Julian Assange Media Rollout in Anti-Promotion for “The Fifth Estate”


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.

Wikileaks Leaks Fifth Estate Script, Internal Talking Points

Marketing for The Fifth Estate, a film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has begun in earnest with ads recently released that depict Assange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with the word “traitor” emblazoned over his face.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and with less than a month out to its wide release, Wikileaks has responded to the film’s marketing efforts by releasing the film’s script alongside an in-depth internal memo of their critiques.

From fact checking plot lines found in the script and the movie’s source material to correcting Director Bill Condon’s assertion that Assange’s opinions were based on an early draft of the script- in fact the script made available by Wikileaks was obtained in 2013- the memo covers quite a bit of ground.

In addition to pushback on the argument that Wikileaks has put lives in danger, quoting Defense Secretary Robert Gates to do so, the memo also tackles outright bizarre inaccuracies, excerpted below, that appear to have made it into the film;

  • Julian Assange was never in a cult, but THE FIFTH ESTATE claims that he was.
  • Julian Assange does not dye or bleach his hair white, as claimed in the film.
  • While these interpolations may serve to enhance the dramatic narrative of the film, or to build an enigmatic or interesting central character, they have the effect of further falsely mythologizing a living person as sinister and duplicitous.

Less their review leave any room for doubt – and acknowledging that they weren’t consulted on the making of the film – Wikileaks also tweeted a more concise review; in their words, “it’s bad”.

According to Entertainment Weekly Disney has yet to comment on this development.

For more insight into The Fifth Estate check out this post from Kevin Gosztola written earlier this year.

Raven-Symonè Comes Out–via Twitter, No Plans to Marry

Teen star Raven-Symonè, who starred as Bill Cosby’s youngest daughter, Olivia Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and later as the title character on Disney’s That’s So Raven, came out today exclaiming on Twitter:

That’s So Raven, which ran from 2003 to 2007 on the  Disney Channel is still in syndication. The plot centers around Raven Baxter, a teen with supernatural powers who is also a fashion designer. In 2006 she starred in her first dramatic role as Briana McCallister, in the Lifetime Movie For One Night. The made-for-TV drama  was inspired by the true story of an African American teenager who shook up a small town where high school proms had been racially segregated for decades. She has since recorded albums, starred in a short-lived TV comedy series, State of Georgia. She also appeared as the lead in the Broadway version of Sister Act.

Last year Symonè tweeted:

Now Symonè is happy about repeal of DOMA and the SCOTUS ruling on Prop 8–happy enough to pretty much say she’s gay. But don’t rush out get her a wedding present yet. In an exclusive statement to E! News, the actress says:

I am very happy that gay marriage is opening up around the country and is being accepted. I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.


Johnny Depp To Ride as Paul Revere

Johnny Depp will make a Revolutionary midnight ride, and hopefully set the record straight about Paul Revere now that his production company Infinitum Nihil has signed a deal with Disney to produce a film about the silversmith-turned-American hero.

As we were recently reminded in a roundabout way by Sarah Palin, Revere sped to Lexington via rowboat and horseback to alert the militia that the King’s troops were on the march looking to arrest John Hancock and John Adams.

Also in the deal, a movie based on the 70′s supernatural crime drama Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

[H/T Deadline New York]

photo: Ben Spark, creative commons

Miley Cyrus Looking at “Right-to-Work” States for New Movie

Let’s do it without a union!

Teen millionaire star sensation Miley Cyrus is readying to shoot a new movie called Last Song. Miley, who rocketed to fame as the ever pure and perky Hannah Montana, says:

I’ve always been lucky to play parts that relate to me, and this doesn’t at all. I have my issues, but not as bad as this chick. So I’m happy to play someone that’s just kind of out there and not someone that I’m like.

But what is interesting many people is not who Miley’s playing, but where the movie–produced by Offspring Entertainment and distributed by Walt Disney Company–will shoot. Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue canceled a new conference at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington about Last Song coming to that state. North Carolina’s Commerce Department later said more time was needed to work out the project’s details.

Last Song could generate hundreds of jobs for the so-called “right-to-work” state from production crews to extras, plus generate revenue from catering, hotels, transportation and related expenses. In a right-to-work state, no union membership is required to work on film productions, so a greater number of certain positions can be filled from outside of unions, unlike in Hollywood. However, right-to-work does not include actors for studio productions.

Gov. Perdue says Georgia, also a right-to-work state, is eager for the production:

Nobody knows what’s going to happen. … I don’t know what figures they got from Georgia, but Georgia wants them badly, and we want them badly. And by Monday, there’ ll be four or five other states that want them badly.

Many states will offer tax credits and other incentives to lure productions. North Carolina has a 15 percent film incentive package, while Georgia’s can be as much 30 percent. Meanwhile California Gov. Schwarzenegger, himself an actor, has resisted film incentive programs for the state. This year, Hollywood has only three major films scheduled to shoot there (plus California just raised sales and income taxes).

In related news, yesterday, the two actors’ unions which cover the majority of film, television, and radio programs (SAG/AFTRA) came to terms with producers over contracts covering commercials, hopefully paving the way to resolve the looming film and television strike.