ABC News has landed a live interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been helping NSA leaker Edward Snowden in his flight from U.S. authorities. It’s airing Sunday on This Week. Assange will appear via satellite from the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he has been living since Sweden asked the UK to extradite him over a rape allegation. Assange, who has blasted mainstream media, has nonetheless turned up on mainstream media programs, including CNN’s AC360 this month.
Addressing an Oxford Union debate via videolink on Wednesday night, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called DreamWorks’ upcoming Bill Condon-directed The Fifth Estate a “massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff.” Throughout the address, Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since it offered him asylum in August, had what was purported to be a copy of the film’s script — though The Guardian says he never showed it to the camera. He told students the film was “fanning the flames” of war since, he claims, it starts inside a military complex in Iran with the suggestion a nuclear bomb is being built. He then asked, “How does this have anything to do with us? It is a lie upon lie.” The Fifth Estate started shooting this week with Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and Daniel Bruhl as his confidant Daniel Domscheit-Berg and traces the early days of WikiLeaks through to the release of a series of controversial and history-changing information disclosures. The script is written by Josh Singer and based on Domscheit-Berg’s book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy by Guardian writers David Leigh and Luke Harding.
The conversations on DreamWorks‘ Julian Assange film that Twilight Saga’s Bill Condon will likely direct is now with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the WikiLeaks founder, and Robocop‘s Joel Kinnaman playing his former right hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The studio would not confirm this, but it seemed intriguing and dishy enough to discuss. DreamWorks acquired the books WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy, by David Leigh and Luke Harding, and Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, written by Domscheit-Berg. Josh Singer wrote the script.
An Australian TV movie that chronicles the WikiLeaks founder’s years as a teenage computer hacker in Melbourne in the late 1980s screens Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival. Newcomer Alex Williams plays Assange, with Rachel Griffiths as his activist mother Christine, Laura Wheelwright as his girlfriend, and Anthony LaPaglia as the cop who investigates the case. Written and directed by Robert Connolly and based on the 1997 novel Underground: Tales Of Hacking, Madness And Obsession On The Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfus, the telepic was commissioned by Australia’s Network Ten, which will air it next month. NBCUniversal International is distributing worldwide. Assange is currently holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid being arrested and extradited to Sweden for questioning about alleged sexual misconduct or to the U.S. over Wikileaks’ release of confidential diplomatic information.
Here’s more fodder for those movies gearing up about WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange. After months of house arrest in Britain and an eight-week stint hiding out in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, Assange was today granted asylum by Ecuador. Britain then threw down the gauntlet and vowed to extradite Assange anyway. The controversial figure had been awaiting extradition to Sweden on allegations that he sexually assaulted two women. In June, he entered the embassy and petitioned for asylum, fearing that Sweden would ultimately surrender him to the U.S. – which would also like to prosecute him. Via WikiLeaks, Assange has caused embarrassment to and drawn the ire of the U.S government for publishing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and classified documents. Ecuador said it granted the asylum because it believes Assange would be politically persecuted if extradited.
Assange is currently the subject of a host of TV and film projects (and until recently was himself hosting talk show World Of Tomorrow from the house in England where he was holed before moving to the embassy). Australian TV movie, Underground, starring Rachel Griffiths, Anthony LaPaglia and newcomer Alex Williams as a young Assange, is debuting in Toronto next month. NBCU International will start sales at the festival. Then there’s the WikiLeaks feature that’s being developed by DreamWorks. Deadline recently reported that Jeremy Renner is looking at playing Assange in that one and that the studio is talking to Bill Condon about directing. Further, Universal and Marc Shmuger have an Alex Gibney-directed documentary, and HBO, Universal and Megan Ellison are also working on films.
Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Australia.
Underground, a TV movie that chronicles WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s teenage career as a computer hacker in 1980s Melbourne, will have its world premiere in the contemporary world cinema section of the Toronto International Film Festival. NBCUniversal International will launch its sales efforts in Toronto and the telemovie will air in Australia on Network Ten. Playing Assange is 21-year-old Alex Williams in his first post-graduate role, with Rachel Griffiths as his mother and Laura Wheelwright as his girlfriend. Written and directed by Robert Connolly, the project is based on the 1997 novel Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfus, on which she collaborated with Assange who has been fighting extradition from London to Sweden on sex crimes allegations.
