Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Casting Julian Assange

From an unknown activist and journalist, to one of the world's most sought after people, Julian Assange (wrongly) became the focal point for the Wikileaks diplomatic cables scandal. All of a sudden everyone wanted to know more about this awkward-looking man - be it his allegiances, his motivations or, importantly, his private life.

Inevitably, the source of media fascination became the source of Hollywood fascination. The story of Wikileaks was a story that could make money.

I am in little doubt that the planned Julian Assange/Wikileaks project, scheduled for 2013, will be awful. A sensitive story that has already had its main focus (the cables themselves) distorted and skewed to become a media circus around one man will only suffer further when placed in the hands of Hollywood producers. It is also a story that is far from its conclusion - there are still plenty more cables to be leaked and the fate of Assange is yet to be decided.

But enough about all that trivial stuff, there's a movie to be cast.

Step forward Macaulay Culkin. Or Matt Damon. Or maybe even Tilda Swinton.

The Swinton idea is actually beginning to gain legitimate traction. The resemblance between the Oscar-winning actress and the androgynous Australian journalist is uncanny and people seem to be using Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There as precedent (because, apparently, film casting works like the legal system). As good an actress as she is, a piece of stunt casting like that would give the film no hope of being anything other than dramatic exploitation of a serious event, so, fun as it is, let's rule out this particular idea for now.

Now, Culkin. He's been due a comeback for a while now, he's all grown up (30 years old!) and he can sort of act (watch Saved!). But, seriously, Macaulay Culkin enters back into the movie business to play Julian Assange? Slight resemblances apart, this screams stunt casting once again and there's no guarantee that Culkin could pull it off. It's a no.

Damon's a good actor, one of the few leading men who can more-or-less guarantee a box office draw and has that eternal youthfulness that, combined with a good wig, may make him have a passing resemblance to Assange. But why do I get a terrible feeling he'd butcher an Australian accent?

My choice? Guy Pearce. Far too craggy to play Assange, yes. But he's a incredibly solid actor, is an actual Australian, and will give the film a legitimacy that none of the other actors mentioned would. Also, to anyone who think he looks nothing like Assange, go and watch Factory Girl (though not all the way through, it's awful). Guy Pearce, in a blonde wig and playing Andy Warhol, looks more than a little like Assange. Lose the sunglasses and it might work. Not that the film necessarily will, but if we at least cast a decent actor it would be a start.

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