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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.

Benedict Cumberbatch and 'The Fifth Estate' debacle

The Toronto Film Festival is the springboard for movies with Oscar aspirations. The last six Best Picture winners played in Toronto, so when the festival named The Fifth Estate its opening-night premiere, people assumed that Bill Condon’s WikiLeaks movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the frosty Julian Assange was a bona fide Oscar contender. Condon has an Oscar pedigree (Gods and Monsters), Assange is a mysterious, polarizing figure who remains in the headlines, and Cumberbatch is an on-the-verge actor with a passionate fanbase. The Fifth Estate had all the makings of another Toronto success story, like Argo or Silver Linings Playbook.

But The Fifth Estate stumbled out of the gate with a lukewarm reception in Toronto, and that verdict was nothing compared to the giant collective yawn that awaited the film upon its opening weekend. Critics were unkind, but nowhere near as callous as the paying public. Playing in more than 1,700 theaters, DreamWorks’ cyber-thriller earned just $1.7 million, making it one of the limpest opening weekends of any wide release this year. Paranoia, the Harrison Ford/Gary Oldman corporate espionage stinker, performed better. As did Movie 43, the star-studded comedy anthology designed to make The Kentucky Fried Movie look like Casablanca. Not the neighborhood any movie wants to find itself, much less one with such high hopes.

“We’re certainly disappointed by the results,” Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief, told Variety, “and we’re still trying to figure out the ‘whys.’”

Box office report: 'Gravity' scores third weekend win with $31 million; 'Carrie' and 'Escape Plan' both underwhelm


There’s no force strong enough to pull Warner Bros.’ $100 million smash Gravity back down to Earth. The film, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, easily maintained its perch atop the box office in its third weekend, dropping just 28 percent to $31 million — good for a $170.6 million total after just 17 days.

Gravity is already the tenth highest-grossing film of 2013 in the U.S. (it surpassed Bullock’s other vehicle, The Heat, this weekend), and appears to be headed for a finish of at least $250 million, which would put it ahead of director Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which grossed $249.5 million in 2004. Worldwide, Gravity has already earned $284.8 million.

Sony’s $55 million Tom Hanks drama Captain Phillips spent a second week in second place, dipping 33 percent to $17.3 million for a $53.3 million total after ten days. The well-reviewed film is playing well ahead of Argo, which had earned $43 million at the same point in its run last year en route to a $136 million finish. Captain Phillips will need some major awards attention in the following months to reach those heights, but thanks to great word-of-mouth, it should reach (or get close to) $100 million domestically. READ FULL STORY

Box office disaster: Benedict Cumberbatch's 'The Fifth Estate' has worst debut of 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch knows he has a rabid base of Tumblr-obsessed fans. When asked whether he was worried that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might attack his new drama The Fifth Estate, in which he plays the infamous hacker, Cumberbatch kept his cool: “The Cumberitches have got my back,” he told EW.

But, as it turns out, the Cumberbitches didn’t have his back this weekend — at least not at the box office. The Fifth Estate bombed in its opening weekend with a truly awful $1.7 million from 1,769 theaters, making it the worst debut for a film opening in at least 1,500 theaters this year. (Sorry, Paranoia!) The film, which cost DreamWorks a reported $26 million to produce, earned tepid reviews from critics and could only manage an anemic $969 location average.

Just how bad is that? Well, let’s put this in perspective. Notorious stinker Movie 43 grossed $4.8 million in its opening weekend in January, almost three times as much as The Fifth Estate. Getaway, the ludicrously awful Ethan Hawke/Selena Gomez thriller drove away with $4.5 million in August. Heck, this weekend’s Arnold Schwarznegger/Sylvester Stallone action flick Escape Plan bombed with $9.8 million — and that’s still almost six times more money than The Fifth Estate made!

Luckily, there is a silver lining for Cumberbatch. His other vehicle, 12 Years a Slave, proved powerful in limited release this weekend, drawing $960,000 from just 19 theaters, which yielded a terrific $50,526 per theater average — not to mention boatloads of early Oscar buzz.

For the full weekend box office report: ‘Gravity’ scores third weekend win with $31 million.

Check out a trailer for The Fifth Estate below.  READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Gravity' stays on top with $9.1 million, 'Carrie' off to disappointing start


Gravity can not be stopped — not by a telekinetic teenager, not by a WikiLeaks hacker, not even by the hulking threat of Arnold Schwarznegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Warner Bros.’ $100 million drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney drew another $9.1 million on Friday, marking a scant 28 percent drop from last Friday. Gravity may pull in about $32 million over the weekend, which would bring its total to an incredible $171 million after just 17 days.

In second place, Screen Gems and MGM’s $30 million horror remake Carrie stumbled out of the gate with $6.6 million. Since horror movies are typically quite frontloaded, the film will likely finish the frame with about $16 million — well below predictions that had the film earning at least $20 million.

Captain Phillips finished in third place with $5.2 million, but it may surpass Carrie by Sunday night and finish the weekend in second place with about $17 million. Sony’s $55 million Tom Hanks drama will have accrued about $53 million after ten days.

Summit’s Stallone/Schwarznegger action entry, Escape Plan, which cost a reported $70 million to produce, only locked up $3.6 million on its opening day. The prison-escape movie could earn only $9.5 million in its opening weekend — joining the ranks of the stars’ recent flops Bullet to the Head and The Last Stand.

At least Escape Plan fared better than Benedict Cumberbatch’s WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate, which earned an anemic $587,000 from 1,769 theaters, yielding an awful $332 daily per theater average. The film may earn about $1.5 million total over the weekend. Ouch.

1. Gravity – $9.1 million
2. Carrie – $6.6 million
3. Captain Phillips – $5.2 million
4. Escape Plan – $3.6 million
5. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $2.6 million

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report.

Critical Mass: Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the WikiLeaks movie, 'The Fifth Estate'


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

Box office preview: Will 'Carrie' bring 'Gravity' back down to earth?

It’s prom night in October, and although horror remake Carrie is eying a solid debut, the film will have to work some major box office magic to prevent Gravity from being crowned queen for a third weekend. Carrie isn’t the only new wide release hitting theaters — there’s also Escape Plan and The Fifth Estate, whose prospects are decidedly dimmer.

Here’s how the box office might shake out this weekend:

1. Gravity – $34 million
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are headed to another massive weekend at the box office. Gravity only fell by 23 percent last weekend — and that was against the opening of Captain Phillips. This time around, there aren’t any well-reviewed adult dramas attracting attention, and Gravity may fall by an even slimmer 20 percent to about $34 million for a remarkable $173 million total.

Julian Assange writes open letter to Benedict Cumberbatch; Cumberbatch responds

It’s no secret that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, aren’t exactly crazy about Bill Condon’s WikiLeaks film The Fifth Estate. Last month, the anti-secrecy organization leaked a copy of the film’s script alongside a memo that called Condon’s movie “irresponsible, counterproductive and harmful.” WikiLeaks announced the memo with a tweet that briefly and critically appraises the movie — “As WikiLeaks was never consulted about the upcoming Hollywood film on us, we’ve given our advice for free: It’s bad.”

This week, WikiLeaks has thrown more fuel on the fire by posting a letter from Assange himself — purportedly sent to Fifth Estate star Benedict Cumberbatch immediately before the film began shooting in mid-January. The movie stars Cumberbatch as Assange.


'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

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