Focus World will debut the WikiLeaks docu from Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Dark Side) on May 24, marking the first in a slew of upcoming films about the whistleblowing website and its founder Julian Assange. That includes DreamWorks and Participant’s Bill Condon-helmed The Fifth Estate, opening November 15, and the Mark Boal/Management 360/Megan Ellison project in development. Here’s the just-released trailer:
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.
UPDATE, 10:40 AM: DreamWorks has confirmed my story, and they’ve got a title for the WikiLeaks feature – The Fifth Estate. (At right is also a first photo from the production featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and Daniel Bruhl as Berg.) I’m putting the press release after the original scoop.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 9:44 AM: Participant Media is closing a deal to become DreamWorks‘ partner on the untitled feature film that Bill Condon is directing about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The studio has Benedict Cumberbatch playing Assange, with Daniel Bruhl playing Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, was one of two books that were the primary source material for the script written by Josh Singer. Steve Golin and Michael Sugar are producing.
This becomes the fifth film partnership between DreamWorks and Participant, where Jeff Skoll and Jim Berk’s focus is to generate socially relevant subject matter. Those other collaborations are the Best Picture nominee Lincoln, The Help, The Kite Runner, and The Soloist.
This gives a clear shot at a production start on the film at a time when there has been big interest in the rogue web entrepreneur Assange. That includes one that Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal partnered on with Management 360 and financier/producer Megan Ellison that’s based on The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller.
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 …
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.
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
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
Alex Winter, who started his career as half of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure tandem before transitioning to director of commercials and TV shows, is finally helming a movie about the formation of controversial music file-sharing service Napster. The surprise is that after 10 years of trying to make a narrative feature, Winter’s shooting it as a documentary backed by VH1, the same division that made 2008’s Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Winter originally made his deal with Paramount’s MTV Films and wrote a script, only to watch that division crater and see his birth of a technological revolution storyline drive The Social Network, which even had early Napster pioneer Shawn Parker in a key role. Rather than scrap Napster, Winter is going back to all the sources for his script, armed with a camera.
“The rise and fall of Napster and the birth of peer-to-peer file-sharing technology created by Shawn Fanning when he was a college student, changed music to movies, and made possible everything from Julian Assange, WikiLeaks to the iPod and Facebook,” Winter told me. “It became an expression of youth revolt, and contributed to a complete shift in how information, media and governments work. And it is a fascinating human story, where this 18-year-old kid invents a peer-to-peer file-sharing system, and brings it to the world six months later.”
The sharp elbowing between Lionsgate and Carl Icahn takes another turn in the courtroom. The Wall Street Journal reports that Lionsgate filed in court to force Icahn to disclose any confidential merger agreements he made with MGM. This continues …