Benedict Cumberbatch plays Julian Assange: first picture

Jan 23, 2013

Hair is the right colour, but British actor looks more 'drag queen' than WikiLeaks founder

HE IS sporting the Australian whistleblower's trademark white-blond hair and inscrutable stare, but the first photograph of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the upcoming movie The Fifth Estate has not convinced everyone.

Comments on Twitter ranged from "He [Cumberbatch] looks like a drag queen on a day off" to "Oh God, no…".

In the photograph, released to coincide with the start of principal photography, Cumberbatch’s dyed blond mane looks considerably longer than the neat short-back-and-sides worn by the WikiLeaks founder in appearances at the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been living since June last year.

The Guardian explains that’s because the film – which is partly based on a book called WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, by two of its journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding – explores the whistleblowing site’s early years.

The man standing next to Cumberbatch is the Spanish-born German actor Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds) who plays the activist’s confidante and spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The film is directed by Bill Condon, who made the Twilight Saga movie Breaking Dawn, and the cast includes Laura Linney, David Thewlis and Peter Capaldi.

Variety says Assange is "expected to be portrayed as a noble crusader who eventually becomes drunk with power as he grows increasingly paranoid and obsessed with winning the 'war of information'."

The film is "clearly being pushed as an awards contender for 2014", says The Guardian. Two more films about WikiLeaks are on the drawing board, the paper says, but The Fifth Estate looks certain to be the first to reach cinemas. It will open in the US on 15 November; there’s no word of a UK release date yet.

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