Monthly Archives: December 2014
Since this magazine downed pisco sours with Benedict Cumberbatch — for a piece that accidentally inspired a meme — the actor has been cast as Marvel’s Dr. Strange, made out with Reese Witherspoon, and been nominated for both a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe for his work in The Imitation Game. In the World War II historical thriller, he plays British cryptographer Alan Turing, who cracked an “unbreakable” Nazi code to help bring an early end to the war and who ended his life at 41, persecuted by the British government for being gay. Pundits believe an Oscar nomination is virtually a sure thing. On the occasion of so much good Cumberfortune, and in the spirit of the holiday season, we decided to revisit our original interview and give to you, dear readers, the gift of Benedict Cumberbatch’s many passionate words on many subjects that didn’t fit into the original article. Enjoy!
On Press Junkets
“I love talking about The Imitation Game, and three-minute slots is a really ugly way to do it. I’m shit at that. I would never be good at Twitter. When there’s actually somebody going like [wrap-it-up gesture], I’m fearing that, so I just keep talking and keep talking, keep answering, to give the journalist as much as possible, even if only 20 seconds gets used. But it’s exhausting and frustrating. Why the fuck can’t we syndicate interviews? I don’t mind the slog. I want as many people to get it and hear about [the movie], and for me to promote it. I just wish there was a more inventive or unique way of doing it sometimes.”
On His Fabled Dance-Off With Michael Fassbender
“Everyone’s called that a dance-off. We were dancing together, as grown men should. There’s no ‘off’ about it. We were dancing ‘on.’ We were together, in perfect male harmony. We were grooving around and dancing back-to-back. It wasn’t like, ‘You go,’ ‘No, you go,’ ‘You throw your shit down, I throw my shit down’ — there was no competitive streak to it at all.”
“I always like going back to Shakespeare. I really do. Even as a punter. It’s such an enriching vein of our culture to tap into. The more you scratch at it, the more you realize he is so brilliant in how multifaceted the language is. There’s just so many choices to make as an actor. It’s a bit like puzzles, there’s certain things to crack open. It’s all about facilitating a really, really rich understanding of the characters and situations.”
On Being a Sex Symbol
“I never take that for granted. It’s kind of an amazing thing. There’s lots of theories about it. It’s kind of extraordinary — the majority of the [fans] are really intelligent, sweet, supportive, funny … you know, it’s a tease. The thing of being public property is slightly odd. Nice people respect my privacy. It’s a really weird contradiction in terms of, we require an audience for a professional life and we require some kind of privacy or, you know, lack of attention in our private life.”
On Encountering a Particularly Blatant Fan-Photographer
“I was coming out of the car to go see a friend of mine at a concert, rushing a little bit, getting into a parking bay, and this one guy had been filming me. I turned around and he went like that [mimes talking on the phone], ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, yeah, yeah.’ I said to him, ‘Are you talking on the phone?’ ‘Yeah. I’m just talking on the phone.’ ‘Do you want to check the photograph you took?’ ‘What?’ ‘Do you want to check the photograph you took of me? Because if it’s not good we could take a proper one.’ ‘I don’t understand, I’m talking on the phone.’ And I just burst out laughing. I said, ‘I’m so sorry, you are possibly the worst actor I have ever seen. You’ve made me very, very, very happy, so it’s fine. You can have your moment with the photograph.'”
On the Sherlock Holmes Phenomenon
“None of us had any idea about what kind of success we would have on our hands, and it shocked all of us. That first night it aired in England, my God, I wasn’t really aware of this internet-TV culture, because I hadn’t really dabbled in a series or something with a potential cult following, like a Doctor Who or Downton Abbey or anything like that. When this sort of live, immediate, audience-internet reaction [to Sherlock] exploded, it was like being in a theater of millions of people. It was so immediate, the response, that it was sort of terrifying. And this thing of trending on Twitter — I didn’t really know what Twitter was until that night. That first sort of dawning of Oh, God, this is what we’re getting involved with was extraordinary. And I mean, it still bemuses me.”
On His Sexiest Role
“As Agent Classified [in Penguins of Madagascar]. I had a really good scene, though I think it’s been cut, where I danced with some animal and seduced them. No, that’s not true. I know that would make good copy, but it’s not true. He really fancies himself, which is deeply unsexy, in my opinion. But Richard III is incredibly sexy. And also Hamlet, to an extent. [Cumberbatch will play the latter role onstage in London in 2015.] He’s sort of pitched as squarely foul by the circumstances of the play, but something started I think maybe to happen with Ophelia. How far did that go?”
