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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Billionaire Trump donor to sue Benedict Cumberbatch Brexit film producers

Cambridge Analytica's Robert Mercer claims film's alleged meeting with leave campaigners never took place

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings in 'Brexit: The Uncivil War'. Courtesy Channel 4
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings in 'Brexit: The Uncivil War'. Courtesy Channel 4

The Channel 4 political drama Brexit: The Uncivil War is facing a legal challenge from one of the real life figures portrayed in the film.

Billionaire Donald Trump donor Robert Mercer is set to sue Channel 4 over his portrayal in the movie. The film, which tells the story of the bitter, and often underhand, battle for votes in the UK’s EU referendum, was directed by Toby Haynes from a script by playwright James Graham, and starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Vote Leave founder Dominic Cummings.

The 90-minute film premiered in the region on BBC First last night and is now available to watch on demand on OSN Play, and included a brief scene featuring a meeting between UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Arron Banks of Leave.EU and Robert Mercer, who is a billionaire backer of right-wing political causes in the US.

Left: Billionaire Robert Mercer, who is set to sue Channel 4 for his portrayal 'Brexit: The Uncivil War'. Right: Actor Aden Gillett, who played Mercer in the Channel 4 movie. Getty Images, Rex / Shutterstock
Left: Billionaire Robert Mercer, who is set to sue Channel 4 for his portrayal 'Brexit: The Uncivil War'. Right: Actor Aden Gillett, who played Mercer in the Channel 4 movie. Getty Images, Rex / Shutterstock

In the scene the character of Mercer, played by Aden Gillett, described Brexit as a “key front in our cultural war against the political class” and speaks to Banks about “one of my other little projects,” the data firm Cambridge Analytica. The character adds: “Money is one thing, Mr Banks, but data is power. You see, this is all just beginning.”

According to a report in The Sunday Times, however, Mr Mercer denies ever meeting Banks, and alleges that the drama incorrectly portrayed him as being complicit in criminal wrongdoing.

The businessman, a former co-owner of right-wing “alt-news” site Breitbart and one of the biggest donors to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has reportedly sent a formal letter to Channel 4 outlining his complaint for defamation, and also complaining that he was not consulted prior to broadcast.

The character of Mercer only appears on screen in the film for about 90 seconds of the 90-minute run time.

In 2017, former Leave.EU communications director Andy Wigmore alleged that Mercer “introduced” Leave.EU figures to data firm Cambridge Analytica, though the company stated only initial meetings took place, and denied any formal relationship with the campaign. A report from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office in November found there was “no evidence that [Cambridge Analytica] were involved in any data analytics work with the EU Referendum campaigns.”

Cambridge Analytica, which was co-founded by Mr Mercer, shut down in May 2018 after it was accused of harvesting Facebook data without permission to create personalised adverts in an effort to sway elections.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said the company does not comment on ongoing legal matters.

*Brexit: The Uncivil War is available on demand on OSN Play now

Updated: March 4, 2019 03:54 PM

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