Benedict Cumberbatch to play Julian Assange in biopic..Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks.

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Movie Studios Spar Over Wikileaks

Published on 6 Jul 2012 by WSJDigitalNetwork

Movie studios are jostling to be the first to bring the story of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, to the big screen. But when Hollywood attempts to harness a swift-moving news story, the task can be complicated. Erica Orden has details on Lunch Break.

Benedict Cumberbatch in line to play Julian Assange in biopic

Sherlock actor could follow turns in The Hobbit and Twelve Years a Slave with starring role in story of WikiLeaks founder

Ben Child, Wednesday 3 October 2012 11.30 BST


Life through a lens … Benedict Cumberbatch and Julian Assange. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features/Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Benedict Cumberbatch is in line to play Julian Assange in a forthcoming biopic about the WikiLeaks founder, reports Deadline.

Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio is basing its film on the books WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, by Guardian writers David Leigh and Luke Harding, and Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website, written by Assange's former right-hand man Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Both books were optioned by the studio last year. Deadline says Joel Kinnaman of the US version of The Killing, who was recently cast as the new Robocop, could play Domscheit-Berg.

The casting news suggests that Jeremy Renner, who had previously been tipped to play Assange, is no longer in the running. Bill Condon, the man behind The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One and Two, remains the studio's first choice to direct.

Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex-crime accusations. His lawyer has argued that his client would not receive a fair trial, and Assange also fears he could face extradition to the United States.

The WikiLeaks film was previously reported to be pitched somewhere between The Social Network and All the President's Men, and is one of a number of mooted projects about Assange doing the rounds. Others include an Australian TV movie, in which Anthony LaPaglia plays a cop tracking the young Assange as he embarks on his early career as a hacker in Melbourne, a fictional account of the activist's adventures in internet dating by Khodorkovsky director Cyril Tuschi, and a second TV film from the HBO stable.

Cumberbatch has so much work on his plate that fans of his turn as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC TV series Sherlock may be wondering how he plans to fit series three into his schedule. The British actor plays a headline-grabbing villain role in the next Star Trek film, titled Into Darkness, and is voicing both the dragon, Smaug, and the Necromancer in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. He will also star in Steve McQueen's Twelve Years a Slave, and has a role lined up in the forthcoming big-screen adaptation of the Pulitzer and Tony-winning play August: Osage County opposite Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.