I’m Not “An Easily Bought Cypher for Right Wing Propaganda”: Benedict Cumberbatch Responds to Julian Assange
Amidst Julian Assange and Wikileaks’ battle against The Fifth Estate, a film about the rise and fall of WikiLeaks starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the organization’s white-haired founder, Cumberbatch used his Reddit AMA to counter Assange’s accusations that the film is a smear campaign.
Earlier this week WikiLeaks released an annotated version of the film’s script, as well as a letter Assange wrote to Cumberbatch in January. Cumberbatch had tried to contact Assange, currently wanted on rape charges in Sweden and hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, while he was researching the role. While Assange refused to speak with Cumberbatch directly, he did send him a letter asking him not to make the movie. “You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it,” Assange wrote. “To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth. Not because you want to, of course you don’t, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched.” Of turning down Cumberbatch’s meeting proposal, Assange wrote, “By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give.”
During a Reddit AMA, Cumberbatch was asked about the letter and penned a long-winded response, explaining that the letter “galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie.” He went on to say:
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.
WikiLeaks has been highly critical of The Fifth Estate for months. While it received less than stellar reviews at Toronto International Film Festival, most have praised Cumberbatch’s performance, calling him the film’s “highlight.”