Monthly Archives: November 2014
May his force be with us? Benedict Cumberbatch rumoured to be secretly cast as mystery figure with lightsaber in new Star Wars Episode VII teaser
Ever since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens went into production, it’s been speculated – and denied by the actor himself – that Benedict Cumberbatch would be a part of the production.
And while it appeared to be all but confirmed that he had not been cast in the highly-anticipated JJ Abrams-helmed project, the release of a teaser has reignited questions about his involvement.
In particular, observant fans are pointing to the voice-over and the mystery villain in a hooded cloak, who carries a lightsaber and speaks in tones not dissimilar to those of the 38-year-old actor.
Within moments of the clip’s release, Star Wars fans took to Twitter in droves to speculate – and more or less assert – that Benedict is, indeed, a part of the project.
‘Anyone know who’s doing voice over in the STAR WARS trailer? Sounds a hell of a lot like Benedict Cumberbatch,’ wrote one.
Another tweeted: ‘That voice at the start of the Star Wars trailer? Is Benedict Cumberbatch still claiming he’s not in it? Aye, right.’
However, Steven Weintraub, editor-in-chief of movie site Collider, declared on the mirco-blogging site: ‘The voice in the new STAR WARS trailer is Andy Serkis.’
There has also been speculation that Adam Driver has been cast in the mysterious role, as he is believed to be playing a baddie in the film.
In the brief clip, a mystery voice is heard saying: ‘There has been an awakening – have you felt it? The dark side – and the light.’
While Benedict has denied that he will be appearing in the movie, he did admit that he’d visited the set of the movie, during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show last month.
After branding the colossal set ‘incredible’, he quickly added: ‘I probably shouldn’t be saying these things.’
While the new 88-second trailer doesn’t feature returning stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, fans are given a first look at the younger generation of cast-members to feature in this, the first of three planned sequels.
Opening some 30-years after Return of the Jedi, the teaser kicks off with British actor John Boyega racing across a desert landscape dressed in full Stormtrooper regalia.
The trailer also delivers what was initially suggested during the forthcoming film’s development – a a clear departure from the over-indulgent use of CGI that blighted parts one, two and three of the science fiction saga.
It also confirms the welcome return of the iconic Millennium Falcon, and it is seen dodging laser blasts in a brief battle sequence.
**Fanmade international trailer. Not the real thing**
The new trailer will play in 30 selected cinemas across the United States from Friday until Sunday November 30 – after which it will screen in cinemas across the globe.
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens goes on general release nationwide on December 15, 2015.
An interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, who is in theaters this fall and winter with “Penguins of Madagascar” and “The Imitation Game.”
With characters like Sherlock Holmes, Julian Assange and Stephen Hawking, Benedict Cumberbatch has accumulated a filmography littered with high IQs.
Characters of analytical prowess and fast-deducting intellect have made Cumberbatch something like the ultimate quicksilver mind of the digital age. No actor has made computation sexier.
Cumberbatch, relaxing in a Toronto hotel room, quickly points out that he has — like his spineless plantation owner of “12 Years a Slave” or his painfully shy son in “August: Osage County” — played some “pretty dull, ordinary” people.
And yet Cumberbatch is clearly drawn to highly complex, real-life characters under extraordinary circumstances — roles that demand technical preparation (an accent, a stammer), considerable biographical research and a precision of approach. Puzzles to be solved.
“Maybe that’s a fair one,” he says, turning over the idea. “Maybe I do. I think for the reasons people are attracted to those characters, as well. You can never fully understand them. There’s always a certain amount of enigma or mystery to them.”
Recently, Cumberbatch voiced a secret-agent wolf in “Penguins of Madagascar”; and his latest riddle is Alan Turing, a hugely important figure to World War II code-breaking and a computer science pioneer.
“The Imitation Game,” which opens in Seattle-area theaters this Christmas, is about how Turing and others at Britain’s Bletchley Park solved the seemingly unbreakable Enigma code used by the Germans throughout WWII. Winston Churchill said Turing made the single greatest contribution to the war, but his achievement wasn’t widely recognized until recently, when the code-breaker’s work was declassified.
“Considering all of that, why the (expletive) isn’t he on the front cover of every school history textbook?” says Cumberbatch. “He’s a properly important figure in our culture.”
“The Imitation Game” is only partly a traditional wartime thriller. It’s also a tragedy of social close-mindedness. Turing was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain. He was convicted of indecency in 1952 and then chemically castrated. Two years later, just 41, he killed himself by eating a cyanide-laced apple (though there remains some debate about his intentions).
“I see somebody who was tragically damaged and continually battered by an intolerant, non-understanding world — the very world he was trying to save and liberate from fascism,” says Cumberbatch.
“The Imitation Game,” directed by Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore, is a kind of ode to outsiders. Cumberbatch’s Turing isn’t just different because of his sexuality, he’s utterly anti-social. Rarely making eye contact, etiquette disinterested the single-minded Turing. “I don’t care what’s normal,” he says in the movie.
