Playing Wikileaks founder and polarizing public figure Julian Assange is not an easy assignment. He's so well known by the general public, that simply by trying to put on that peculiar accent and that long grey wig, it could easily slip into parody. Even a mighty fine actor could buckle under that task. But was up to the challenge and is ready to deliver a genuine performance, not one of the walking wax statues that we see every Oscar season.
With director behind the camera, Cumberbatch had all the help he needed during the filming of The Fifth Estate. Condon has gotten some of the best performances out of truly great actors: was robbed an Oscar for his performance in Dreamgirls; did moving work in Kinsey; was lovely in Gods & Monsters which also featured arguably the finest performance has ever given. Obviously, he is no stranger to pulling strong performances from his actors.
But The Fifth Estate remains a lofty challenge. Speaking with Condon, he described the process of working with Mr. Cumberbatch, and when you just have to say "fuck it":
Benedict is so meticulous. He has a difficult burden in that this guy he's meant to be embodying is all over the news. Australian accents are incredibly hard, but it's not just Australian, it's Assange. His accent has oddities in it. There's parts that sound flat and Dutch, and God knows where it came from. So, I think there was a point in which he was so obsessed with that, he went, 'Fuck it.' Not that he wasn't still in post doing ADR, but there was a sense it had to be his version [of Assange]. I remember saying to him his greatest gift is his voice and that he shouldn't lose that. Julian's voice is so dry. Benedict gets that. He's a great actor and entertainer.
No Cumberbatch fan would disagree with that compliment. It's a fine performance, and not just because we get to see Cumberbatch breaking out some lovingly nerdy dance moves in one scene. There's a sense of menace, pain, hate, love, ego, and good intentions to this Assange, and Cumberbatch finds a way of portraying all those emotions just right.
The Fifth Estate opens in theaters October 18th.