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Bill Condon on 'Fifth Estate' disaster: Assange just 'wore out his welcome'

Not even the Cumberbitches could save it. By all accounts, The Fifth Estate — Bill Condon’s movie about WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch — was a box office disaster. After a lukewarm reception at Toronto and opening to mixed reviews last month, the film has only made a little over $3 million since its Oct. 18 release. Director Condon told EW he blames the lackluster response on Assange.

“We were all so excited [around the release date] because it was just in the news recently, but the opposite might be true, that it simply wore out its welcome and that there is something about Assange. I do think there’s something about him that does not suggest an evening’s entertainment,” Condon said.

Assange has reportedly called the unauthorized biopic “a massive propaganda attack,” and even urged Cumberbatch to quit the film.
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Critical Mass: Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the WikiLeaks movie, 'The Fifth Estate'

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The Season of Benedict Cumberbatch officially begins on Friday, when the popular Sherlock actor appears in two festival films with Oscar ambitions. In 12 Years a Slave, which opens limited in six cities, he plays a morally compromised slave owner in the 1840s. But it’s The Fifth Estate where Cumberbatch takes center stage, starring as controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Influenced by The Social Network and All the President’s Men, director Bill Condon’s film tells the still-unfolding story of Assange’s underground website, which became a clearinghouse for industrial and state secrets leaked by whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning (né Bradley Manning), the U.S. Army private who published thousands of secret government documents about the wars in the Middle East.

Cumberbatch is icy and intense as Assange, the platinum-haired tech wiz who finds ways to rattle the cages of the most powerful organizations on the planet with a few simple key strokes. Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds) co-stars as Assange’s more idealistic lieutenant, Daniel Berg, while Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci portray the U.S. State Department staffers who can feel the ground shift under their feet when WikiLeaks exposes some of the Americans’ dirty laundry.

One notable critic who’s already chimed in about the movie is Assange himself. Long story short… he didn’t like it. But what about the rest of the nation’s critics? It’s impossible to dislike Cumberbatch, yes? But even if they disapprove, he still has other chances to redeem himself: he also co-stars in the star-studded August: Osage County (Dec. 25), and provided the voice of a certain dragon in The Hobbit sequel (Dec. 13).

Click below to read what the critics are saying:

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)

“Condon is shrewd enough to depict Assange not as a hero but as a scoundrel crusader who tests the power of the Internet. The Fifth Estate is flawed (it grips the brain but not the heart), yet it feverishly exposes the tenor of whistle-blowing in the brave new world, with the Internet as a billboard for anyone out to spill secrets. Call it the anti-social network.” READ FULL STORY

'The Fifth Estate': Laura Linney looks at WikiLeaks from Uncle Sam's perspective -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

In The Fifth Estate, which tells the story of Julian Assange’s crusade to expose the dirty secrets of corporations and governments, director Bill Condon tries to tell the story from both sides. There’s the WikiLeaks team of Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), who are taking down Goliath one cyber sling-shot at a time. And then there’s the scrambling U.S. government, represented best in the movie by a mid-level State Department bureaucrat played by Laura Linney. She’s important enough to be able to sign Hillary Clinton’s name on her briefs and smart enough to realize the danger that Assange represents — basically that the genie is out of the bottle.

In an exclusive video for the movie, which opens in theaters on Oct. 18, Linney, Condon, and Stanley Tucci discuss the government’s side of the equation — and how WikiLeaks’ actions impacted those literally and figuratively caught in the crossfire.

Click below for the video: READ FULL STORY

WikiLeaks leaks 'The Fifth Estate' script, rips 'work of fiction masquerading as fact'

When The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon’s movie about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, virtually every member of the cast and crew who walked the red carpet was playfully asked whether they suspected Assange himself had somehow hacked into the screening and was watching the film from a secure location. Assange, who’d already publicly denounced the project, remained mostly silent as it debuted in Toronto. Well, not anymore. In a tweet sent yesterday, WikiLeaks said, “As WikiLeaks was never consulted about the upcoming Hollywood film on us, we’ve given our advice for free: It’s bad.”

Linked to the tweet, WikiLeaks posted what it calls a “mature version” of Josh Singer’s’s Fifth Estate screenplay, along with an extensive memo that calls the movie “irresponsible, counterproductive and harmful.” While the movie depicts Assange righteously exposing American secrets, including the names of government informants around the globe, WikiLeaks denies that anyone was harmed and refers to the U.S. government’s own case against Assange as evidence. According to WikiLeaks, the film “is a work of fiction masquerading as fact” that was based on two outdated books written by people with personal or legal grudges against WikiLeaks. “These authors had an interest in portraying Julian Assange as dishonest or manipulative for competitive, personal and legal reasons,” WikiLeaks said in its memo. “It is hard to imagine how a film which aims to dramatise only their version of events could genuinely aspire to being fair or accurate.” READ FULL STORY