The film’s mix of historical drama with contemporary resonance has won it acclaim on the festival circuit and positioned it as an Oscar contender. Especially lauded has been Cumberbatch’s depiction of a mathematical mind wracked by repression.
“He can play so many emotions at the same time. There’s strength and vulnerability. There’s arrogance and there’s this lonely boy,” says Tyldum. “It’s not every actor that can play a genius.”
Cumberbatch, however, makes no claim to cleverness. Of Sherlock, he credits its writer: “Steven Moffat is the brain. I just say it fast.”
“I’m not stupid but I’m not that smart. So I can at least lend something of that within the performance, like maybe the alacrity of thought, making fast connections,” says Cumberbatch. “But when you actually start talking about the language he used to get to those stunning conclusions, you might as well ask me to write my name in Mandarin.”
After “The Imitation Game,” the 38-year-old Brit, who recently announced his engagement to Sophie Hunter, is ready for a simpler equation.
“I’ve done evil. I’ve done good. I’ve done smart,” says Cumberbatch. “I haven’t done much sexy, sexy, really. I know Sherlock’s some people’s cup of tea. I’d like to do a romantic comedy. I really would.”
**On His Parents, His Fans and His Fame:
The actor talks about how much he knew about the WWII codebreaker before taking the role, whether or not motion capture is “real” acting, and more.
“The Imitation Game” tells the story of the British mathematician, crypto-analyst and code breaker Alan Turing. He’s best known as the man who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II and is considered the father of the modern computer.
One could say the man was an enigma himself.
Turing was also openly gay — though quietly so — at a time when homosexuality was a crime in England. Despite his accomplishments, which helped end the war two years early and saved millions of lives, he was tragically persecuted for his sexual orientation. Today, Turing still remains largely unknown throughout the world.
He’s played in the film by Benedict Cumberbatch. When we recently caught up with the actor, we asked how much he knew about Turing before taking the role, how he embodied the role of Smaug in “The Hobbit,” and whether or not motion capture is real acting.
How did this role land on your desk?
I was over here in L.A. filming “Star Trek” and there was this Blacklist script that everyone was talking about called “The Imitation Game,” and a few friends and businessfolk of mine said, “You really should read this, we think you’d be great in it.” I started to read it and was completely drawn in. I just kept reading and reading, it was a page turner, it was a thriller, it was a love story and it was this extraordinary exploration of this man who is far more complex than a bluff, arrogant, distant academic.
He was somebody who was incredibly, intensely sensitive and alive to the world he was in — not somebody who worked in isolation or in some kind of ivory tower or a brain in a glass jar. He was physically part of his world — and also as a gay man in a time of intolerance when that was deemed illegal. I just couldn’t bear the tragedy of his story that for me was compounded by the fact of how unknown he is in comparison to his achievements.
This is a man who almost singlehandedly broke the Enigma code, probably ended World War II a couple years early, saved millions of lives.
Fourteen million lives people estimate. And also the man who was — still, now, by the kings of Silicon Valley — rightfully held as a true icon of the computer age. A man who is seen as the father of the computing age. This man who was then punished for his sexuality and also because of quietly admitting to his nature, a gay icon. So why the hell haven’t I known more about him? That really compounded the emotional impact of the end of his life, the end of his story and his tragic suicide.
It almost sounds as if you felt compelled to play this part. I’m curious, is that generally true, partially true, occasionally true when you decide to play something?
This one was utterly driven by a real need to tell this story and to travel his legacy further than it had traveled before. I feel it’s really urgent and … telling this story now is a needed thing — again, not just because of his legacy, not just his story and the injustice that he was served, but [because of] the injustice that minorities are still served around the world wherever prejudice exists. However it’s borne through fear, through nationalism, through any kind of dark political maneuverings. We’ve seen it in Russia, we’ve seen it in Turkey, we’ve seen it in Greece, we’ve seen it in the Middle East — the treatment of gay men and women being scapegoated as people who are different. Those people are destroyed by that environment.
You’ve said about acting: “I’m determined to manufacture at least the appearance of mastering whatever it is the character has to master, because otherwise there is no point.”
I think so, to be specific about it, there are activities you do as an actor when you are performing thought or intelligence, and it’s always handy to be active, physically active. The art department had created this incredible replica of the machine [Turing] builds at Bletchley Park, the bomb, which he called “Christopher” in the movie. I was intrigued to know how they built that. What I could do to interact with it. How I could understand the way it worked from what I understood of the real machine, which was on a good day quite a lot. On a bad day it could lose me at the first sentence of explanation.
It was really important within the activity of how I moved around that machine — treated it, what I was fixing — that I understood what I was doing. The same with the schematics, the drawings, the designs of the machine that you see me making and pinning to a board. If somebody said, “What is that? Is that a transistor or is that another bit of circuitry?” I would have gone, “Well, I, err…,” if put on the spot. But when in the act of doing it and in that specific moment, I could have told you — and that’s important to me.
How do you replicate that kind of preparation or that intensity when you’re doing a role like Smaug in “The Hobbit”?
