Assange slams WikiLeaks film in letter to actor Benedict Cumberbatch

Reuters

LOS ANGELES, Oct 9 (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder JulianAssange penned an open letter to British actor BenedictCumberbatch, who portrays Assange in an upcoming film, praisingthe actor's talents but slamming his involvement with the filmand turning down the actor's invitation to meet in person.

Assange, who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorean embassyin London, wrote a letter to Cumberbatch dated Jan. 15, 2013,that was published on Wednesday on the anti-secrecy website ahead of the Oct. 18 theatrical release of Walt Disney Co's DreamWorks film "The Fifth Estate."

In the letter, Assange tells Cumberbatch he is "fond" of theactor's previous work, and adds "I think I would enjoy meetingyou," but urged the actor to drop his involvement in the film,saying "I do not believe it is going to be positive for me orthe people I care about."

"I know the film intends to depict me and my work in anegative light. I believe it will distort events and subtractfrom public understanding. It does not seek to simplify, clarifyor distil the truth, but rather it seeks to bury it. It willresurrect and amplify defamatory stories which were long agoshown to be false," Assange wrote.

The enigmatic WikiLeaks founder turned down Cumberbatch'sinvitation to meet ahead of shooting for the film, citing hisissues with the film's angle of his own story.

"I believe you are well-intentioned, but surely you can seewhy it is a bad idea for me to meet with you. By meeting withyou, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse thetalented, but debauched, performance that the script will forceyou to give," Assange said.

Assange also noted that "the bond that develops between anactor and a living subject is significant," and that ifCumberbatch was to take the role, "we will forever be correlatedin the public imagination. Our paths will be forever entwined."

A press release accompanying the letter on WikiLeaks onWednesday said that Cumberbatch had replied to Assange with a"courteous and considered" email.

Cumberbatch, 37, plays the WikiLeaks founder as rude,awkward and unkempt in the film that chronicles the emergence ofWikiLeaks, based in part on the 2011 book, "Inside WikiLeaks: MyTime with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website,"by Assange's once-trusted lieutenant Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Ecuador has given Assange political asylum in its embassy inLondon, where he sought refuge in June 2012, but he facesimmediate arrest and extradition to Sweden to face accusationsof rape and sexual assault if he leaves the embassy.

Assange criticized the film's source material, saying, "Itis based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendettaagainst me and my organisation."

At the film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival lastmonth, director Bill Condon said "The Fifth Estate" was not ajudgment about WikiLeaks or Assange, but rather a portrayal ofthe complex issues surrounding transparency, privacy andsecurity.

"There is no takeaway or single right or wrong," Condon toldReuters at the film's premiere. "I hope people walk away and goto dinner to talk about it."

Cumberbatch also spoke to reporters in Toronto and said hewas guessing Assange wouldn't like his portrayal in the film,even though the actor sees it as a celebration of the activist'sachievements. {id:nL2N0H219H]

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