Toronto 2013: 'The Fifth Estate' is a feverish tale of cyberjournalism

The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon’s feverishly edgy and exciting drama about the events surrounding WikiLeaks and its infamous founder, the renegade Australian journalist-anarchist Julian Assange, is one of the only movies I’ve seen that really gets, in the rollicking density of its storytelling DNA, how the Internet has changed everything. It’s easy to see why Condon, returning from the Twilight zone to his role as a serious entertainer (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters), wanted to make this movie. In form, it’s a vintage journalism thriller, a nihilistic newspaper drama for the dark digital age. Assange, played by the rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch, is a tall, slit-eyed, hooded creature who presents himself — accurately — as a new kind of information warrior, a subversive of the cyber era who will publish anything that exposes fraud, corruption, violence, the sins of corporations and governments. He isn’t too discriminating: The documents come right at him, from anonymous leakers around the globe, and apart from his promise to expose those documents to the widest audience imaginable, the only service he provides is protecting the whistleblowers. Their identities, he assures, will be shrouded in the layers of obfuscation made possible by computer technology. READ FULL STORY

Toronto: 'The Fifth Estate' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl are vulnerable to the wrath of Assange

Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl probably shouldn’t store any compromising materials on their phones or computers.

The stars of the WikiLeaks cyber-drama The Fifth Estate admit they would be easy targets for vengeful hackers.

Or even friendly ones.

Brühl, who plays conscience-stricken WikiLeaks activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg, met the real-life man during filming and said this computer savvy underwhelmed the tech mastermind.

“When I first met Daniel, he told me it would take him probably five minutes to get into my computer and get all the information. So I changed my passwords — and now I don’t remember them,” Brühl said at the movie’s Toronto International Film Festival press conference.

Cumberbatch, who stars as divisive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, also admitted to being “computer illiterate.” READ FULL STORY

Ian McKellen to play Sherlock Holmes in 'A Slight Trick of the Mind'

Richard III, Gandalf, Magneto … and now Sherlock Holmes.

Ian McKellen has added Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s uncanny sleuth to his list of literary incarnations, having agreed to play Holmes in director Bill Condon’s upcoming film A Slight Trick of the Mind.

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'The Fifth Estate' trailer: Governments and banks tremble in true-life Wikileaks thriller

In an age when no one’s privacy is safe, even Big Brother has to worry about keeping his secrets.

The debut trailer for The Fifth Estate, a true-life thriller about the hemorrhage of government data in the Wikileaks age, depicts the early years of the clash between the most powerful nation on Earth and a group of well-connected hacker journalists.

Judging by the trailer, the movie seems to lean toward celebrating the rebel forces of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his Wikileaks brethren, but director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) tells EW that’s not his intent.

“The movie presents him neither as hero or villain. We just try to present who he is and let you make up your mind,” Condon says. “I think, in fact, he’s neither.”

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Check out Benedict Cumberbatch as Wikileaks' Julian Assange in 'The Fifth Estate' -- FIRST LOOK

The year of Benny Batch continues! DreamWorks announced today that principal photography has commenced on its heretofore untitled feature film about the creation of the controversial website WikiLeaks and its co-founder and international fugitive Julian Assange. Now titled The Fifth Estate, the film traces the meteoric rise of the site through the eyes of Assange colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He’s played by Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Brühl, who’s pictured above with Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange in the first official image from the film. Bleached white hair is eerily becoming on Mr. Cumberbatch, is it not?  READ FULL STORY

Meet Renesmee! Mackenzie Foy of 'Breaking Dawn -- Part 2'

The character of Renesmee, the half-human, half-vampire baby maturing at an unnatural rate, lies at the heart of the drama in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.

And picking the right actress was essential. “It’s a hugely important part, says director Bill Condon, who spotted Mackenzie Foy, now 11, early on in the audition process. “But this was kind of obvious. It was one of those rare times when you see something — like with an apartment or house — and it feels good and you just need to take it. I felt that way, like, ‘Oh, this is good.’”

Foy grew up outside of Los Angeles and has been working steadily — she booked her first gig, modeling for Ralph Lauren at the age of 3 — modeling, appearing in commercials, and acting on TV shows such as ‘Til Death, Hawaii Five-O, and Flashforward. She picked up some new skills while shooting Breaking Dawn, thanks to her famous costars. Taylor Lautner taught her how to throw a football and Kristen Stewart gave her tips on summoning tears onscreen. (“She said to think of something sad for a very long time.”)

The actress, who is homeschooled, just completed fifth grade. She says hopes to continue being an actress — and eventually a director — for the rest of her life. But in the near future?  “I’m going to swim and eat popsicles.”

For more on Breaking Dawn—Part 2, and to see exclusive photos from the film, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale now.

Read more:
EW’s new ‘Breaking Dawn — Part 2′ cover
‘Breaking Dawn 2′: 10 New Photos!
New ‘Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2′ posters:

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