after premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Though it stars Benedict Cumberbatch — the sexiest man alive, according to some in the UK press — as Assange, the WikiLeaks founder is not impressed and wants the movie to die a quiet death. Assange has gone out of his way to badmouth the film and even published a letter on wikileaks.org that he sent to Cumberbatch before filming began. In the letter, Assange urges the young actor to jump ship, calling the source material “toxic” and noting Cumberbatch is merely a “hired gun.”

Bill Condon, the film’s director, whose credits include Dreamgirls and the final two Twilight films, knew he was in for a rough ride when he signed on to the film. When he spoke to Xtra at The Fifth Estate’s opening, he said, “Why do I get myself into this thing, that seems to involve a bit of heavy drama?”

As if the wrath of Diana Ross — the inspiration for Dreamgirls — wasn’t enough, Condon now has Assange against him.

Cumberbatch, who has become this year’s breakout star, thanks to roles in Star Trek into Darkness, The Hobbit, 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage County, has the daunting role of playing Assange. “There’s a lot to get wrong,” Cumberbatch says, “so I hope I have done a just job.”

The Fifth Estate is a controversial film about a controversial subject. It will either thrive by its notoriety or sink because of it. It is now up to the audience to decide.

Read more coverage of The Fifth Estate.

The Fifth Estate opens Friday, Oct 18.