Assange biographical film narrows lead choice
I always find it strange when a real life story that is still shall we say in development is picked up by a studio to be made into a film. It sometimes suggests that they are leaping at a headline for press; sometimes that there's a genuinely interesting story to tell; sometimes that they are hoping for a strong conclusion before the production ends, and above it all that the story does end before production otherwise the film could be out of date before it leaves the editing room.
Still it can be a gamble worth taking, but I wonder if Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks, is really worthy of a biographical film.
Julian Assange is responsible for creating the WikiLeaks site, a site that came to the fore with some major stories, the release of information marked secret about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then there was the biggest story of all, the release of the diplomatic cables from within the American government.
Both big stories caused governments a lot of reputational harm but they also revealed hitherto secret information, the first set from the war revealing some facts that we could probably argue the public had a right to know, the second I'm not so sure about and does feel more like it's just intended to harm the American government, but that's a personal belief and I can honestly say I haven't been taking that much notice of the "revelations".
Now the man has been accused of sexual assault of a woman in Sweden and rather than head abroad for questioning and clear the case up he took to court battles to stop him being extradited and then hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest.
He says he's scared that he'll be sent to America when he arrives in Sweden and made to answer for leaking secret information, but the authorities say that isn't the case and he was just being sought for questioning for the sexual assault case not to be deported to America.
So there's the story and that's going to make an exciting biographical film is it? I'm not so sure. If the film does get made it will have to either become a political conspiracy thriller or will end up presenting the story as black and white as I just have and it will end up seeming as thought Assange is just trying to avoid answering questions about sexual assault which, quite frankly, it looks like to me.
Is this really going to make much of a film? Well the people behind it think so and they aren't a small time company, you might remember me talking about this before, this is DreamWorks. They are apparently basing it on two different books called WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) and Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com). The first book is written by two Guardian writers and the second is by a man who worked closely beside him for some time.
It all feels a little hyped up though, especially looking at those two titles "war on secrecy" and "world's most dangerous website", really? Now that the two biggest stories in the site's career have passed what impact have they had on the average audience member and are they going to be feeling those titles in association with the man and his website?
The biggest problem the production faces is that the story right now is a man is trying to avoid being deported to face questioning regarding a sexual assault case.
Mind you DreamWorks don't appear to be slowing down and Deadline through The Guardian say that there are two names being associated with playing Assange in the film, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Kinnaman, both surprisingly big names.
I wonder though if they will be willing to take a chance and star in a film when the real life story hasn't come out yet. What happens if it does turn out that he's only being deported for questioning in the sexual assault case and more to the point if he's charged? What would happen then? Would the film be halted or would they carry on and include that part of the story changing the tone of the character?
Making a real life story before it's completed in real life is always a gamble, but this one especially so.