On Whether Holmes and Turing Are on the Spectrum
“I don’t think it’s that simple. Possibly Sherlock is. Sherlock’s a sociopath, and I think both of them are utterly conditioned by their circumstance. Turing wasn’t born with a stammer. He developed that from being brought up by foster parents whilst his parents were away in the diplomatic community. That would’ve made it very difficult for him to socialize with kids and use language in a conventional way and form friendships, because he would’ve been teased and bullied, which would have further compounded his fear of using language, which would have turned him more inward. I think it’s this fear we have of people we don’t understand. We immediately want to pigeonhole them as different. So, Oh, he’s just a troubled genius, isn’t he? I think it’s really quick shorthand to go, Autistic, Asperger’s. We’re really keen to do that. People always want to view scientists as outsiders because it’s beyond our understanding.”
On His Career Choice
“I didn’t necessarily want to be an actor. I toyed for a while with being a criminal barrister, until I realized that sort of at the point of no return that people were saying, ‘Go back now, because it was just as competitive, just as peripatetic, just as unpredictable, as a lifestyle, as a career choice, as career satisfaction.’ I would’ve loved the performance of court, the idea of persuading people, storytelling and all that. It parallels beautifully with acting, lots of frustrated, amateur dramatics going on in court all the time. I think lots of barristers literally perform in amateur dramatic societies and are very good actors. It’s a massive crossover.”
“I’ve gone three times this year. I went to Vermont. Stratton. And I went to what we call the Lump, which is just somewhere in Connecticut, north of New York. It’s Patterson, so right on the border of Connecticut and New York. They call it the Bump or something like that because it’s a sort of pathetic thing. But I loved it, four slopes. It’s great, just getting my turns back in and getting my balance and jumping. I’m not jumping-jumping. I’ve never done a half-pipe; I learned too late. I started when I was in my mid-20s. Already my center of gravity was too tall to risk airborne, frantic gymnastics over an icy half-tube pipe. [In Vermont] I had a great run, was just taking my earphones out, and sort of looked straight into the eyes of this couple, but I had my goggles on. And they were standing on the backs of their skis, going [high-pitched], ‘We love your work in Sherlock, we’re really big fans!’ I thought, Oh, the fuck, how did you know?”
On Motion-Capture Acting
“Motion capture! [The Jungle Book’s] Shere Khan, all The Hobbit stuff, being the Necromancer/Smaug is all motion capture. Primarily, it all came out of the physicalized movement of the body in a motion-capture suit on a stage. That’s how we created the character, and that’s how the animators went about doing what they did with what I gave them. It’s so much fun. I want people to understand that it’s a really important art form and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a beautiful amalgamation of the special-effects world and acting, and it’s a proper, performance-driven craft. It’s not a sort of Frankenstein-ian monster to be feared; it’s to be celebrated. You have more room for imagination and expanding into realms you couldn’t possibly do if you were in a costume with makeup, and continuity with camera angles and continuity with eye lines and positions and lighting. It’s just ridiculous the amount of fun and freedom it gives you.”
On Why Sherlock Holmes Doesn’t Get Laid
“He’s asexual. He doesn’t want any, and it’s very purposeful on his part. I think he’s been burnt in the past. I think he also realizes he can’t beat female intuition; he can’t. So to embroil himself where he might be enslaved through adoration or sexual desire or any kind of power or chemistry to do with love is too big a risk for him. That doesn’t make him gay, and it doesn’t make him asexual. It means he’s purposely abstaining for the sake of his craft. Not something I do.”
Benedict Cumberbatch ‘set to make offer on seven bedroom £10.8m villa in Los Angeles’ ahead of his wedding to fiancée Sophie Hunter
His most famous residence to date may be a scruff flat in Baker Street, but Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch could be soon the master of his own mansion Stateside.
The 38-year-old actor is said to be keen to snap up a stunning estate in Los Angeles’ exclusive Hidden Hills neighbourhood as his career goes from strength-to-strength in Hollywood.
Benedict reportedly recently viewed the stunning seven-bedroom Tuscan-style villa which sits within 2.5 acres of manicured lawns and was blown away with its panoramic views.
