While he may have fallen off the front page of newspapers around the world -- at least for now -- there hasn't been a character as fascinating as Julian Assange in quite a while. The man behind Wikileaks has singlehandedly caused government leaders to sweat by leaking classified cables and documents that in many cases have shown politicians bending the truth, lying or covering up facts about a number of diplomatic issues. Hardly surprising. But in an era when fewer journalists seem willing to kick down doors and more complacent to simply report what's handed to them by Washington PR teams, the actions were a severe wake up call. The fact that as a personality, Assange is equally as interesting certainly didn't hurt and as the heat around the shadowy figure grew, so did Hollywood executives' interest, with a number of competing projects now in the works. And two of them are now pulling ahead with documentary filmmakers at the helm.
First, Oscar-winning director of the excellent "Inside Job," Charles Ferguson, has come aboard the project brewing over at HBO Films. Based on Raffi Khatchadourian's June 7, 2010 article in The New Yorker "No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency" (which you can read in full here), the source material centers around Assange and Wikileaks in the days leading up to the release of the now infamous footage from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter as it indiscriminately killed two Reuters reporters, children and other bystanders. Previous to this video being released, the Army denied knowledge of how the Reuters reporter had died.
Highly charged stuff indeed, however, it likely won't be the first Assange film out of the gate. Director Alex Gibney -- who has tackled Enron, Eliot Spitzer, Jack Abramoff, Hunter S. Thompson and Guantanamo Bay in various documentaries -- signed on to a project for Universal earlier this year and recently revealed to 24 Frames that he is well on his way.
"We're moving, and we've been moving for four months," Gibney said about the project which is based on the upcoming biography “The Most Dangerous Man in the World” by journalist Andrew Fowler. However, you can expect him to go deeper and in Gibney's film, Bradley Manning, who was arrested for providing classified intel to Assange will play a big part.
"He's a fascinating figure," Gibney said, "because no one knows if he did it. We only have the word of one convicted hacker [Adrian Lamo, who handed Manning's name to the FBI], and if he did, why he did it."
These are sure to be some provocative films but they are just two of a handful on the way including one from “The Hurt Locker” scribe Mark Boal based on the New York Times Magazine article “The Boy Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: Dealing With Assange And The WikiLeaks Secrets” and a project over at DreamWorks based on the books “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website” and “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.”
If Assange has worked to keep a low profile for now, all of that is about change in a big way.