Was Julian Assange Right About Benedict Cumberbatch's 'The Fifth Estate'?
When he said it wouldn't be a good film, he was sort of right
Julian Assange has become pretty annoying. There was a period when the WikiLeaks founder was an intriguing guy. People started calling him a rock and roll star. Now, he's holed away in the Ecuadorean embassy, demanding $1 million for interviews, getting visits from Lady Gaga and being mean to Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Official Fifth Estate Poster
It was revealed in a leaked email this week that Julian Assange refused to meet with the British actor while he was preparing to play the whistleblower in The Fifth Estate, describing Bill Condon movie as "toxic" and "distorted," and forebodingly urging Cumberbatch to "reconsider your involvement in this enterprise."
Released via WikiLeaks though recreated in full on Variety's website, the email makes it clear that Assange considered the movie - which has received mainly negative reviews - was a "bad idea."
"By meeting with you I would validate this wretched film," he wrote. "I cannot permit this film any claim to authenticity or truthfulness. In its current form it has neither, and doing so would only further aid the campaign against me."
Despite receiving a standing ovation at its world premiere during the Toronto Film Festival last month, The Fifth Estate - released this Friday (October 11) in the UK - is not the critical success that many had anticipated.
Laura Linney [L] and Stanley Tucci [R] in 'The Fifth Estate'
"The film's fogeyish approach to technology probably wouldn't matter so much if it had grasped the bare bones of drama," said the New Statesman.
"Disappointingly dull account of a tale desperately in need of a sharper screenplay and some directorial vim. Might as well wait for the Blu-ray, Jules," wrote Empire magazine.
The Independent praised Cumberbatch's performance though wrote, "Cumberbatch as the awkward Australian Assange performs a masterclass in mimicry. It's a shame, then, that the performance is let down by some clumsy storytelling that trots out all the usual clichés."
Daniel Bruhl [L] and Benedict Cumberbatch [R] In 'The Fifth Estate'
Total Film offered up a glowing review, writing, "With a riveting portrayal by Cumberbatch at its heart, The Fifth Estate tells its story grippingly - but finally leaves us none the wiser."
"Feverishly edgy and exciting," said Entertainment Weekly.
For all his arrogance, Assange essentially predicted the reaction to the movie, telling Cumberbatch in his letter, "I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. It is based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendetta against me and my organisation."
He continued: "Feature films are the most powerful and insidious shapers of public perception, because they fly under the radar of conscious exclusion. This film is going to bury good people doing good work, at exactly the time that the state is coming down on their heads.
Benedict Cumberbatch [L] as Julian Assange in 'The Fifth Estate'
"It is going to smother the truthful version of events, at a time when the truth is most in demand.
"As justification it will claim to be fiction, but it is not fiction. It is distorted truth about living people doing battle with titanic opponents. It is a work of political opportunism, revenge and, above all, cowardice."
Assange is still wanted in Sweden for questioning on accusations of sex crimes. In June 2012, his appeal was turned down, leaving him to set up shop at the Ecuadorean embassy.
He denies the allegations and claims they are politically motivated, though Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May refuses to grant him a safe passage out of the country, saying he will be arrested should he step foot outside the embassy.