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.
A military judge today announced that Pfc. Bradley Manning is not guilty of aiding the enemy in the largest leak of classified and diplomatic information in American history. But you wouldn’t have known it if you were watching one of the Big 4 TV networks. Unlike when the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling came down on June 26 and the birth of the royal baby earlier this month, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox all stayed with their regularly scheduled programming today. Over in cable newsland, Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC all reported live on the verdict, with FNC first at 10:05 AM PT. MSNBC was next at 10:08 and CNN right behind at 10:09 AM. All of the cable news networks stayed on the immediate story for several minutes before updating later as more information on the verdict came in. The timing of the verdict was no surprise, as it had previously been announced by a spokesperson for the military district of Washington DC. Manning today was found guilty of other charges including espionage and theft which carry hefty sentences. The sentencing process starts Wednesday.
Formerly based in Iraq, the U.S. Army soldier was accused of delivering vast amounts of data to WikiLeaks, though the organization has never officially confirmed Manning was the source of the information. Manning was arrested in May 2010 not long after WikiLeaks posted a video from … Read More »
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.
James McAvoy is deep in negotiations to join DreamWorks’ WikiLeaks film, Deadline has confirmed. “It’s close to being done,” an insider said today. McAvoy would play Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the right-hand man to WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange. Domscheit-Berg’s book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website is partially the basis for the film. The Twilight Saga’sBill Condon will direct. DreamWorks also acquired WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy, by David Leigh and Luke Harding, for the film. Josh Singer wrote the script.Benedict Cumberbatch will play Assange in the as-yet-untitled film. And there is no shortage of WikiLeaks and Assange films on the horizon: Universal and Marc Shmuger have an Alex Gibney-directed documentary, while HBO, Universal and Megan Ellison are also working on WikiLeaks films. McAvoy is repped by UTA and United Agents.
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 »
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 »
Rom-Com Zombies Lurching Into Bollywood Films Indian filmmakers are dipping their creative toes into the zombie water, but with a light-hearted touch. Shaadi of the Dead (Wedding of the Dead) is about a zombie invasion at a Punjabi marriage ceremony. It’s set for release next year. Also in the works is Go Goa Gone, starring Saif Ali Khan, about a group of youngsters who fight the undead in the resort state of Goa. Shaadi of the Dead director Navdeep Singh is banking on the novelty value of the genre to attract younger Indian film audiences. “We feel this idea of a zombie film is very fresh,” he told AFP. “It is something that has never been tried in the Hindi film industry and so we feel it will work.”
Al-Jazeera Head Steps Down After WikiLeaks Link To U.S. Qatar’s government has replaced Wadah Khanfar, the director-general of the Al-Jazeera satellite TV network, with a member of its own royal family. Khanfar’s resignation comes after eight years of revolutionizing the Middle East’s media landscape, but in the wake of a WikiLeaks controversy. A U.S. government cable uncovered last month suggests Khanfar agreed to “tone down” objectionable content and promised to “remove it over the subsequent two or three days.” Al-Jazeera has played a key role in the protest movements sweeping the Middle East, airing round-the-clock coverage of uprisings that brought down rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya this year. The new chief is Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, an executive at Qatargas. Read More »
Wikileaks Shows MPAA Drove Aussie Copyright Suit
A newly released Wikileaks cable from the U.S. State Dept. confirms what many presumed all along: The Hollywood studios were behind a broad copyright suit filed in 2008 against Perth-based Internet service provider iiNet. The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft was the plaintiff of record, charging that the ISP failed to prevent pirating on its network. That claim was rejected on grounds the ISP couldn’t be responsible for its users’ actions. Earlier this month, however, Australia’s High Court agreed to hear an appeal, likely in the fall. The Motion Picture Association of America was from the outset a driving force in the suit but ”does not want that fact to be broadcast,” then-U.S. Ambassador Robert D. McCallum Jr. wrote in 2008, adding that the MPAA wants to avoid the impression that it is “just Hollywood ‘bullying some poor little Australian ISP’.” That didn’t really work: the original ruling said that AFACT was for all intents and purposes a “local franchise” of the MPAA. Read More »
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.
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 … Read More »
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.
We’re still waiting for Wikileaks: the movie but in the meanwhile, here is Wikileaks: the documentary. Zodiak Rights, the international rights division of Zodiak Media Group, has signed a deal with news agency Premières Lignes to distribute their documentary Wikileaks: War, Lies and Videotape.
Wikileaks: War, Lies and Videotape, directed by investigative reporters Luc Hermann and Paul Moreira, is described as a revealing documentary dissecting the controversial website whose journalists and hackers have gathered and published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents. It follows the site’s enigmatic founder and new new enemy No. 1 of the Pentagon Julian Assange, including his recent arrest in London. Among the people interviewed for the documentary is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former Wikileaks No.2 and spokesperson of the Wikileaks team, who is now a dissident after he quit the company this summer to open his own whistle-blowing website and publish a novel about “his time at the world’s most dangerous website”. He claims that Wikileaks is too centered on the figure of Julian Assange with an authoritarian style which contrary to the originally planned transparency-focused mission.