| TORONTO, Sept 6
TORONTO, Sept 6 Actor Benedict Cumberbatch
didn't get any help from Julian Assange in his preparation to
play the founder of WikiLeaks in the film "The Fifth Estate,"
and guesses Assange probably won't like his portrayal, even
though the actor sees it as celebration of the activist's
Cumberbatch said he didn't have access to the polarizing
figure behind the whistleblower website after Assange "stated
very clearly at the beginning of the project that he didn't want
to condone the film."
"I am not a betting man, but I imagine he won't particularly
want to support the film," the 37-year-old British actor told
reporters on Friday, the morning after the film opened the
Toronto International Film Festival to somewhat mixed reviews.
Trade publication Variety called the film "stimulating but
overly frenetic" and Cumberbatch's performance "a somewhat
one-dimensional turn," although it did praise his ability to
"capture Assange's slightly otherworldly air."
"The Fifth Estate" follows Assange as WikiLeaks racks up its
first successes as a conduit for whistleblowers from Africa to
Iceland on the way to its biggest disclosure in 2010 of American
intelligence: war logs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and
thousands of diplomatic cables.
Assange's pursuit of transparency at all costs, potentially
including the lives of government informants named in the
disclosures, alienates some of his most loyal supporters,
including his top lieutenant.
Despite Assange's rejection of the film, Cumberbatch
believes "The Fifth Estate" recognizes "his idea and integrity
and self-sacrifice" that yielded WikiLeaks' achievements between
2007 and 2010.
"I think there's a lot to celebrate about his achievements,"
Cumberbatch said he was careful to not have a "thumbs up,
thumbs down" approach to playing Assange, who remains holed up
in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, fighting extradition to
Sweden over accusations of rape and sexual assault.
And the actor didn't want to speculate about how Assange's
situation would play out.
"What I would like to see is the man able to carry on doing
his work as the founder of WikiLeaks, and due process has to
take place in whatever shape or form that happens," Cumberbatch
In addition to his lead role in the opening film,
Cumberbatch has smaller roles in two of the most anticipated
movies opening at the Toronto Film Festival: slavery drama "12
Years a Slave" debuting Friday and dysfunctional family drama
"August: Osage County."
Cumberbatch, best known for his role as a contemporary
Sherlock Holmes in the BBC television series "Sherlock," has
been called by organizers "the man of the festival," a label
that he says makes him feel uncomfortable.
"Variety is very much a prerogative for me," the actor said
in his first showing at Toronto, a festival that can make a huge
difference for a film's ability to garner top awards like the
Oscars. "I am thrilled that three so different and extraordinary
films that I am involved with are showcasing at this festival."
(Editing by Eric Kelsey, Piya Sinha-Roy and Vicki Allen)