Steven Spielberg's studio Dreamworks has bought the screen rights to two books on the notorious WikiLeaks site and its eccentric founder Julian Assange. DreamWorks reportedly wants to make an "investigative thriller" modeled after All The President's Men, recounting the extraordinary leaking of confidential documents on Afghanistan, Iraq, and U.S. diplomatic relations. Here, a quick guide to what could be next year's The Social Network:
Which books will the movie be based on?
Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, written by journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, and Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The former tells the story of Assange's dealings with The Guardian newspaper over the Iraq, Afghanistan and diplomatic cable leaks, while the latter is a look at how WikiLeaks operates, written by Assange's former second-in-command.
What kind of movie will it be?
A lot like The Social Network, says Mike Fleming at Deadline New York. That film's use of "actual testimony from the lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg" alongside fictionalized retelling of events is a "good template for what they are thinking" for the WikiLeaks movie. It's likely to be an investigative thriller with action, drama, and even a hint of farce, says Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian. "It's Woodward and Bernstein meets Stieg Larsson meets Jason Bourne." The character of Assange is "beyond what any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare to invent."
Is this the only WikiLeaks movie in the works?
Far from it. A documentary directed by Alex Gibney will be completed next year, while HBO and the BBC are reportedly collaborating on a film based on Raffi Khatchadourian's celebrated New Yorker profile of Assange. Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal has bought the rights to Bill Keller's account of working with Assange in The New York Times magazine, while CAA is touting the rights to Assange's forthcoming memoir. WikiLeaks is the "next big thing" in Hollywood right now, says Russ Fischer at /Film.
Who might play Julian Assange?
"I would say Jude Law," says Rosie Gray at Black Book, "but he's way too good-looking." After The King's Speech, "Colin Firth might make a great Assange, no?" says Leila Brillson at Switched. We think a "peroxide-headed James McAvoy" would be perfect for the role, says Kyle Buchanan at New York. And Assange's own, improbable casting choice? Will Smith.
Is a WikiLeaks film likely to connect with audiences?
It has all the ingredients, says Gray at BlackBook. "Intrigue, crime, mysterious characters, travel, Australian accents." And as far as movies about technology nerds go, "Julian Assange is way more villainous and complex than Mark Zuckerberg." We're not so sure, says Kevin Jagernauth at IndieWire. Assange may be an "intriguing important figure, but whether or not his story translates into box office success remains to be seen."
What does Assange say about all this?
The man himself hasn't commented, but WikiLeaks responded to the news with a derisive, not entirely coherent tweet: "This is how bullshit ends up being history."