An estate agent tells the Daily Express: ‘Benedict’s representatives have indicated he is ready to make an initial offer which will not be too far off the asking price, so he could be moving in early in the New Year.’
The estate would certainly act as a more than adequate marital home for Benedict and his wife-to-be Sophie Hunter, who he proposed to at the beginning of November.
The mansion boasts nine-and-a-half bathrooms, a cinema room, bar, five-car garage, gym and a library.
It’s also in a gated community, meaning the actor will have complete privacy as his star continues to rise in the US.
The impressive abode is bound to cement his place as one of Britain’s greatest acting exports, especially after his latest role as Enigma codebreak Alan Turing in The Imitation Game has sparked an Oscar buzz ahead of next year’s Academy Awards.
However, the modest star insisted he wasn’t getting his hopes up just yet: ‘I understand why it always happens at festivals but I just got my suit back from the dry cleaners from this year’s Oscars,’ he told Hello! ‘There are lots of films to see before we start going, ‘Ooh, blah, blah’.’
The potential move comes two years after he threatened to leave the UK behind over the ‘posh-bashing’ aimed at privileged actors, especially ones who have attended the likes of Eton and Harrow.
He told the Radio Times: ‘It’s all so predictable. So domestic, so dumb. It makes me think I want to go to America.
‘I wasn’t born into land or titles, or new money, or an oil rig.’
Benedict Cumberbatch, Channing Tatum and Actor A-List on Hollywood Fame, Embarrassing Moments and Stage Poop
This story first appeared in the Dec. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A clear cultural split was evident at this year’s Hollywood Reporter actor roundtable, with three Americans and three Englishmen grouped around the table (plus an English moderator). Even as some of the Americans marveled at the Brits’ training (“Our whole culture is worshipping actors who come from this theater background,” said Ethan Hawke), the Brits envied the opportunities enjoyed by their U.S. friends (“Most people, if they were given a part in a Hollywood movie, would jump at it,” said Timothy Spall). Accents, training and education apart, the six award contenders — Benedict Cumberbatch, 38 (The Imitation Game); Hawke, 44 (Boyhood); Michael Keaton, 63 (Birdman); Eddie Redmayne, 32 (The Theory of Everything); Spall, 57 (Mr. Turner); and Channing Tatum, 34 (Foxcatcher) — found a surprising amount in common.
Benedict played him in 2004’s Hawking. Did you see that before you played him?
REDMAYNE I had to make a quite hard-core decision about whether to watch it. Ben is an old friend and I’d heard it was extraordinary. And I thought long and hard about it and decided not to — purely because I thought I’d try and steal his best bits.
HAWKE It’s interesting that you both played this part.
CUMBERBATCH It’s amazing. There’s a lot for us to talk about. I remember being fascinated by the idea of having to face up to something which, in most cases, is a two- to three-year life sentence [Hawking suffers from ALS]. You know you’re locked into a body that’s quickly degenerating.
If you had two or three years to live, what would you do differently?
TATUM Oh, man.
KEATON Hang out with Jonah Hill less. (Laughs.)
TATUM Or a lot more. I probably wouldn’t be trying to solve the mysteries of the universe. I don’t know — just try to live with the people that I love as much as I can.
Would you work less?
TATUM Probably not at all. I love what I get to do. But I think I throw myself into [movies] so far that I don’t get to experience the rest of the world.
KEATON I wouldn’t even think about doing a movie.
You certainly at one point turned your back on Hollywood to a degree and moved to Montana.
KEATON Not really. I never turned my back on it, really. I just went through a phase of getting tired of hearing myself do the same old thing. I’d hear the same rhythms and tricks. And frankly, it’s not like someone was knocking on my door with a tremendous amount of quality work — [though] if they had, I’m not sure I would have been particularly interested.
Channing, you initially turned down Foxcatcher. Was it because you didn’t identify with the character?
TATUM I wouldn’t really say that I turned it down. The movie wasn’t clear to me. But you’re right, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what the movie was saying, [but] this was after I’d done, like, my second film, and I just had no idea what I was doing as an actor or as a storyteller or anything.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
CUMBERBATCH Wow, you’re not holding back.
TIMOTHY SPALL I think one of the biggest mistakes you could make is, you think that you know enough — because you can’t, otherwise you’d stop and you’d just keep repeating yourself.
