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Page 3 Profile: Benedict Cumberbatch, actor playing Julian Assange

He looks a bit pasty! Is he ill?

No, he’s in costume. It’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a new film, The Fifth Estate, due to be released tomorrow.

They do look scarily alike…

Yes, but Assange isn’t worried about finding a lookalike to replace him in the Ecuadoran embassy, where he’s currently holed up. He even wrote Cumberbatch a letter in response to a request by the actor to meet him in person before the film started shooting.

Oh no, first Miley and Sinead, now this.

This letter is done with a lot more panache. Although written in January, it was only made public last night by WikiLeaks. He begins by saying he “would enjoy meeting” the 37-year-old actor, but from there on in he sounds more and more like a villain addressing a meeting of world leaders in a spy movie.

OK, I’m imagining him stroking a big fluffy white cat, sitting on a swivel chair...

Exactly. He writes: “I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film,” and that “it is going to smother the truthful version of events.” It boils down to Assange being annoyed that Dreamworks, the studio behind the film, is basing it on books that he says are “most discredited on the market”. He concludes: “By meeting with you I would validate this wretched film”.

Does Cumberbatch regret getting involved now?

Unlikely. The actor isn’t a stranger to activism himself and he’s had his fair share of hefty roles. Since graduating from the University of Manchester, he’s played Stephen Hawking, Sherlock Holmes, and will play code-breaker Alan Turing in a film next year. He’s also found time to give an anti-austerity speech at a TUC rally and support pressure group Liberty.

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