Race is on to cash in on WikiLeaks

Rival Hollywood studios and publishers rush to tell Julian Assange's story

Emily Dugan
Sunday 23 January 2011 01:00

The self-perpetuating legend of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has prompted a scramble for multimillion-pound windfalls in the shape of books and negotiations for two feature films.

Mr Assange is on bail over allegations of sexual assault. Nevertheless, he is in discussions with a studio on a feature film based on his autobiography, which will be published in April.

Meanwhile, rival Hollywood studios Josephson Entertainment and Michelle Krumm Productions have jointly bought the rights to a biopic based on Australian journalist Andrew Fowler's biography of the internet campaigner, The Most Dangerous Man in the World, which has yet to be published.

Mr Assange set up the whistleblowing website in 2006. But WikiLeaks was largely ignored until it published extracts of US military documents obtained by whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Mr Assange negotiated a book deal worth more than £1m last month. WikiLeaks Versus the World: My Story is published in the UK and at least another 12 countries on 7 April. Other books claiming to give the "inside story" are being rushed into print.

Public relations consultant Mark Borkowski, who was approached to handle publicity for the website after Mr Manning's revelations, said, with no apparent irony: "It's the most compelling story of our time. It's like Bourne Identity, 24 and James Bond all coming together. The face of Julian Assange will soon replace the Che Guevara image."

Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Next month, WikiLeaks's former spokesman, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, publishes his own, rather less breathless, version of events, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website. He left the site after disagreements over the way it was run.

Mark Stephens, Mr Assange's London-based solicitor, confirmed his client is now in talks with Hollywood while dismissing rival projects. "We refer to [them] as the biographies of the blind. Assange has been approached by a proper studio to make one, as opposed to a film of the blind." He added that any biopic that did not involve the man himself would have difficulty navigating libel law.

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