EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney has found his next hot-button film subject. Universal Pictures has just acquired a documentary that Gibney will direct about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The film will be the first project involving Marc Shmuger since he left the chairman post at Universal. Shmuger and Gibney are producing.
Whether it’s Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, or the Jack Abramoff documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Gibney usually tells his stories with input from his subjects. Will Assange cooperate? I’m told it’s inconclusive. Universal confirmed the deal but wouldn’t elaborate. The WikiLeaks docu follows a deal announced yesterday by feature producers who optioned an upcoming book about Assange. There are plenty of those in the works, including a memoir Assange is writing to defray his massive legal fees. The Gibney/Shmuger documentary is the first film to involve a major studio. The studio component came through Shmuger, who is expected to reemerge as a producer at Universal.
Since launching his whistle-blower website in 2006, Assange has revealed some of the most serious secret government documents since The New York Times published The Pentagon Papers. They range from footage of an Apache helicopter’s firing fatally on journalists and civilians in Baghdad to last November’s deluge of diplomatic cables that left the U.S. government red-faced and outraged. Assange is currently the subject of a sex assault rap, allegations he claims are false and politically motivated.