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.