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Saving private Assange

Steven Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks, has bought the movie rights to a book critical of Julian Assange, The Guardian reported.

Steven Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks, has bought the movie rights to a book critical of Julian Assange, The Guardian reported. The founder of the infamous WikiLeaks is not at all enthusiastic about the director's plans for fear that he will not be portrayed quite how he would like to appear.

Exposing the exposer

The book in question is the recently published WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh. The screenplay, which has yet to be written, will likely include material from another book, Inside WikiLeaks, which DreamWorks has already acquired the rights to. The author, former WikiLeaks employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg, presents an unflattering portrait of his former colleague. He describes Assange's many shortcomings and the many differences of opinion between them.

After the release of Inside WikiLeaks, an enraged Assange threatened to sue Domscheit-Berg. Assange also fired a shot across the bow of the authors of WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, in which the Internet whistleblower is portrayed as egocentric and authoritarian.

Assange allegedly accused David Leigh of being part of a "Jewish conspiracy" against him, though Assange denies having said this.

But the controversy does not end there. Luke Harding was denied entry to Russia shortly after his book was published. He was later issued a visa.

Quite a character

The project only has a working title at this point, WikiLeaks: The Movie. No screenwriter, director, or actors are attached. Yet the makings of a great movie are already discernable. The Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, believes that Assange is a "compelling character who goes beyond what any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare to invent."

But Hollywood is just one of Assange's many problems. The United States government, the primary target of WikiLeaks so far, wants to bring him to justice. Assange has repeatedly expressed his fear that if he winds up in U.S. custody, he could be spirited away to Guantanamo Bay, or face the death penalty in an espionage trial.

These fears are not entirely unfounded. Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who gave WikiLeaks its treasure trove of sensitive government documents, could face life in prison or the death penalty for his part in the leak.

Bullshit as history

The long arm of American law is not long enough for the moment. But it appears that Assange will be extradited to Sweden, where he stands accused of sex crimes. Legal problems aside, a movie based on books written by Assange's detractors will obviously not improve his battered image. Assange is outraged that Spielberg's studio seemed to make a point of ignoring Assange's own memoirs, which he is currently working on. On Twitter, Assange was scathing in his criticism of Spielberg's plans: "This is how bullshit ends up being history."

Assange may very well see the project as hit piece ordered by the State Department or the Pentagon. One thing is for sure: with the legendary Spielberg at the helm, the movie will surely be seen by millions, if not billions of people.

So what is Spielberg's interest in Assange? I think the director is simply captivated by the story of an extraordinary personality who went up against some of the most powerful people in the world.

Spielberg's filmography is as varied as it is vast, from the thriller "Jaws" to the biopic "Catch Me If You Can," which tells the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a young and brilliant con man in the 1960s, who manages to evade capture for years. The film is based on Abagnale's memoirs, and he also worked as a consultant on the film. Perhaps Assange could be assuaged by a similar offer.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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