DreamWorks Prepares for Fight With WikiLeaks Over 'The Fifth Estate'

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Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Julian Assange

Julian Assange's whistle-blowing website has complained about the film to its 2 million Twitter followers, but a source tells THR it's not a bad problem to have: "Not everyone knows about WikiLeaks, so this is good for us."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

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DreamWorks and Disney are gearing up for a challenge as they roll out Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate on Oct. 11, with its subject, Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), and his whistle-blowing website continuing to make headlines. In January, after reading the script, Assange denounced the film as "lie upon lie" when speaking to Oxford University students from London's Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been holed up since June 2012.

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"The movie is a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff," he said. When Fifth Estate's first trailer was released in early July, WikiLeaks tweeted to its nearly 2 million followers: "Don't be fooled. It implies that we gave Iran nukes and killed 2,000." But Disney marketers say they aren't concerned. Mark Zuckerberg's vocal displeasure about 2010's The Social Network didn't hurt that film, and last year's Zero Dark Thirty grossed $108.7 million worldwide despite attacks from U.S. senators.

If anything, the studio is hoping to benefit from real-life events. WikiLeaks is in the news thanks to NSA surveillance program leaker Edward Snowden, who has been embraced by Assange. Says one person close to the film, "Not everyone knows about WikiLeaks, so this is good for us."