HAWKE It’s funny. I did a movie, I was about 29 years old. And I was feeling really confident at the time. And I remember being very frustrated with the director because I felt that he was an idiot and he was really holding me back from doing the work that I wanted to do. I felt this real need to tell everybody that I knew more than they did, you know? And when I think back on it now, I feel so embarrassed. There was a moment, and then a couple of years pass, you turn 30. All of a sudden, I saw hallways of things I didn’t know. And the older I get, the more I would never be frustrated with a director like that. There’s a great Brando quote: “You have to meet every director as your kind of spiritual spouse.” You just have to marry them to make the movie they want to make. If you watch Last Tango in Paris, that is an actor completely committed to that story — and he’s inside a very dangerous film, a film that deals with erotica. Human sexuality is something nobody wants to talk about on a real, adult level: mourning, death, fear of death, fear of getting old, sex. I mean, you’re talking about Turing and being gay, and I can’t help but think 20 years ago how radical it was for an actor to play a gay person. When River Phoenix was in My Own Private Idaho, this was about a young kid who wants to be gay. It was radical that he was doing that.
Today, is there any threshold that you can’t cross?
SPALL Pedophilia, probably.
Could you make The Last Temptation of Christ today and get away with it?
HAWKE Martin Scorsese could. It was dangerous at that time. He would have trouble now.
KEATON The Farrelly brothers might have a hard time.
Who taught you the most?
CUMBERBATCH My first-ever teacher taught me extraordinary truth by literally line-reading Shakespeare at me, so I can read it like prose. My modern drama teacher opened the doors of American theater to me and the wonders of Mamet and Miller and Tennessee Williams; the whole raft of it. And then, beyond that, you get incredible nuggets of wisdom — about being present, about grounding a truth from within. I grew up doing a lot of stuff at school. I went from playing Titania, queen of the fairies, [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream] and Rosalind in As You Like It to playing Willy Loman [in Death of a Salesman] at age 17. So I had this huge kind of showing-off period.
REDMAYNE But that’s the thing that drama schools and even schools did in England: You’re playing old people, women, from an early age and you’re pushing the boundaries, particularly in [repertory theater], when you were playing characters that sometimes weren’t your casting type.
What’s the most difficult character you’ve played?
REDMAYNE My first professional play, playing Viola in Twelfth Night opposite Mark Rylance. Having had that experience, being able to play people so far from who you are, gives you a sense of where you can go. That’s the other thing: The [British] films that make it over here are often to do with heritage and legacy and history.
SPALL That’s very true, but Hollywood is a broad church. Never, never underestimate how much the British yearn to work in Hollywood. It’s not like, “Oh, darling, we just do it ’cause we’re slumming.” That’s a load of balls because most people, if they were given a play or a part in a Hollywood movie, would jump at it and they’d say, “You can stick Polonius straight up your arse.”
HAWKE Our system isn’t built to teach young people the craft. You know, Julia Roberts came to New York to do a play and of course the critics are gunning for her — and of course she has no experience. It’s a difficult thing to excel [at], and yet we know there’s a lot to be learned from it because our whole culture is worshipping actors who come from this theater background.
Channing, what was the biggest challenge for you in Foxcatcher?
HAWKE Kicking ass. Beating up Mark Ruffalo.
TATUM Getting my head kicked in every day by Bennett [Miller].
HAWKE Did you really make Mark’s nose bleed? I wondered in that scene, it looked like you really popped him in the head.
TATUM I had never done anything like this before and I had no idea how to approach it other than just to talk to Mark Schultz [the real-life wrestler I play]. He’s a very interesting person — he’s so factual, he knows what move so-and-so did in the ’84 Olympics, and he just reels off all these things. And you’re trying to sort through them all. I just started to get rid of all the data that he was telling me about his life, and I just clicked into [what he said:] “I never wanted to win. I just didn’t want to lose.”
HAWKE But what is the difference between not losing and winning? What does that mean?
TATUM For him? It was fear of not being the person that he saw himself as, I think. Dave, his older brother, was this shining example of something he knew he could never be. He was never going to be this charismatic individual that everyone flocked to. So he decided to go the other way, and he wanted everyone to be afraid of him. He didn’t want anyone to get close to him. And I think that’s a really lonely walk to choose.
CUMBERBATCH Did he have script approval? Did he look at the script at all? And did you feel, “I need something from you, but you might not get anything back except something that’s going to upset you.”
