Click above image to watch another clip from the Star Trek: Into Darkness Compendium video.
HAPPY 39TH BIRTHDAY BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!
1. When he tried – and failed – to say “penguins”
2. When he was Top Gear’s goofiest Star in a Reasonably Priced Car
3. When he had the best time partying with Michael Fassbender at the Golden Globes
4. When he accepted an award in his board shorts.
5. When Sherlock had one too many
6. When he channeled Beyoncé and walked with all the sass..
7. When he announced his engagement in The Times.
8. When he said this about the fairer sex
9. And tried to rename the Cumberbitches..
10. When he floored Harrison Ford with his Chewbacca impression
11. And floored us with his impersonation of G-Nort
12. And let’s not forget these hip hop songs read in the style of Alan Rickman
13. Or when he lent his silky vocals to the lyrics of R Kelly
14. When this happened and we all swooned
15. Or when this Star Trek deleted scene emerged and we all wondered why on earth it didn’t make it into the final movie?
16. When he skydived and looked THIS happy
17. When we all geeked out over his specs appeal at the Golden Globes
18. When he performed the photobomb to end all photobombs
19. And then photobombed again
20. And again..
21. When he punched a journalist to defend Keira Knightley’s honour
22. When his Smaug skills gave us all shivers
23. When he did Mr Napkin Head
24. When he dressed up as Zorro and snogged Reese Witherspoon all in the name of art
25. When he had an adorable Star Trek fanboy freakout on the red carpet
26. When he reminded everyone there were more important things than the set of Sherlock
27. When he *almost* revealed how Sherlock survived that fall
28. When Simon Pegg tricked him into protecting himself with ‘neutron cream’
29. When he got an invite to the Wimbledon final and took his dad
30. The time a journalist showed him the otter meme
31. When he and Martin Freeman looked THIS happy to start work on Sherlock
32. When he likened his name to a “fart in a bath”
33. When he was first out of his seat at the chance to present a Golden Globe with Jennifer Aniston
34. When he busted a move on the set of Star Trek
35. This bromance. Always.
36. When he got bored on a plane and did the Harlem Shake with his fingers
37. This delightfully sweary Sherlock outtake
38. When he got down with the kids on Sesame Street
39. And – saving the best ’til last – when he won the internet with his ice bucket challenge.
**Well, this is Benedict related, and also really cool!
**Rest in peace Leonard Nimoy, legendary icon from the Star Trek series as he has died at the age of 83. Nimoy’s last acting appearance was as Mr. Spock in the J.J. Abrams remake of both Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness. Farewell Mr. Spock…
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.”
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