Benedict Cumberbatch on Julian Assange's Cautionary Email: ‘It Galvanized Me’

Benedict Cumberbatch on Julian Assange's Cautionary Email: 'It Galvanized Me'

The actor explained how Assange's sharp response to a meeting request affected his decision to star in “The Fifth Estate”

“Fifth Estate” star Benedict Cumberbatch said on Friday that the cautionary email he received from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last January made him question his role in the DreamWorks production, but ultimately “galvanized” him into assessing why he signed on for the movie in the first place.

“To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern,” Cumberbatch wrote during a Reddit AMA session with fans. “However, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie.”

Also read: Julian Assange's Rejection Email to Benedict Cumberbatch: ‘You Will Be Used’

Assange wrote the email to decline Cumberbatch's request for a meeting and warn him of the dangers of the role.

“You will be used, as a hired gun,” Assange warned the actor while explaining his reasons for not supporting the film, which included the “toxic” books it was based on, as well as his fears that he would be portrayed in a negative light.

Also read: WikiLeaks Leaks ‘Fifth Estate’ Script, Blasts Film as Irresponsible and Harmful

“He accuses me of being a ‘hired gun’ as if I am an easily bought cypher for right wing propaganda. Not only do I NOT operate in a moral vacuum but this was not a pay day for me at all,” Cumberbatch continued. “I've worked far less hard for more financial reward. This project was important to me because of the integrity I wanted to bring to provocative difficult but ultimately timely and a truly important figure of our modern times.”

“There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus,” Cumberbatch concluded. “It should be enjoyable and ultimately empowering to realize that Julian has spearheaded a movement that is the foundations stone of ‘The Fifth Estate,’ people journalism and what that is capable of including finding out the ‘truth’ for yourself.”

See Cumberbatch's response to Assange's criticisms in its entirety, below:

Julian Assange’s open letter to you criticizing The Fifth Estate is very intense. He even goes so far as to call you a “hired gun” for distorting the truth (or at least what he views as his truth). Did this affect the way you portrayed him or even make you second guess your role at all in this film?

“Yes, of course it did. To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern, however, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie.

He accuses me of being a “hired gun” as if I am an easily bought cypher for right wing propaganda. Not only do I NOT operate in a moral vacuum but this was not a pay day for me at all. I've worked far less hard for more financial reward.

This project was important to me because of the integrity I wanted to bring to provocative difficult but ultimately timely and a truly important figure of our modern times. The idea of making a movie about someone who so far removed from my likeness or situation who brought about an ideal through personal sacrifice that has changed the way we view both social media, the power of the individual to have a voice in that space, and be able to question both the hypocrisies and wrongdoings of organizations and bodies of powerful people that rule our lives…

This resonated deeply with my beliefs in civil liberty, a healthy democracy, and the human rights of both communities and individuals to question those in authority.

I believe that the film, quite clearly, illuminates the great successes of wikileaks and its extraordinary founder Julians Assange. As well as, examining the personalities involved and what become a dysfunctional relationship within that organization. While the legacy of his actions and the organizations continue to evolve and only history will be the true judge of where this is leading us.

The Fifth Estate is a powerful, if dramatized, entry point for a discussion about this extraordinary lurch forward in our society. I wanted to create a three dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods. But a true force to be reckoned with, achieved the realization of the great ideal.

I'm proud to be involved in tackling such a contentious character and script. There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus. It should be enjoyable and ultimately empowering to realize that Julian has spearheaded a movement that is the foundations stone of The Fifth Estate, people journalism and what that is capable of including finding out the “truth” for yourself.”