Fifth Estate - Prominent investigative journalist for The Guardian Ian Katz (Dan Stevens) ©2013 DreamWorks II Distribution, photo by Frank Connor

Primarily known for his role as Matthew Crawley on the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens portrays Ian Katz, the deputy editor of The Guardian newspaper in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, opening on October 18th.

The movie chronicles  the rise of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) as they become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful, eventually founding the infamous website WikiLeaks.

Dan Steven spoke about the movie at the press day for the film.

Did you get to meet Ian Katz?

Fifth Estate – Prominent investigative journalist for The Guardian Ian Katz (Dan Stevens) with the editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger (Peter Capaldi) ©2013 DreamWorks II Distribution, photo by Frank Connor

Ian was very generous with his time and information about the dynamic within the Guardian offices with Assange. It was very interesting getting to meet Ian and getting an insight into really the essence and the ideal of journalism behind this whole moment.

You know just how exciting and thrilling, worrying and scary it was to be a journalist involved in this particular story.

Did you pay much attention to WikiLeaks before you got the role in this movie?

Absolutely, who didn’t? I’m always fascinated by that kind of news. [There’s]  just such a global impact from a story like that. And so when the opportunity came along just to be a small part of this story it was a great honor.

Whichever way you think of Julian Assange, morally or otherwise, somebody like him is a fascinating character to be dropped into our cultural consciousness, and that deserves to be acknowledged and it makes for a great story.

What do you think of Julian Assange now?

Fifth Estate – Prominent investigative journalist for The Guardian Ian Katz (Dan Stevens) and Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), founder of WikiLeaks ©2013 DreamWorks II Distribution, photo by Frank Connor

It’s clear that he has sacrificed a great deal of personal liberty for the sake of his cause. It’s always interesting when people do that.

The conversation that he’s provoked is profound, it changes the way that we think about the truth and about where we get it from, and whether we trust the people who claim to be giving it to us, which includes journalists.

What did you think of Benedict’s performance as Julian?

Fifth Estate – Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens at the Toronto International Film Festival ©2013 DreamWorks II Distribution, photo by Eric Charbonneau

I think it’s phenomenal. I really do. I thought that on set and seeing it on the big screen. It’s a extraordinary piece of work and he does a great job I think of not casting the moral stone too heavily one way or the other.

We’ve been friends for many years. I have always admired his work and I think he just goes from strength to strength.

Do you have any regrets about leaving Downton Abbey?

Fifth Estate – Alicia Vikander and Dan Stevens seen at the Toronto International Film Festival gala ©2013 DreamWorks II Distribution, photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for DreamWorks Pictures/AP Images

No. It was obviously a very difficult decision but it was mine to make and it’s been a very exciting year for me. I was playing one role for three years, and now I’m playing lots of different roles in one year.

Were you happy that Matthew died in a car crash?

Unfortunately the script was delivered far too late to make any changes to that, so it was what it was.

Were your friends and family surprised by the ending?

Yeah, most of my friends didn’t want to know. They knew I was leaving but they didn’t know how and so I deliberately kept it [a secret] so it could be a surprise. People continue to be shocked.

With Downton Abbey becoming this big hit, how has your life been impacted by the tableaus?

Well, I’ve moved to New York so maybe that answers your question (he laughs). I think particularly that show seems to engender a certain kind of tabloid frenzy, which is nice to be out of, I guess.

Will you continue to watch the series?

I will do, but I’ll have to wait till January like everybody else (in America) to see it on PBS.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.