“To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern, however, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie,” the actor replied to a question posed to him during a Reddit AMA interview.
On Wednesday, WikiLeaks posted Assange’s full letter — dated Jan. 15, 2013, a week before the studio announced The Fifth Estate was beginning production — asking Cumberbatch to “reconsider” his participation in the project.
“I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. … I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about,” Assange wrote.
He then listed at length the reasons why the project would be harmful and attacked the source material for the film, including the book Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg (portrayed by Daniel Bruhl in the thriller).
“This film is going to bury good people doing good work, at exactly the time that the state is coming down on their heads,” Assange wrote.
Cumberbatch had described his correspondence with Assange to The Hollywood Reporter as mostly confidential. “He was pretty keen for me not to do the film, and the rest is sort of between us, really,” the actor said in September.
But in his lengthy response in the Reddit AMA, Cumberbatch detailed why he continued with the project. He explained that the film shows complex and not entirely negative portrayal of the WikiLeaks founder.
“I wanted to create a three dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods,” Cumberbatch wrote. “But a true force to be reckoned with, achieved the realization of the great ideal.”
He added: “I’m proud to be involved in tackling such a contentious character and script. There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus.”
The Bill Condon-directed film, which opened the Toronto International Film Festival in September, is receiving a wide released in the U.S. on Friday.