Julian Assange is stirring a bubbling cauldron of interest that could result in The Fifth Estate‘s coffers running over, with the fair-haired boy of cyberspece delivering the Midas touch for the box office gold. WikiLeaks founder Assange has been giving interviews to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which will be publishing them this week, ahead of the film’s release, RT Spanish “Behind the News” host Eva Golinger, and weirdly, ABC’s “This Week.”
Why is it weird that Assange spoke to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Sunday morning news show? Because ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company. Disney’s Touchstone is distributing The Fifth Estate, produced by DreamsWorks, which has a television distribution deal with ABC/Disney. Talk about corporate synergy.
Stephanopoulos announcing that Assange would be
live from his London hideout
was a tad melodramatic, because we all know where Assange has been since June, 2012–in the Ecuadorian Embassy, 3 Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 0LS, United Kingdom, the building with all the nice policemen ringing it to prevent the easy-to-spot Assange from escaping and going…where, exactly?
Here are some highlights from Assange laying out his complaints about The Fifth Estate to ABC and RT. In both interviews, Assange discusses the government surveillance and the dangers to journalists who cover whistleblowing and report on leaks are facing. He also discusses his future, and in the RT interview, goes into detail about the asylum process, concepts of sovereignty and freedom, Google’s involvement with the State Department, the Obama’s administration’s exceptionally high record of prosecuting espionage cases, and that it is
a linguistic abuse to call speaking to the media espionage. Similarly it’s a linguistic abuse to say that WikiLeaks as a publisher, when it publishes, is conducting espionage.
Both interviews make for fascinating reading. In the interest of Fair Use, and because La Figa focuses on the intersection of politics, entertainment and pop culture, here’s what Assange had to say about The Fifth Estate in both interviews. There are links to the full inteviews, which I encourage you to read. First up, ABC’s “This Week,” from their transcripts:
There was no approach to us by DreamWorks, in any formal capacity whatsoever, other than an informal approach by Benedict Cumberbatch just days before shooting began.
This is a film that is based upon my life’s work, the work of my organization; we have people in extremely serious situations. [UK citizen] Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, now effectively in exile in Russia because of the terrorism investigation here.
We have (inaudible) an alleged media source, the 25 organizations including ours up for sentencing in under a month’s time, an ongoing grand jury investigation.
But what are the responsibilities for ethical filmmaking in that context? None of the suggested changes that we sent to participant media ended up even in the final text of the film. But there’s been a big cashing-in that has gone on….
This is a rich organization, DreamWorks. It’s making a lot of money and tries — is continuing to make a lot of money from this process. But none of — there’s no contribution to our defense fund, to the defense fund of our sources and so on.
Assange’s RT interview with Eva Golinger is a must-read. And yes, he is driving the conversation about the film, taking control of the PR. And insuring that once people have seen it–and they will, due in part of Assange’s PR blitz–they’ll be able to learn much more about WikiLeaks and its founder. Here’s what he had to say to RT about The Fifth Estate in response to Eva Golinger’s asking if the film is an attempt to discredit Assange and WikiLeaks:
I know the book that it was based on. The books were definitely an attempt to do precisely that. DreamWorks has picked the two most discredited libellous books out of dozens of books available for it to pick. But it’s coming out of a particular milieu about.. within Hollywood and that constraints, it seems, what scripts can be written and what things would get distribution. I don’t know if that was the intent of the filmmakers. It’s certainly the result, but it’s been doing quite poorly in the reviews.
I think the information we have published about it was pretty successful in knocking out any view that is inaccurate history. It’s interesting to see that in the America’s Disney, who’s responsible for the distribution there, has been putting up posters of me with the word ‘traitor’ emblazoned across my face*. You know, a laughable concept ‘cos because I’m an Australian, I couldn’t even be a traitor, in theory, to the United States. I mean it’s a type of libel.
I think ultimately people are starting to become immune to those sorts of attacks. There’s been so many as time is going by. And people who’ve been watching the WikiLeaks saga have seen many of these attacks, having seen that they’ve turned out not to be true. So I think our base is not going to be affected by the film.
More likely, WikiLeaks’ base will expand. Because as the film, which Assange so maligns, says:
If you want the truth, you should seek it out for yourself. That’s what they’re afraid of. You.
*A Google search shows there are several posters for The Fifth Estate. One shows Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange with the word “hero” across his face, another with the word “traitor.” The same is true for the face of Daniel Brühl who plays Daniel Berg, Assange’s lieutenant who wrote the book on which The Fifth Estate is based.