In January, WikiLeaks announced the launch of a Julian Assange-hosted talk show that would include interviews with “key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world.” Today, WikiLeaks and RT, Russia’s state-funded multilingual network, said the WikiLeaks’ founder’s show, The World Of Tomorrow, will debut Tuesday, April 17. Ten episodes were originally scheduled to start airing in March with the promise of reaching 600 million viewers. WikiLeaks now says 12 episodes have been completed and will air on RT, as well as online and on “other networks to follow.” Assange, who’s under UK house arrest awaiting a decision on possible extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault, conducted the interviews from the “secret location” where he’s holed up. The first 26-minute episode will feature “a notorious guest” whose identity is still under wraps. What we do know is that the first guest will be “particularly controversial” and “highly charismatic.” (The hush-hush nature of the show is kind of ironic for an organization known for its whistle-blowing prowess, I’m just sayin’…) Among future interview subjects are dissidents and some people who have never been interviewed on English-language
Newcomer Alex Williams will play Julian Assange in Underground, the Australian TV movie that’s based around the early life of the WikiLeaks founder. Rachel Griffiths will play Assange’s activist mother, Christine Assange. Anthony LaPaglia is playing Ken Roberts, the detective determined to uncover the young Assange’s activity in Melbourne in the late 80s and early 90s when he led a ring of underground hackers. The film hails from Matchbox Pictures, in which NBCUniversal acquired a majority stake last year. Other cast includes Callan McAuliffe, who’s playing a young Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, along with Animal Kingdom’s Laura Wheelwright and Jordan Raskopoulos, who directed and starred in 2011 Funny Or Die short, The Axis of Awesome: How to Write a Love Song. Robert Connolly, who’s known for Matchbox’s controversial hit Oz TV series, The Slap, wrote the screenplay and will direct. The Slap’s Helen Bowden and Tony Ayres of Matchbox are producing and executive producing, respectively. The film starts shooting on April 16 and will air locally on Network Ten in the latter half of this year. NBCU International is distributing worldwide.
Late Monday, WikiLeaks announced the launch of a Julian Assange-hosted talk show that would include interviews with “key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world.” Although the announcement offered no production details, distributors interested in licensing the program were referred to Quick Roll Productions, a company whose website was created on January 8. The press release further said the show already had initial licensing commitments that would cover over 600 million viewers across cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcast networks, although it did not identify any of the outlets. Today comes news of the first broadcast partner, the Russian state-funded multilingual television network, RT – which, incidentally, has oft been accused of having a pro-Kremlin bias. RT says it is airing the show exclusively, although that exclusivity may only extend to first run given the network’s website says it reaches 430 million viewers in “at least 100 countries.” RT calls the Assange show “arguably the most anticipated news series of 2012” and says the 10 half-hours will focus on Assange’s “favorite topic: controversy.” No guest names were released. According to RT, however, the interviews are to be filmed on location in the UK where Assange is awaiting a British court’s decision on extraditing him to Sweden to face allegations of sexual molestation of two women. His appeal is to be heard in the UK next week. WikiLeaks said the series will begin airing in mid-March which raises the question of whether
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) has come on board to direct HBO Films’ movie about Julian Assange should it be greenlighted for production. The project, a co-production with the BBC, is based on source material that includes Raffi Khatchadourian’s June 7, 2010, article in The New Yorker No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency, which takes an in-depth look at Assange and follows him and his WikiLeaks operatives as they prepare to leak a 38-minute classified video filmed from inside of the cockpit of an U.S. Army Apache Helicopter. The film is being executive produced by Joshua Maurer and Alixandre Witlin of City Entertainment and David Stern of KippSter Entertainment. Ferguson will also produce with producing partner Audrey Marrs. A writer for the project is expected to be locked in soon. This marks the first narrative project for Ferguson, who is also eying a transition to feature film directing. In addition to Inside Job, he wrote, directed and produced the Oscar-nominated documentary No End in Sight.
EXCLUSIVE: The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and Management 360 have partnered with financier/producer Megan Ellison to option The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller. Ellison, an exec producer of True Grit, will finance the film through her Annapurna Pictures and she, Boal and Management 360 will produce. Boal might write the film, but that will depend on if he has time. In addition to the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Triple Frontier with Tom Hanks, Boal is collaborating with Bigelow on a drama that might go sooner, about a secret Middle East mission movie. If Boal is going to write the Assange script, he will have to do it quickly.
His is just the latest in a growing number of Julian Assange/WikiLeaks movies that should continue to swell as more books about the controversial figure get published. I’ve heard DreamWorks is circling Inside WikiLeaks, a book that will be released February 15. It is written by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s number 2 at WikiLeaks who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to apply journalistic discretion in the dispersal of secret government documents while Assange wanted to release as many as he could get his hands on.
There is also the $1.5 million memoir by Assange. Movie/TV rights will be handled by CAA for lit agency …
EXCLUSIVE: Julian Assange might be getting the HBO film treatment. A movie about the controversial WikiLeaks founder is in early development at HBO Films. HBO is in discussions with frequent collaborator BBC about co-producing together the film, whose source material would include Raffi Khatchadourian’s June 7, 2010, article in The New Yorker No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency. The article was an in-depth look at Julian Assange and follows him and his Wikileaks operatives as they prepare to leak a 38 minute classified video filmed from inside of the cockpit of an U.S. Army Apache Helicopter.
