Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has hit out at the makers of a new film about his organisation, calling director Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate “a massive propaganda attack” against the whistle-blowing website and its staff.
Speaking to students at the Oxford Union via a video link from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange said: “It is a lie upon lie. The movie is a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff."
The Fifth Estate, which stars Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, focuses on the early days of Wikileaks and is based on former Wikileaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s 2011 book Inside Wikileaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website.
Assange held what he said was a copy of the film's script in his hand throughout the talk, though he didn’t show it to camera, and said that The Fifth Estate’s opening scenes are set inside an Iranian military complex, where nuclear symbols can clearly be seen in the background.
The implication, he said, is that the country was building a nuclear weapon, and Assange accused The Fifth Estate’s makers of “fanning the flames” of war with Iran. He said: "How does this have anything to do with us?”
Assange then described another scene from the film, in which he said scientists were seen meeting with a US agent. “How is it that a lie gets into a script about WikiLeaks?" he asked.
Prior to Assange’s talk, Condon had issued a statement via the film’s distributor Dreamworks, which said: “It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it's revolutionised the spread of information. So this film won't claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment.
“We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked."
Assange is currently living in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been granted asylum since August 2012. He remains there in an effort to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault. He says he fears being extradited to the United States over his involvement with Wikileaks.
The Fifth Estate, which also features Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis and Peter Capaldi among its cast, will be released in the States in November.