TATUM That was my fear. Because I knew all these things he was telling me he wanted weren’t in the script — you know, the retribution of people that he felt wronged him. I was terribly afraid that he wouldn’t —
CUMBERBATCH What was the seduction of getting him to open up?
TATUM It wasn’t. He was completely free and open with me, as far as I could tell. Within the first seven seconds of talking, he was welling up with tears. He’s a very emotional person, and I think all of it was pretty overwhelming for us both.
KEATON It’s not surprising that he remembered every move. Athletes, they’re not like the rest of us. It’s a different type of mentality. Baseball players, they’ll remember the pitch, what the wind was doing, they’ll remember everything. And there’s something in particular about wrestlers. I come from a large family, and one of my brothers was a wrestler. He’s like us and he’s totally unlike us. This intense determination.
TATUM Wrestling is very similar in a metaphorical way to acting: You’re wrestling; you’re literally in a fight with [a role]. Because in wrestling you’re not just fighting someone else, you’re fighting what’s going on with you. You’re in a suffocating situation, and there’s no resting. You can’t take a minute; you’re constantly in this uncomfortable state of being attacked. You’re dealing with a lot of emotions, a lot of fear — not that I see acting as exactly that, but there are some parallels.
Fear of what?
TATUM Fear of doing it honestly, of giving everything you could have given to it. And not walking away and being like, “God, I didn’t do the work for that one.”
Is it harder when you’re a star? The media picks on every single thing you do.
TATUM They pick on us all. And I’m talking about “us all” meaning pedestrians. Everyone gets picked on. I don’t think it’s just because we’re up on a screen.
Do you like being a star?
TATUM I don’t really look at it that way. I’ve been afforded a lot of opportunity in this world and I’ve tried to walk through every door that I’ve been given, and some of them have been great on the other side and other ones haven’t.
Which doors weren’t great?
TATUM The pressure of what school is projected as, when you’re growing up — that going to college is the answer, and to me it wasn’t. I went and I didn’t get it. And I failed at it miserably. And I felt like a failure for it. And so I went and tried to find another door.
KEATON That’s not a failure at all. To me, that’s a victory. He said, “I’m going to do what’s me.”
Benedict, I’ve always felt you resist fame to some degree.
CUMBERBATCH There’s so many strands of it, aren’t there? If you mean being scrutinized in your public life, which isn’t your work; if you mean requirements of your time which distract your focus and your energy from what actually brought you to that point where you’re being distracted, that’s a complete Catch-22: The more work you do, the more attention there is. You try to escape by dissolving into work, and it keeps catching up with you every time you stop because it’s part of the process of work now, to publicize it. But I feel it’s just [about] getting used to it, and knowing how to play with that and have fun, which I do. I really do.
Do you have a role model whose career you emulate?
CUMBERBATCH We talked before the tape was running about Stephen Dillane‘s Hamlet when I was 17. That had a massive impact on me — the sort of essential, quiet, still truth of what he did. Nobody else was Hamlet but him.
HAWKE And then you saw mine!
REDMAYNE I’ve never said this to you, Tim, but when I was a kid, one of the first things I saw was A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The National Theatre. Tim was playing Bottom, and it was all set in mud and there was a contortionist playing Puck, this woman.
SPALL I had a French-Canadian contortionist on my back when I was trying to do Shakespearean comedy. And it felt like hell. You’d go backstage and there were people wearing verruca socks, which are worn [to prevent] plantar warts, you know? It was in a massive pile of water, and one day somebody came in and said, “You’ve not heard the latest. Someone’s done a poo in the mud.” I said, “What are you talking about? I’m lying in that before the audience comes in!” I went to the stage doorkeeper, who had been there for years, wonderful woman. I said, “You’ll never guess what I’ve just heard. You know the fairies who are all diving around in the mud? Someone’s done a poo in it.” She said, “Oh, we’ve had a phantom shitter at the Royal National Theatre for years.” (Laughs.) Here’s a pantheon of the most brilliant classical actors in the world, and someone was dropping a log in the [mud].
CUMBERBATCH I’ve worked in the National Theatre, but I haven’t pooed thre. I have peed there.
It’s the end of a long day of interviews for Benedict Cumberbatch and he seems almost giddy as he gazes wishfully out of a hotel-room window in Toronto. Suddenly, he says excitedly: “I was in the elevator with Bill Murray yesterday. It was f—ing fantastic! I stepped into the elevator in a bathrobe and he went, ‘oh this guy is up for the same underwear ad that I am’. And then he stepped over to me and whispered, ‘You won’t get it, I’ve already got it’.