The film project is being executive producer by Joshua Maurer and Alixandre Witlin of City Entertainment and David Stern of KippSter Entertainment who had optioned the article. Assange could not be hotter in Hollywood at the moment. Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney just signed with Universal Pictures to do a documentary about the Australian. HBO has not shied away from controversial figures as subjects of its original movies. Last year, it aired the Jack Kevorkian biopic You Don’t Know Jack, which earned star Al Pacino an Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Khatchadourian is with UTA.
Sundance: Universal Funding WikiLeaker Julian Assange Docu By Alex Gibney And Ex-Uni Chairman Marc Shmuger
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 …
One of the Sundance documentaries showing up on buyer priority lists is Page One. Director Andrew Rossi camped out at the media desk of The New York Times for 14 months. Trust me, a chronicle of the day to day activities of out-of-shape journalists ordinarily would be like watching grass grow. But Rossi had timing on his side: he shot while the newspaper was struggling through a print decline that hobbled circulation and advertising. Rossi was on hand when the paper laid off 100 reporters. “The conceit of the film was I followed editors and reporters on the media desk as they covered stories about changing technology as the paper itself underwent tumultuous change and layoffs because of that technology,” Rossi said. Here’s an exclusive clip where reporter Brian Stelter chases an early story about WikiLeaker Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, out on bail after an arrest for an alleged sex crime, has made a deal to write his memoirs for Random House’s Alfred A. Knopf label, and UK’s Canongate Books. More territorial sales will bring in additional revenue for a guy who has become a world famous figure reviled on Capitol Hill. Assange told Britain’s Sunday Times he’ll get $800,000 from Knopf, and slightly more than $500,000 from Canongate. He’ll use the money to pay legal bills and keep afloat his WikiLeaks website which this fall leaked 250,000 State Department documents that bared frank opinions on world leaders and foreign policy that were considered highly sensitive and embarrassing to the White House. Assange has denied the sex crime allegation and has implied he’s the victim of a smear campaign because of his truth-telling campaign. Most authors don’t disclose their advances, but Assange has made full disclosure of his, even though his publishers would not confirm the amount, according to the Wall Street Journal.
After elevating his profile with the 2010 best picture nominee Inglourious Basterds, in which he played a loathsome Nazi soldier, Daniel Bruhl is back in the spotlight for portraying two real-life mavericks this year: Racing legend Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush, and former Julian Assange ally Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. Though he says “there’s always an awkward moment when you meet the characters for the first time,” Bruhl is pleased that both of his living subjects were happy with the way he interpreted their lives. Next up for the trilingual, Berlin-based actor? Tending to the tapas bar he owns and starring opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man.
AwardsLine: You were able to spend some time with Niki Lauda to research your role in Rush. What was the most valuable information you learned about him in those meetings?
Daniel Bruhl: I was blown away by his bluntness—something that I still envy, and I love playing characters that I partly envy. To be so 100% honest and direct with certain people, and to be fearless when it comes to solving problems or facing conflict with people face to face, is striking. I don’t know anyone who is like that. And the nice thing about him is that underneath it all is that charm, that sense of humor. The more time I spent with him, and the more times he had seen the movie, the more emotional he got. So that surprised me a bit. I’m half-Spanish, so I love hugging people. I do that all the time with friends. And he didn’t like that at first, the contact with men, and he always kept his distance from me. The first few times I stood there like an idiot. Later on, he saw me, and he said, “Daniel! Come here!” And he had that smile on his face. It’s such a relief to know that he is proud of the movie.
AFM Briefs: Roger Daltrey’s Keith Moon Biopic Leads Multi-Pic Pact; Sam Worthington Sets 3D ‘Paper Planes’; eOne Takes ‘The Hunted’ & Zom-Com ‘April Apocalypse’; Alvernia & Fu Works Productions Team On Poland Incentives
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Exclusive Media and Da Vinci Media Ventures are making the untitled Keith Moon biopic the first joint development title in a newly announced multi-picture agreement. The Who’s Roger Daltrey, who’s been developing the project with Exclusive Media‘s Nigel Sinclair, is guiding the pic with Da Vinci’s Wendy Rutland also exec producing. They’re seeking a screenwriter for the film about legendary Who drummer Moon, who died in 1978. The biopic is expected to be a European co-production.
