Julian Assange’s letter to Benedict Cumberbatch may not have stopped the actor from portraying him in The Fifth Estate, but it did give him pause.
Cumberbatch was asked Friday if Assange’s strongly worded letter—in which the WikiLeaks founder calls the film “toxic” and Cumerbatch a “hired gun”—made him second guess his involvement in the film.
“Yes, of course it did,” Cumberbatch said in an “Ask Me Anything” thread on the website Reddit. “To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern.” The actor said that ultimately, however, the letter forced him to think constructively about why he was doing the movie. “He accuses me of being a ‘hired gun’ as if I am an easily bought cypher for right wing propaganda. Not only do I NOT operate in a moral vacuum but this was not a pay day for me at all,” he said. “I’ve worked far less hard for more financial reward.”
Cumberbatch said he did The Fifth Estate because the WikiLeaks story resonates with his “beliefs in civil liberty, a healthy democracy, and the human rights of both communities and individuals to question those in authority.” He wanted to remind people, he said, that Assange “is not just a weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods. But a true force to be reckoned with, [sic] achieved the realization of the great ideal.”