“He was so funny, I was completely starstruck.”
These days it’s usually the other way around when the 38-year-old actor walks into a room. In the past three years, Cumberbatch has graduated from being known mostly for stage work in his native England to a name brand whose films have included best-picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, the Meryl Streep dramedy August: Osage County and the Julian Assange story The Fifth Estate.
This year, the actorhas all his eggs in one basket at the Toronto Film Festival, but what a basket. He’s an Oscar favourite and Golden Globe nominee for his complex role in The Imitation Game as English mathematician Alan Turing, who virtually invented the first computer and during World War II broke the enigma codethat helped end the war years earlier, only to be persecuted by his own country later for being homosexual.
It’s not the first time Cumberbatch has played a character much smarter than him, he admits. His title character in the television series Sherlock enjoys being a pompous arse and as Khan in Star Trek: Into the Darkness he’s no dummy either. But nothing prepared the actor for the journey of Turing, who was finally issued an official pardon and apology from the Queen this year, 60 years after he committed suicide following his chemical castration for homosexuality.
“I got to know my character very well and by the time we shot the scene where he breaks down in front of Joan [Keira Knightley] at the end, I had no control over my emotions,” he says. “I couldn’t stop crying and it wasn’t good acting, it was just because I knew that I was mourning this extraordinary human being who I had become so fond of. I can’t remember another time that it’s happened to me in my career, but it’s a desperately moving story and it deeply affected me.”
Asked about his own maths skills, Cumberbatch looks speechless. “My what? Oh, I thought you said my romance skills, as we sit here alone in an empty bedroom’,” he deadpans, then chuckles. “Yes, I’ll admit they are pretty awful and even now I vaguely panic when somebody give me arithmetic to do, because it’s just not my strong suit.”
The fiercely private Cumberbatch likes to waffle on in interviews about the intricacies of his character’s motivations until he runs the clock down without saying anything too personal, I’ve discovered in the past. Today he’s tired, so maybe his defences are down a little because he’s surprisingly funny, even joking about how he navigates a world of being constantly watched and recorded.
“What’s interesting is that you walk a minefield because everyone is a walking publisher, so anything you do in public isn’t private, and it’s all up for scrutiny,” he says. “The funniest ones are the people who pretend they are on the phone so they can take a photograph and think you don’t notice. I go right up to them and shock them by asking if I can see the picture!”
Catching up with Cumberbatch again last month, he was in Los Angeles doing his bit for his film’s award chances but pining for some quiet time at home in London. “I like being in nature – that’s why l live near the Heath, because I just love the fact there’s ancient woodland on my doorstep in the middle of London,” he says.
He’d just announced his surprise engagement to his girlfriend Sophie Hunter via a paid-for announcement in the classifieds section of The Times, naming both their parents.
“It’s the standard way of doing it in England and it may seem old-fashioned now but I would have done that if I wasn’t in this strange, heightened position that I am as a famous actor, so it’s just to try and normalise something that’s deeply personal to me I guess,” Cumberbatch says.
Was he old-fashioned in his proposal? “That’s something for me to know and you to never find out,” he says with a polite grin.
Much has been written about the actor and two friends being kidnapped in 2005 by armed robbers in South Africa, only to be released unexpectedly from the trunk of a car. He has been quoted many times as having promised himself at that time that if he survived he would live a life less ordinary. “Have I done that?” he jumps in, knowing where the question is going. “I would say I have done pretty well since then – as he says in his empty hotel room!”
Being seen and heard
Benedict Cumberbatch can be seen in just one film this holiday season, but his voice can be heard in two others: as Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (out now) and as Classified, the head of a pack of wolf spies aiding the black-and-white heroes in the animated Penguins of Madagascar (January 1).
“Penguins and dragons are very different animals, excuse the pun,” Cumberbatch says of his voice work. “Because Smaug came out in motion-capture form, the movement completely informed the voice … But the Penguins part was extraordinary in a different way because we recorded over a long period of time and had a lot of fun and freedom.
“All disciplines of acting feed off one each other and they all require different energies,” he adds. “So I am not exhausting myself doing just one thing.”
He did talk about the creative process of putting together one of the best series on television.
