WikiLeaks pans 'The Fifth Estate' film while leaking script

Based on a leaked script, the whistle-blowing site calls the film about Julian Assange "irresponsible, counterproductive, and harmful."

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Julian Assange in 'The Fifth Estate.' YouTube screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

WikiLeaks has given a thumb's down to an upcoming film that tries to tell the tale of founder Julian Assange.

Headed to movie theaters next month, "The Fifth Estate" focuses on the formation and growth of WikiLeaks by Assange and former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The story also covers WikiLeaks' posting of classified US documents in 2010 , an act that brought the site notoriety and provoked the wrath of the US government.

But WikiLeaks is already unhappy about with the film based on the script -- which the site itself has leaked. Labeling the movie "a work of fiction masquerading as fact," WikiLeaks cites a laundry list of objections.

Charging that the events seen in the film didn't happen or that the people portrayed were not part of them, WikiLeaks said that the movie "invents or shapes the facts to fit its narrative goals." The site claims that the film is biased against Assange as it's based on two books ("Inside WikiLeaks," by Domscheit-Berg and "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy" by two reporters from The Guardian) written by people with a personal or legal grudge against WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks also points to a comment from actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrays Assange. In an interview with the Guardian published last Friday, Cumberbatch said that when he first read the script, he was worried Assange was being cast as some cartoon baddie and added that "everyone agreed with that."

In response to some of WikiLeaks' complaints over the film, director Bill Condon said at a recent press conference that "[Assange] got hold of a very, very early draft of the script, which he has commented on, which really bears little resemblance to the movie we made." But WikiLeaks claims that the script it leaked is a "mature version," from a late stage during principal photography of the film this year.

WikiLeaks also appears disingenuous in at least one of its grievances. The site criticized the film for not involving WikiLeaks or any of its staff, including Julian Assange. But Condon told Mashable that he and the screenwriters tried to reach out to key people at the site as they worked on the script. Assange himself actually ended up corresponding online with Cumberbatch.

However, WikiLeaks challenged Condon's claim in a Twitter comment, saying that "it is false that Dreamworks asked for [WikiLeaks'] feedback. Cumberbatch only, at a late stage, asked [to] meet Assange to acquire his manner."

Update, 9:00 a.m. PT: Adds Twitter comment from WikiLeaks.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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