He was a character that existed in my imagination, thanks to my father who was an actor and read that book to me as a bedtime treat. Then I expanded on that and I really insisted to [director] Peter [Jackson] that we do motion capture for the creature because I wanted to explore the physicality, to establish the vocal qualities. And I also wanted to perform it in a visual context and give the animators and incredible digital wizards at WETA in New Zealand a template to work off that was my face and they did — remarkable as that may seem for a scaly, 400-odd-foot, fire-breathing, bad-breathed, flying dragon. There are moments, especially when I’m facing off to Thoreon and Bilbo, you can see sort of certain eyebrow movements and kind of things that are of me.
It’s acting. It’s acting, pure and simple. It’s a really pure form of acting, it’s play. People I think are very wary of calling it acting. It was so freeing, wonderful and I felt completely uninhibited. It helps that you look like a complete tit at the beginning of your working day. But when you see someone like Andy Serkis, as I was fortunate enough to see when I went to New Zealand to first start working on this with Peter … He was really excited to show me a cut of the riddle scene, and there he is, Gollum, and it’s complete, and Martin [Freeman], both of them being utterly brilliant in that scene.
Then about half-way through the scene, suddenly all the animation and digital wizardry that goes on top of Andy just disappeared and he was there in his suit doing his thing. About three seconds later you forget that. Every physical movement, every detail of expression, but also every believable intention behind the line, examination of character — it’s flawless acting, it’s the most superb performance, and I think the more people see how it’s put together, when you see it afterwards … those are towering achievements. Really special moments in cinema history. So, yeah it’s acting alright
**No one does impressions like Benedict..
NEW YORK — Here is how Julianne Nicholson got to know Benedict Cumberbatch when they played ill-fated lovers in August: Osage County.
“He came to my apartment and we watchedAmerican Horror Story and we scared ourselves (senseless) on the couch in Oklahoma. We’d hang out. We’d go for walks,” she says. “He does have those eyes and that accent, but he’s incredibly goofy, which makes me adore him even more.”
Oh, yes, those orbs. And that precise diction, honed while studying classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. And it’s all put to critically lauded use in The Imitation Game, opening Friday (in New York and Los Angeles), in which Cumberbatch stars as misunderstood genius Alan Turing, the man responsible for cracking the seemingly impenetrable Nazi Enigma code.
The shoot took eight weeks and when it was done, Cumberbatch, 38, says he grieved for Turing, a gay man whose life was ruined when he was forced to endure hormone injections to “cure” him.
“I just couldn’t turn it off,” says Cumberbatch. “His legacy, all of it. He was so inspiring. I had such a strong urge and motivation to play this role. Not just because he’s the father of computer science and not just because he’s a war hero. Not just because he’s a gay icon who, after quietly admitting his nature, had to suffer the horrific consequences.”
To play Turing, Cumberbatch wore dentures, at his own behest. Certainly, no one else demanded that of him.
“It felt important to Benedict — no one knows what his teeth looked like,” says directorMorten Tyldum. “That’s how detailed he was. Alan Turing was a runner. Benedict ran every morning.
“He’s so far from being this blasé star. He’s an actor at core. He never sees himself as a film star.”
Cumberbatch brought that same dedication to the animated Penguins of Madagascar,in which he voices the spy wolf Agent Classified.
“He was trying different barks and howls to see what got the funniest reaction. He was really going for it. He was so physical. He’d be throwing in ad libs and riffing,” saysPenguins co-director Simon J. Smith. “He’d come in after doing 10 hours of Sherlockand he was always the same effervescent, polite person he always is.”
Indeed, Cumerbatch doesn’t seem overly precious about his life, joking about the perks of being wealthy and pampered, and how aware he is when he asks for something extra: “You count your luggage more than you ever normally would when you have people carrying it for you. I’ve been so spoiled by people doing things for me.”
Partially, it’s because he stays almost stupidly busy, currently playing monarch Richard III in The Hollow Crown for BBC Two, and prepping for a turn as Hamlet on the London stage. His beloved BBC series Sherlock will be back in 2015. Plus, he’s engaged to director/actress Sophie Hunter, who joined him for the first time on the red carpet at the New York premiere of The Imitation Game.
“I wanted her to enjoy it. It was sort of a test run or something of that ilk. We’re going to be doing this for our whole lives, so this is what it’s going to be like. She was very cool with it and loved it,” says Cumberbatch, who broke his engagement news in a newspaper placement.
Sadly, he won’t be revealing his personal life on social media. He’d like people to know that any accounts in his name are fakes. And if you see him at a restaurant, please don’t try to snap a clandestine iPhone photo — he always spots the cell stalkers and he’d rather you just ask politely.
“I find it hard enough in my day-to-day life to give myself a context that’s private or removed from constant observation. I want to keep a diary so my grandkids can have it, but I have no interest in publishing it,” he says. “We’re all paparazzi now. I have no appetite for it. I can’t relate to the need to expose people. Now, it’s so easy.”
He also doesn’t understand the obsession with selfies. “What a tragic waste of engagement,” he says. “Enjoy the moment. Do something more worthwhile with your time, anything. Stare out the window and think about life.”