Cumberbatch on Manning: He Took an Oath and He Broke that Oath

Cumberbatch on Manning: He Took an Oath and He Broke that Oath

British actor Benedict Cumberbatch shot to fame with his role as Sherlock Holmes, and now he’s creating Oscar buzz as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the movie The Fifth Estate. Cumberbatch was interviewed by The Guardian about the movie, and it may come as a surprise that the British actor does not necessarily agree with Assange and whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

A day before filming began, Cumberbatch said Assange sent him a 10-page email begging him not to do the movie. Cumberbatch considered it, but ultimately told Assange he would make the movie. He said it would not be a documentary, but only for entertainment. 

Cumberbatch told The Guardian he took the role because he is “a vain actor,” not because of moral reasons or to celebrate what Assange did. The Afghanistan war leaks Assange published in 2010, given to him by Manning, did horrify Cumberbatch, but it was not enough to change his mind. Cumberbatch is sympathetic towards Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the leaks, but thinks he should not receive a presidential pardon.

“But he broke a law. He knew what he was doing.” Manning has applied for a presidential pardon, but Cumberbatch can’t see why Obama should grant it. “He did what he did out of a conviction that an alarm bell needed to be sounded. But his superiors might have been right to say to him, it’s not your position to be worried about it within the hierarchy of the military organisation, which is why he had to be sentenced. He took an oath, and he broke that oath.”

It is interesting to note that the actor does not call Manning “Chelsea” or “she”; Manning said he wanted to be called “Chelsea” after his sentencing and is seeking a sex change.

Assange came out in support of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on the NSA surveillance program. Cumberbatch does not like the idea of someone reading his emails, but said something good might happen because of it:

Oh, but you might have stopped me from being killed on a tube I took last Wednesday. If they are saving lives, how can we say that’s less important than civil liberties? You don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead. Isn’t it hypocritical to say, we should know everything about you as a government, but the government can’t know anything about us? Assange argues for total transparency for powerful institutions, and total privacy for individuals. But if you are a private individual who’s packing semtex to kill people and destroy what we know as democracy for political purposes, then you’re more than just a private individual.

The Fifth Estate will be released in the United States on October 18 and co-stars Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney. It is based on WikiLeaks former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website.