India Today Online sat down with Mark Gatiss, the co-creator and executive producer of the popular BBC TV series Sherlock, to discuss everything Sherlock. While he didn’t share any spoilers, leaving us in his own words “antici-pointed”, he did talk about the creative process of putting together one of the best series on television.
Is this the first time you’ve been to India? How are you liking Mumbai?
Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten to see enough. We had just one day to look around and then we have been here (Comic Con). But it’s fabulous. Sort of what I’d expected and then not at all. It’s extraordinary. It’s so crazy, and everyone’s so kind, and there’s the colour and the chaos and the contrast. We saw the financial district and it’s amazing – there are these breathtaking buildings and then right next to it the poverty. It is extraordinary.
We are at Comic Con, a place that celebrates fandoms. Have you ever been part of a fandom, or just been a fanboy of anything?
Actually, I have not ever been a fan of comics, never joined any fandoms. I enjoy horror films, and music. But never been a fan the way people are here (at Comic Con). I have always loved Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who and now it’s my career which is wonderful.
There were a lot of questions from people wanting to know what will happen next on Sherlock and Dr. Who in the upcoming seasons…
It’s a perennial problem that people ask about upcoming story lines. We’re never going to reveal anything, so please don’t waste your questions! Fans always think they want to know what is going to happen, but it would always end up being a bit of a disappointment later. I’ve invented a word for it – antici-pointment – looking forward to something so much and then being depressed that they now know it. Years ago, I was given a massive Dr. Who spoiler, and I was elated for a second but then was disappointed because it would never have the same impact when watching it. So it’s always more exciting if audiences let themselves get surprised.
So you won’t tell us if we will get to see the Watson baby in season 4?
You’re doing it again! We know that Mary is expecting a baby at the end of season three, and we will see the child – maybe at some point in the future, depending on where we pick up from.
Being a writer as well as an actor, what do you find more satisfying?
I have always done both, and love doing both. It’s a very privileged position to be in. A couple of years ago I had three scripts on the go with heavy deadlines. It seemed like I’d never move from the desk and then it was finished and I was doing a play, which was literally like playing – every show, every day was different. And this year was mostly filming. The contrast between both makes it very exciting.
How does an episode of Sherlock shape up?
Steven (Moffat) and I had a day during season three when the ideas were just flowing, and we came up with a lot of storylines, and ideas for series four and five. It’s about sort of deciding if any of the original stories would suit that framework that we have made, if any of the original stories might be a launch pad for a different story. There are some stories that are favourites and some that may not suit the framework, so we decide which we’d rather do. Steven and I have written the Christmas special together. It’s been a lot of fun. And it’s almost entirely original – not really based on any of the stories.
BBC Sherlock does follow the original stories, so how do you balance between the original stories and your own creation?
BBC Sherlock right from the start was not an adaptation. Some of the episodes like A Study in Pink have a lot of the famous recognizable elements from the original (A Study in Scarlet). Some like The Hound of Baskerville have the skeleton of an original story, some like The Sign of Three and The Empty Hearse just have a germ of the original story and some like The Blind Banker are Sherlock Holmes-like stories – entirely original but with all the elements that are the hallmarks of the original stories.
You decided to include some original characters like Molly Hooper in the show. Will we see more original characters?
Some characters like Molly and Jeanine were supposed to be one scene/one episode characters but they ended up being wonderful. And others like Billy Wiggins (the leader of the homeless network) and Tom (Molly’s Sherlock lookalike boyfriend) we just loved. Basically, if we like them they will always return to Baker Street!
There are a lot of actors related to each other/married to each other on Sherlock. Was it intentional or did it just happen?
We wouldn’t have cast them if they weren’t actors! But it would be a wasted opportunity to not cast Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents as his parents as they look so much like him. And we never thought of anyone else besides Amanda Abbington (Martin Freeman’s real life partner) to play Mary Watson, and they (her and Martin Freeman) obviously have chemistry! It seems like nepotism and it kind of is! As long as they don’t object, why the hell not!
Fans are always having a hard time with the amount of time between seasons of Sherlock…
It is increasingly hard to get everyone back together because of everyone’s schedules. We’re all very keen to do it. In a way, it’s a good idea though – you come back for three weeks and you’re on just long enough for people to not get pissed off! We always say that you get one James Bond film every two or three years – compared to that this is a treat! We start filming the Christmas special on Jan 6. When it will be aired is up to the BBC. And then three more. So this time there are four films.