Benedict Cumberbatch: 19 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the Man Behind Smaug
Having tackled Sherlock and Khan over the past few years, Benedict Cumberbatch is certainly no stranger to playing iconic roles. And he’s just added one more.
Cumberbatch finally gives us a taste of dragon Smaug in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” out Friday, December 13. While Cumberbatch can’t really “play” the CGI dragon on screen, the English actor was instrumental in Smaug’s creation — and, of course, also voices the mythical creature.
Whether or not you’ve seen Cumberbatch on the big screen or the stage of late (it’s hard to miss him!), there’s still much to know about this rising star. From his African abduction to his mutation, here are 19 things you probably don’t know about Benedict Cumberbatch.
1. While on location in South Africa for “To the Ends of the Earth” (2005), Cumberbatch experienced a horrific carjacking in which he was kidnapped, but talked his way into getting released. He subsequently wrote about the shocking moment in an article for The Prince’s Trust, a charity organization founded in 1976 by Prince Charles.
2. When asked if he could be anyone, living or dead, for a day, Cumberbatch responded with, “It’s got to be Elvis, the post-war phenomena at the Star Dust in Vegas. Or someone like that.” Who doesn’t want to be the king, right?
3. He received his Master’s degree in “Classical Acting for the Professional Theatre” from the oldestdrama school in the United Kingdom, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
4. During his time at Harrow, a prestigious and all-male boarding school in the UK, Cumberbatch was a member of the rugby team and painted oil canvases in his downtime.
5. Acting runs in Cumberbatch’s blood. He is the son of English actor Timothy Carlton (born Carlton Cumberbatch) and actress Wanda Ventham.
6. Before studying drama at Manchester University, the actor took a gap year at a Tibetan monastery, where he taught English to the resident monks. Cumberbatch was astonished at the monks ability to focus and revered their sense of purpose when working.
7. For his role as Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch made the creative decision to lose a significant amount of weight to give the impression that Holmes high intelligence outweighs his physical limitations — in a “mind-over-matter” sort of way.
8. He won “Best Actor” at the Laurence Olivier Awards in 2012, an esteemed honor that recognizes the best in London theatre, for his portrayal of Victor Frankenstein — and his creature — in Danny Boyle’s stage production of “Frankenstein.”
9. The actor’s grandfather was Henry Carlton Cumberbatch, a decorated submarine officer of both World Wars and a prominent figure of London high society.
10. Cumberbatch’s impersonation of Alan Rickman is so unbelievably good that he was asked to voice Rickman’s “Harry Potter” character, Snape, in a special Valentine’s Day episode of “The Simpsons” in 2013.
11. Like David Bowie, Cumberbatch has a condition called heterochromia, a mutation in which there’s a difference in coloration in his eyes. Specifically, the irises have a varying combination of blue, green, and gold.
12. His favorite director is Stanley Kubrick. He said it would take 30,000 words to explain why…
13. If he hadn’t become an actor, Cumberbatch wishes he would have a responsible job “that required a mind-blowing skill” and was seriously important.
14. As expected, Martin Freeman and Cumberbatch are good friends, having co-starred in the beloved TV series “Sherlock” and the upcoming “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
15. Initially, Cumberbatch had reservations about keeping his real last name as an actor and went by Carlton, just like his father. He jokes that Cumberbatch is “a fluffy old name” and admits his mother tried to get him to change it, but he eventually decided to keep the cumbersome last name when it was suggested it would help him stand out.
16. Cumberbatch has donated small, self-portrait drawings of himself to charity auctions on several occasions.
17. Tatler magazine featured Cumberbatch on the list of “Most Fascinating People in Britain,” in January 2013. He was ranked fifth, higher than the Duchess of Cambridge… Crazy!
18. After meeting at the University of Manchester, Cumberbatch began dating actress Olivia Poulet. The couple were together for 12 years, but have since split and the actor remains single.
19. The actor’s father used to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” to him as a child, even changing his voice for each character, accordingly. “A feast for a child’s imagination,” Cumberbatch said. “It’s the audiobook that will never exist.”
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