UPDATE, 8:50 AM PT: Oliver Stone and producing partner Moritz Borman are widening their source material for the movie Stone plans to write and direct on CIA leaker Edward Snowden. They’ve made a deal with Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, for film rights to his novel Time Of The Octopus, what seems like a thinly veiled account of his experience with Snowden. It’s the story of an American whistleblower who heads to Russia and the back and forth between the leaker and his lawyer as he waits while that country considers his request for asylum. Stone and Borman already got screen rights to The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World’s Most Wanted Man, a book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding that’s published by Guardian Faber. This might be as close as they can get to actually obtaining rights from Snowden. I wondered if he would be part of the movie. Like Julian Assange, he is a polarizing figure that some would call brave, and others — including the U.S. government — would call a turncoat, or worse after he made public more classified documents than anyone else has done since Daniel Ellsburg released The Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. Stone intends to put the movie in production this year. He’s not alone in his desire to make a Snowden film. Last month, Sony Pictures acquired film rights to Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald‘s upcoming book No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, And The U.S. Surveillance State. That pic will be produced by Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers of the James Bond spy franchise.
WikiLeaks and its embattled founder Julian Assange keep trying to make it crystal clear they don’t support DreamWorks‘ upcoming The Fifth Estate. Today WikiLeaks published the first of Assange’s letters to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays him in the October 18 release, denying the actor’s request to meet prior to production. The pic directed by Bill Condon is based on Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding, which Assange calls “toxic” and “the two most discredited books on the market”. WikiLeaks previously posted a version of the Fifth Estate script online along with a rather exhaustive memo detailing everything the film gets wrong. Here’s the Assange letter:
Thank you for trying to contact me. It is the first approach by anyone from the Dreamworks production to me or WikiLeaks.
My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of.
I think I would enjoy meeting you.
The bond that develops between an actor and a living subject is significant.
If the film reaches distribution we will forever be correlated in the public imagination. Our paths will be forever entwined. Each of us will be granted standing to comment on the other for many years to come and others will compare our characters and trajectories.
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.
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 Guardiansays 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.
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 booksWikiLeaks: 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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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.
Here’s something a bit dishy for a summer afternoon. I’ve heard that Jeremy Renner, about to open in The Bourne Legacy, is looking hard at playing Julian Assange in the WikiLeaks film being developed by DreamWorks. The studios is also having conversations with Twilight Saga‘s Bill Condon about directing, though nothing is set on either front. I had also heard that the WikiLeaks film might move toward independent financing. Word from the studio is that DreamWorks is keeping its project, but as usual won’t comment on development that has been ongoing since DreamWorks acquired the booksWikiLeaks: 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, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Josh Singer wrote the script.
Renner, coming off two Oscar-nominated performances in The Hurt Locker and The Town and moving toward stardom with Bourne Legacy, seems an inspired choice with the chops to play the prickly and complex Assange. Assange launched WikiLeaks in 2006 and established himself as a major thorn in the side of governments for leaking embarrassing diplomatic cables and secrets. He has been dealing with his own legal travails, as Sweden wants to try him for sexually assaulting two women and the U.S. wants to prosecute him for … Read More »
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 Read More »
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 Read More »
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.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Former Universal co-chairman Marc Shmuger next month opens the doors on his new producing venture. Global Produce will be the name of his new Universal-based company, and I’m told that Shmuger has hired Tom McNulty to be his top production executive. McNulty was the longtime president of Shawn Levy’s Fox-based company 21 Laps, and his producing credits include Date Night and The Rocker. He left and became an independent producer, but will return to the executive fold when Shmuger opens offices in Santa Monica in June. Shmuger came to Universal as president of marketing in 1998, rose to vice chairman before spending nearly four years as co-chairman alongside David Linde (who’s launching his new company, Lava Bear). They left in fall, 2009. Shmuger’s Global Produce already has its first project: back in January, Shmuger teamed with Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney and they are now four months into a feature docu about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Universal is funding the film and Shmuger and Gibney are producing together.
EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has officially entered the derby to turn the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks into a feature film. The studio has acquired rights to two books by pivotal players in the WikiLeaks drama. DreamWorks has secured screen rights to Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, the Crown book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He’s the former top WikiLeaks former executive who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to exercise journalistic discretion instead of the document dump that took place. ICM brokered that deal. DreamWorks has also bought WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, written by David Leigh and Luke Harding, the two journalists from the UK-based The Guardian who worked with Assange on bringing his first revelations into play through their paper, as well as Der Spiegel and The New York Times. That book was published by Guardian Books. They detail their dealings with Assange, who at one point hid from the CIA in Leigh’s London house. The book covers the WikiLeaks phenomenon from its 2006 launch onward.
I’m told that DreamWorks executives from Stacey Snider, Steve Spielberg to co-presidents Holly Bario and Mark Sourian, are intrigued enough by the Assange story to cobble together rights that will allow them to attack the story creatively from any of several angles. They are content to gather string, but haven’t hired a writer yet. A good … Read More »
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.
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.