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Benedict Cumberbatch: Toronto's Man of the Festival

The team from The Fifth Estate talk about Julian Assange’s achievements.

With three films premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, it was easy to see why TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey had called actor Benedict Cumberbatch “the man of the festival”.

But as the Sherlock star sat down with cast and crew for a press conference following Thursday night’s world premiere of The Fifth Estate, it was clear the real star of the evening had been Julian Assange.

“I think personally that we show a man and his idea and the integrity and self-sacrifice he had to pursue to see that through,” Cumberbatch said of the film, which portrays the rise and fall of the famous WikiLeaks founder.

“I think there’s a lot to celebrate about his achievements.”

The Fifth Estate tells the story of Assange and WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (played by Daniel Brühl) leading up to the public release of 251,000 confidential documents by their organization back in February 2010.

But even though the film focuses on the recent history of the group, director Bill Condon said he was primarily drawn to the story - which was adapted by screenwriter Josh Singer - due to its depiction of how behind the scenes events can impact global society.

“What I found interesting when I first read Josh’s script is that - as with Kinsey or Gods and Monsters - this was somebody whose public acts are very much informed by this fanfare around who he is,” Condon said.

“So you could tell a private story and describe behavior behind the scenes that illuminate all the things that we know about, so that there isn’t this disconnect between somebody in the bedroom who has nothing to do with what he’s doing. It’s all part of the same thing and part of the same puzzle.”

Cumberbatch ““interpretation”

But for such a public figure, Cumberbatch had his share of issues preparing for the role, describing his depiction of him as being an “interpretation” of his character due to never being able to meet the WikiLeaks frontman in person. (Assange has also stated his lack of support for the film.)

Nevertheless, Cumberbatch and Condon had nothing but good things to say about the anarchist activist group, with the director shining all of the film’s praise on Assange and his organization’s inspiring efforts.

“He’s an absolute pioneer and he’s made a huge difference,” Condon added.

“He opened the door that Edward Snowden just walked through. For all those reasons, I think he’s an extremely admirable figure.”

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