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Cumberbatch, playing Assange, praises WikiLeaks founder’s achievements

TORONTO (Reuters) — 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 achievements.

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,” he said.

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