Sam Worthington, Anthony LaPaglia, and Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) have been set to star in Arclight Films’ 3D family pic Paper Planes. The inspired-by-true-events tale follows 11-year-old Dylan (Oxenbould), who lives with his father (Worthington) in the Australian countryside. His life is changed forever when he wins his way up to the World Paper Plane Championship in Japan. Filming is underway in Perth, Western Australia, and Tokyo under writer-director Robert Connolly (Underground: The Julian Assange Story). Author Steve Worland scripted with Connolly. Arenamedia’s Liz Kearney and Maggie Miles are producing with Screen Australia, ScreenWest, the ACTF and MIFF. Eric Bana, Gary Hamilton, Ying Ye, Jonathan Chissick, Andrew Myer, and Bernadette O’Mahony are exec producers. Arclight Films is handling international sales.
Entertainment One Films US has acquired N.A. rights on a pair of indie horror pics. The Hunted, from director/star Josh Stewart, follows two hunters who head into the secluded mountains of West Virginia with dreams of landing their own hunting show, only to realize they’re not alone. Brett Forbes and Patrick Rizzotti produced for Fortress Features. It’s Stewart’s first outing as director after starring in pics like The Collector, The Collection, and the upcoming Transcendence. WME Global negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with eOne’s Dan Fisher; Cinema Management Group is repping international sales.
EOne also picked up zombie comedy April Apocalypse, about Artie (Reece Thompson), who wakes up from a car crash to find he’s in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse. With newfound courage and power he becomes a bad-ass zombie slayer to protect his dream girl April before the bite on his hand turns him into a full-fledged flesh-eater. Jarret Tarnol directs the pic from brother Brent Tarnol’s script; the pair (Barrio Tales, See You In Valhalla) produced together for their Tarnol Group Pictures. Bellflower‘s Rebekah Brandes, Brent Tarnol, Stephanie Hunt, Todd Stashwick, Mark Rolston, Sarah Hyland, Roger Bart, and George Lopez also star. Preferred Content’s Zac Bright negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers with eOne’s Dan Fisher. Arclight Films is handling international sales. Another zombie indie eOne acquired at the 2011 AFM for a number of territories, including the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Valeri Milev’s Code Red, is back at the Santa Monica market as a finished product, shopped in the rest of the world by Outsider Pictures.
Hoping to gain some traction not only at the box office but also this awards season, DreamWorks and Disney unveiled their holiday comedy Delivery Man on Sunday night at the El Capitan in Hollywood. And judging from audience reaction (which included several members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), star Vince Vaughn could find himself in the running for a Golden Globe as Lead Actor in a Musical or Comedy. It’s a career-best change-of-pace role for him as this is a rare studio comedy — or “dramedy,” or he puts it — that’s full of heart and poignant moments mixed with the laughs. Vaughn plays a meat truck driver who unknowingly fathered 533 kids thanks to endless sperm bank donations he made in the early ’90s to earn cash to pay off debts. Now about 150 of them have filed a class action to try to determine the true identity of the biological father they know only as Starbuck. It is based on writer-director Ken Scott’s 2011 Canadian film Starbuck. Scott helmed the American version as well.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Delivery Man’
DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider and Disney Chair Alan Horn were among those gauging reaction to the November 22 release, which goes head to head that day against juggernaut sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Snider told me …
UPDATED, 9:30 AM: Benedict Cumberbatch, fresh off his feature film flop The Fifth Estate, will return in the better-reviewed Sherlock starting January 19 in the 10 PM time slot following Downton Abbey, PBS announced this morning. In the UK, BBC has not yet announced Sherlock’s return date, but promises the three episodes will launch there before the PBS debut. PBS also confirmed Downton Abbey’s January 5 return. Scheduling Sherlock’s three 90-minute episodes to follow Downton, PBS said in its first-quarter scheduling news, “reinforces PBS’ move into 10 PM programming on several key nights.”
In this morning’s flurry of PBS announcements, the network made a special fuss over “Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office UK) returning as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in the contemporary reinvention of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss. In a separate announcement, Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton cooed, “The genius Sherlock team has done it again,” adding, “These people are GOOD!” The Fifth Estate, in which Cumberbatch received good reviews playing WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, has nonetheless gone into the books as having the worst opening weekend this year to date.
PBS also said it was announcing a number of new programs, though we’ve known for ages that American Masters had gotten its hands on the much-ballyhooed biopic Salinger. Anyway, in this morning’s announcement, PBS also says per Nielsen that its 2012-13 primetime programming saw an overall average ratings increase of 7% over the previous season and that PBS now ranks eighth among all broadcast and cable networks “in overall general audience content.” We’ll get back to when we figure out what PBS is talking about, and we advise you not to hold your breath while you wait for numbers. PBS also claimed this morning it is now surpassed, in this PBS metric, by only the four major broadcast networks, USA, Univision, and Disney — overtaking ESPN, History and TNT in the ratings. Previously, PBS says, it ranked No. 11.
PBS’s upcoming primetime schedule is, per usual, thick with Brit on Sundays, science and nature shows on Wednesday, and arts and performance programming on Fridays: