Benedict Cumberbatch during the 2013 Tiff Film Festival Presentation for “The Fifth Estate” at Roy Thomson Hall on September 5, 2013
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.”
Sherlock, his crippling insecurities and the mystery of why Benedict Cumberbatch can’t find a wife despite being Britain’s latest superstar
**This is a much older article, but interesting…
He’s a mass of insecurities — defensive about his schooling, constantly seeking approval, afraid to turn work down and filled with self-reproach over his failure to find a wife and have children.
Yet at 37, Benedict Cumberbatch is Britain’s newest global star, a sex symbol who can command multi-million dollar fees from the world’s top film-makers.
So why, with the world at his feet, is the Sherlock actor so desperately unsure of himself? And is his debilitating self-doubt in danger of derailing his progress to career superstardom — and his own personal happiness? Could it be that, in the past, his emotional intensity and his urgent yearning to become a father have scuppered relationships?
Women — especially the independent, career-minded women he finds attractive — seem to be scared off by him.
His see-sawing temperament is enough to deter any woman from marriage. To make matters worse, he’s highly cautious, even paranoid, about money.
For years he couldn’t bear to spend anything on clothes, and he never misses a chance to earn a penny — even working for minimum rates on the BBC radio drama Neverwhere recently, rather than be ‘between jobs’ for a moment.
And yet, just about every man in the country would eagerly swap places with the star whose devoted female fans call themselves his ‘Cumberbitches’.
As the ultimate detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC’s worldwide hit or the leather-clad villain John Harrison in this summer’s blockbuster Star Trek: Into Darkness, he is unlike any other actor working in film or television today.
Now he is hotly tipped for an Oscar in a movie no one has even seen yet, playing Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate.
In recent weeks he has sent the gossip columns into overdrive, after being photographed with two glamorous and very different women, leaving nightclubs in the small hours, officiating at a gay wedding and camping it up wildly as he revealed his crush on Hollywood A-lister Matt Damon. ‘Do you have Matt’s number?’ he demanded to a baffled interviewer for a web fansite. ‘My biggest wish is to hang out with him .
‘Cut to a hot night where we’re all getting drunk and dancing and having a good time. Wouldn’t that be cool?’
This homoerotic tease, and his role as minister at a gay wedding in Ibiza between two male friends, seem alarmingly out of character.
Though his publicist says he has a ‘wicked, wicked sense of humour’, Cumberbatch is usually reticent to the point of mystery about his love life, which he guards as closely as his financial affairs.
For 12 years, he was in an on-off relationship with actress Olivia Poulet, best known for her role as Tory spin doctor Emma Messinger in BBC sitcom The Thick Of It.
They split up in 2010, though he admits: ‘I still love Olivia to bits.’
Since the break-up, Cumberbatch has been linked with several high-profile women, including Star Trek co-star Alice Eve and Lord Of The Rings actress Liv Tyler.
He is a high-intensity boyfriend. He once cited his father’s tradition of presenting his mother with a red rose every Monday morning as the epitome of romance. But what might be endearing for a long-married couple is apt to come across as needy, even creepy, in a new relationship.
He is also ferociously chivalrous, old-fashioned even. After BBC radio’s film reviewer Mark Kermode poked fun at Keira Knightley, Cumberbatch — her co-star in Atonement — punched the critic when they appeared together on air. Kermode was amazed, though he later insisted it was ‘a light tap on the arm’ and ‘playful’.
More recently, Cumberbatch has dated furniture designer Anna Jones, before apparently rekindling an old friendship with Russian model and actress Katia Elizarova.
Last month, the pair were photographed snuggling on a sun-lounger beside a pool at Ibiza’s Hotel Hacienda. She is wearing next to nothing, and he strokes her arm as she nuzzles his face with her blonde hair.
But Katia was apparently as surprised as anyone when Cumberbatch was snapped days later leaving his birthday party at the saucy London nightclub Cirque du Soir, which features fire-eaters and topless dancers, with red-haired actress Charlotte Asprey on his arm. She is another friend from theatre school days.
Startled gossip writers started to ask whether stardom had turned Cumberbatch into a womaniser, a public-school version of the louche comedian Russell Brand.
At first glance that claim seems improbable, even ridiculous. Cumberbatch has always been painfully awkward around women.
He has admitted that his first unspoken childhood crush was on a friend of his parents, the actress Emma Vansittart, who appeared in the Eighties TV soap Angels.
Cumberbatch was born in London in 1976. His parents were both jobbing actors. His father Tim Carlton (he dropped the family name Cumberbatch for career purposes) had appeared in Minder, Bergerac and The Professionals, while his mother Wanda Ventham was best known as Rodney’s mother-in-law in Only Fools And Horses.
They socialised with flamboyant theatre friends, including Julian Fellowes, who would go on to create Downton Abbey.
Young Benedict’s behaviour caused anxiety from the start. He was ungovernable, noisy, inexhaustible and constantly on the brink of raging boredom — still rampaging like a toddler when he was eight years old.
Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison in Star Trek: Into Darkness
He says now he was ‘a hyperactive nightmare’ and ‘a tearaway’.
He revelled in ‘inappropriate behaviour’. For a dare, he once dropped his trousers and flashed outside a church.
Though his parents were not rich, they managed to raise the cash to send him to a private prep school in West Sussex that took boarders from the age of eight.
But the boy remained a problem. During the school nativity play, where he was Joseph, he pushed Mary off the stage for hogging the limelight.
The headmaster recommended Harrow school, where strict discipline was combined with an emphasis on creativity. But the fees were far beyond anything the family could afford — more than £30,000 a year at today’s prices.
Benedict’s parents adored him. He was their only child, though Wanda had a daughter called Tracy, 15 years older, from a previous marriage. But even they didn’t expect what happened next. The boy not only passed Harrow’s entrance exam but won a scholarship.
He excelled in drama at school, starring in several productions of Shakespeare — including a role as Rosalind in As You Like It. Since Harrow was single-sex, Cumberbatch became adept at playing girl’s roles.
But when Oscar-nominated director Andrew Birkin came to the school to film Ian McEwan’s sex-fuelled novel The Cement Garden, a young Cumberbatch refused to audition.
‘I was really prudish at that age and I didn’t want to take my clothes off,’ he said. ‘I was terrified and I didn’t want anyone seeing what I looked like.’
He claims that when his hormones kicked in during his teens, his schoolwork suffered. Unable to concentrate in lessons, he says, his grades fell and his ambitions to study at Oxbridge were dashed.
Old Harrovian classmates are sceptical. ‘He wasn’t stupid, but, quite frankly, the girls excuse is weak,’ said one. ‘We all discovered girls at the same time — or boys in some cases — but that didn’t stop plenty of us from going to Oxford and Cambridge.
‘It’s pretty obvious why he didn’t do the same: he wasn’t quite clever enough. One suspects he might have a chip on his shoulder, actually, the way he goes on about it in interviews.’
Cumberbatch has a different take on that. He says he opted to study drama at Manchester University because he didn’t want to become the kind of ‘luvvie’ who swanned around with a cashmere sweater knotted round his neck.
Success didn’t come quickly. Though casting directors praised him, they warned he was a natural ‘character actor’, not a star, due to his unconventional rather than leading-man looks. He couldn’t even break into video games.
He once auditioned for a PlayStation version of James Bond, in a bow tie and tuxedo, but was rejected.
The stress made him ill. He tried to stay fit with Bikram yoga and a daily spoonful of organic honey, but succumbed first to glandular fever, then pneumonia.
It didn’t help that he was smoking heavily. On a bad day, it took half a dozen cigarettes and a drink before he could even face talking to an interviewer.
Then, at 33 he scooped a part in a National Theatre production, playing ‘a rich, alcoholic monster’ in Terence Rattigan’s After The Dance. His performance won sparkling reviews, but it was his parents’ approval that he craved.
After the first night, his father was in tears. Irrationally anxious that Tim was weeping because he had been a disappointment, Benedict simply held onto him like a child.
At last, his father said through his tears: ‘You stupid boy. I’m crying because you were so wonderful.’ This uncertainty about the emotions of the people closest to him is at the heart of all Cumberbatch’s insecurities. He doesn’t trust himself to read the people around him, or to say the right thing.
And if he doesn’t trust himself, he can’t trust anyone at all.
In 2010, his career took off when Sherlock caused a national TV sensation. But his mood was bitter.
He dismissed praise with sour soundbites: ‘I’ve been the next big thing for ten years,’ he said.
He turned on friends and colleagues in a series of vicious interviews. He accused Bond actor Daniel Craig of spouting ‘bull****’ for claiming that he did his own stunts. And he lashed out at family friend Lord Fellowes, calling Downton Abbey ‘sentimental’, ‘cliched’ and ‘f***ing atrocious’.
Later, he apologised profusely. He had no filter, no ‘off’ switch, he said. ‘I am a PR disaster because I talk too much.’
His angered outpourings may have had their root in his tortured private life. After a dozen years, during which they had made a nest together in a flat in Hampstead, North London, he and actress Olivia Poulet had parted. In an instant, all his hopes for a family had vanished.
He felt wretched. When journalists asked about his greatest achievement, he would moan: ‘I wish I could say it was having children, but I can’t.’
He claimed the biggest regret of his life was that he hadn’t been a father by his early 30s — when he had still been with Olivia.
A public statement was issued, saying the couple’s split was amicable. But the heartbreak behind that anodyne lie was unmistakable.
Today, Cumberbatch still lives in the house he shared with Poulet, a £2 million property divided into three flats. He has angered neighbours with his plans to convert the attic and build a decked roof terrace, surrounded by railings.
One disgruntled neighbour hit back by spying on him from a window and Tweeting every move he made inside his flat. Cumberbatch admitted that this eerie incident was one of the scariest things he had ever experienced.
By converting this roof space, it seems he is trying to recreate the happiest memories of his youth, when he stood on the skyline terrace of his parents’ West London flat and watched the city.
His greatest thrill was to see a helicopter take off from nearby Kensington Palace, home to the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Apart from this relatively modest Hampstead property, Cumberbatch has no portfolio of houses, no flashy cars, no expensive hobbies. He is director of a firm called Red Brick Marketing Unlimited — a tacit dig at the Oxbridge set, perhaps? — set up last year, but it has yet to file accounts with Companies House.
Friends regard him as kind and quietly generous. He’ll cheerfully turn up on set with a round of coffees, handing them out as if he’s one of the catering team. But he doesn’t lavish gifts on friends or throw showy parties.
In fact, he is so unused to splashing the cash that when he did recently treat himself to a new wardrobe of clothes, after bulking up in the gym for Star Trek, he accidentally went over the limit on his credit card and had to borrow money from friends to pay for dinner.
Most movie stars, of course, have credit limits so high that they couldn’t overspend in a Porsche showroom, never mind a men’s outfitters.
It seems he has never forgotten his parents’ privations, when they emptied their savings accounts to meet his school fees. Still intent on becoming a father, he may already be investing to cover the cost of his future children’s education.
On the eve of the Star Trek launch, as builders finished work on the apartment in Hampstead, the actor made his clearest statement ever on his private life. ‘I’m building a home at the moment,’ he said, ‘and it would be nice to fill that home with love and children.’
One enterprising fan tried to act on that. She elbowed her way to the edge of the red carpet at the film premiere, brandishing a placard that read: ‘Benedict, I’m pregnant! And it’s yours.’
Real love, commitment and family won’t be so simple. However much he yearns for stability, Benedict Cumberbatch has a habit of sabotaging his own happiness.
He doesn’t quite look like a superstar, but talent, unconventional features, and the power of the Internet have made him into one.
The French have an expression called jolie laide—directly translated, it means “beautiful ugly,” but as a concept it embodies the intersection between attractiveness and unconventionality that makes us relish imperfection. Jolie laide is Sarah Jessica Parker and Benicio del Toro and Jessica Paré. It’s why Solange is visually more intriguing than Beyoncé, and why Meat Loaf, however improbably, was a sex symbol for much of the 1980s.
Sofia Coppola is often cited as the female embodiment of jolie laide, but as it relates to men, there’s no more obvious example in contemporary culture than Benedict Cumberbatch. In bleached-blonde, Botox-browed Hollywood, he’s the antithesis of everything we’re supposed to find attractive.
Let’s start with his name, which sounds positively Hogwartsian. He’s purposefully Benedict, rather than the more casual Ben, which brings to mind 16 distinctly unglamorous popes, an order of monks, and eggs smothered with hollandaise. Then there’s the Cumberbatch part, which conjures up images of either a professor of potions or the antiquated silk sash men sometimes wear with tuxedos. What’s in a name? Michael Caine was once Maurice Joseph Micklewhite and Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach: In the flimsy, illusive world of film, names matter.
Or perhaps they don’t, anymore, and perhaps 37-year-old Cumberbatch is the physical manifestation of a paradigm shift in a culture that seeks out slender, sensitive Edward Cullen over sweaty Magic Mike and prefers Sherlock Holmes to Superman. Perhaps this is why Cumberbatch is everywhere. This week, he’s in the news because he’s voicing a “super-duper smooth wolf” in DreamWorks’ upcoming Penguins of Madagascar. He’s also playing Hamlet at the London Barbican. He’s playing Richard III, possibly opposite Judi Dench. He’sreading radio news scripts from D-Day on BBC Radio Four (in what seems to be a craven but successful attempt to get millennials interested in history) He’s photo-bombing U2 at the Oscars. He’s reading letters written by Kurt Vonnegut and Iggy Pop at the literary Hay Festival. He’s one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He’s officiating at same-sex weddings. He’s crowd-funding short films made by a production company he set up, SunnyMarch Ltd. He’s starring as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. He’s replacing Brad Pitt in The Lost City of Z. He’s replacing Guy Pearce as Whitey Bulger’s brother in Black Mass. He’s on BuzzFeed surrounded by photoshopped pictures of kittens. And, yes, he’s also doing a fourth season of Sherlock, the cult British series that made detached sociopaths dreamy and Cumberbatch a household name.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to conclude that 37-year-old Cumberbatch is the biggest star in the world right now, riding an improbably perfect storm of talent, timing, sensitivity, virality, and our postmodern rejection of conformist standards of beauty—at least insofar as they relate to men. With actresses, we seem to crave homogeneity (as a fun experiment, look at a lineup featuring Kate Mara, Ashley Greene, Anna Kendrick, and Isla Fisher and see if you can say with absolute certainty which one is which). With actors, it’s more complicated. There are the schlubby, paunchy Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill types, sure, but there’s also brooding John Hawkes and goofy Michael Sheen and the quirkily off-kilter former ballerina Ansel Elgort.
In bleached-blonde, Botox-browed Hollywood, he’s the antithesis of everything we’re supposed to find attractive.
Aesthetically, Cumberbatch’s appeal is almost impossible to define. He has naturally auburn hair, which he dyes for different roles, but which brings to mind Byronic literary heroes as diverse as Mr. Darcy and Christian Grey. His haughty pallor bears comparison with the vampiric charms of Robert Pattinson in Twilight, and with the young Mark Twain. His features are aristocratic in a way that used to suggest inbreeding among the upper classes—his mouth is only vaguely defined, and his jaw is slender rather than square—while his eyes are situated disproportionately far away from each other, tilting back towards his temples in a manner that makes his angular cheekbones more apparent. Physically, he’s most frequently compared to an otter. In previous roles, he sported a ginger mustache while playing a rapist in Atonement, and he suffered through a hideous makeover to play the infinitely gruesome Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (not even Cumberbatch’s charms could make that movie a success).
Emotionally and intellectually, he is, quite simply, the perfect male celebrity for our time. The feminist blog Jezebel refers to him as “your boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch,” an endorsement that takes into consideration his intelligence, his chivalry (he once punched a reporter who was rude about Keira Knightley, but did so “gently”), his sense of humor, his status as a straight ally for gay rights (hence the wedding he officiated), and his Buddhist regard for humanity and all the earth’s creatures. He’s an activist and an artist who donates his drawings to charity auctions. He has concerns about the fact that his legions of fans refer to themselves as Cumberbitches or Cumberbunnies because of the potentially sexist connotations; he prefers Cumberbabes. Of course he does.
If Cumberbatch is as uncomfortable with the level of attention he’s getting as he says he is, then his ascent can be seen as a cautionary tale for other reluctant idols. In some indefinable way, Cumberbatch is a walking, talking meme. When he appeared on Sesame Street he had to repeatedly remind Murray that he was actually an actor, not a detective named “Benedict Sherlock,” in a joke that was far too sophisticated to be targeted at preschoolers and was presumably intended for a YouTube audience. His presence is guaranteed to make anything go viral, whether it’s a literary festival, a TV miniseries, or one of the most frequently staged Shakespearian tragedies. In London, people are paying around $170 just to jump to the front of the line when tickets go on sale for his Hamlet. Combine photos of him looking intuitive or alluring with pictures of fuzzy kittens and it’s a wonder the Internet doesn’t implode.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s Ligeia a character says, “There is no exquisite beauty … without some strangeness in the proportion.” Perhaps the strange and incalculable ascendancy of Cumberbatch from a man the BBC initially didn’t think was sexy enough to play Sherlock Holmes to one of the biggest stars in the world is a sign that our culture is maturing, and no longer considers classical good looks to be paramount. The 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant drew distinctions between things that are evidently beautiful because we can see they’re beautiful, and things that are sublime because they demand an intellectual response. In a Cumberbatch-centric universe, the sublime is finally triumphant.
Amazon.com’s Instant Video is offering many Benedict Cumberbatch movies to viewers to buy or rent to watch from their computers. Fans can watch such films as Sherlock, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, War Horse, 40something, 12 Years A Slave, The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County, Third Star, Inseperable, Wreckers, Parade’s End, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Girlfriend In A Coma, Hawking, Amazing Grace, Atonement, Creation, Four Requests, Star Trek: Into Darkness and many more. Choose your favorite Benedict movie to curl up with for the evening.. Click here to visit Benedict Cumberbatch Amazon.com Instant Video Page
Christine Blundell is an Oscar and BAFTA-winning hair and makeup designer whose credits include The Full Monty, Casino Royale and The Fifth Estate. Ahead of herBAFTA Masterclass, Christine tells us how to fake blood with ingredients from the supermarket and how she turned Benedict Cumberbatch into Julian Assange…
When you work on period films, where do you go to research them?
As soon as I’m committed to a film I’m constantly thinking about that period – how they would have achieved certain things, how they worked out their hygiene rituals at the time, the class system…
With the internet we have research at our fingertips. I still do it the old-fashioned way, though. The film I’m doing at the moment is about the Kray twins and is set in the 50s and 60s. I’ve found loads of old magazines and I’ve been cutting those out. When I did Vera Drake, again set in the 50s, I got all the actors and crew to bring in their family photos. We scanned them and made a folder of everyday family life, which ended up being an amazing catalogue of images.
How do you develop design ideas?
I read the script and pull out what it says about the character – it might say “crooked teeth and a wonky nose” – and then I wait until I see the actor. The first meeting is just with them and me: they’ve got to bring that character to life and I’m there to help them.
Then we workshop: we have play dates where the actors come down to my makeup studio in Camden and we try out different looks, see what we can come up with and if there’s anything we have to physically make for them.
In Focus: Turning Benedict Cumberbatch into Julian Assange
Working on The Fifth Estate and trying to make Benedict Cumberbatch look like Julian Assange was a really interesting makeup [project] because you had to make him look like somebody completely different but no-one was supposed to know he was in full makeup.
The hair was a wig. He was already tied into doing the next Sherlock so he wasn’t allowed to dye his hair. Every morning I had to slick his hair down, put a bald cap on him – a latex scull cap, colour that in, stick it all down, put a wig on top, get that secured. Then I’d bleach his eyebrows so they weren’t too dark and put contact lenses in to deaden his eyes a little bit.
Because he had an Australian accent we wanted to change his profile a bit so we had some fake teeth made for him so he had double thick gums. It’s a very little thing and no-one’s meant to know except us but it just helps him with his accent.
There was a little bit of foundation. Julian Assange has quite a bit of sun damage so we had to paint on freckles. It was pretty full-on makeup considering that it doesn’t really look like makeup.
Read full article here…
**Older, but funny article…
Benedict Cumberbatch talks TIFF ‘It Boy’ status, playing Julian Assange and his real hair color.
Benedict Cumberbatch arrives nearly an hour late for our scheduled interview during TIFF, but then we should have expected this, shouldn’t we?
He was, after all, extremely busy as the “It Boy” of TIFF 2013, appearing in three of the most talked-about films at the fest: gala opener The Fifth Estate, and Oscar hopefuls 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage County.
Cumberbatch, 37, shared TIFF “It Boy” status with fellow British actor Daniel Radcliffe, who also had three films at the fest. The Star christened the pair “Brit Boys” in a headline.
“I’m very flattered by that,” Cumberbatch says. “Just because I’ve got 10 years on Daniel. I’d be a Brit Boy any time you’d like.”
Being an It Boy or Brit Boy comes with important duties big and small, it seems. Cumberbatch had barely seated himself at the chair and side table he was using for his Toronto interviews (which, oddly, resembled a home rec-room version of the Enterprise bridge on Star Trek) when a man came out of nowhere carrying a plain white dinner plate.
He wanted Cumberbatch to autograph it with black marker, which the actor cheerfully did.
But to get back to why it should come as no surprise that Cumberbatch was so late for his interview, we need to recall something he told The Independent newspaper in 2008.
Asked to finish the sentence, “A phrase I use far too often is . . . ” he replied: “‘Sorry I’m late!’ I’m a terrible timekeeper.”
He said this back when he was getting good notices for having portrayed physicist Stephen Hawking in the BBC drama Hawking. It was still some time before his current superstardom playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC-TV series Sherlock, launched in 2010, and his more recent acclaim as the super villain in Star Trek Into Darkness and the scorching dragon Smaug in the coming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
And that’s only a fraction of his current projects, with rumors of a Star Wars prequel/sequel in the mix.
So we shouldn’t be surprised about the lateness, should we? And Cumberbatch is indeed apologetic. It seems he nipped outside the interview room in the Ritz Carlton Hotel for a quick ciggie and respite from the mayhem.
“Sorry, it’s my first TIFF and I am so busy I can’t even see one of the films I’m in,” he says.
I remark at how relaxed he looks, considering how in-demand he is.
“I just got some fresh air; it does wonders for you getting out of a hotel room. But yeah, I look all right. I’m doing OK.”
With Holmesian acuity I observe that he’s wearing brown slacks, a blue denim shirt, a white striped summer sport coat and striped canvas sneakers, sans socks.
I further note with alarm that his hair is a dark reddish-brown, not at all like the “naturally blond” hue I had described in an earlier Star article. I had committed the journalistic sin of assuming it was his natural colour, because I’d seen it that way onscreen many times, including The Fifth Estate, due in theatres Oct. 18, in which he plays notorious WikiLeaks whistle blower Julian Assange.
Describing Cumberbatch as a “natural blond” brought me under sniper fire from his many fans on Twitter. Several of them indignantly scolded me, telling me that the lanky actor’s real hair colour is red, or “ginger” as the Brits call it.
“Well, you can sling s— back at them,” Cumberbatch says with a wry smile, rising to my defence. “I’m not ginger.”
Cumberbatch begins to elaborate, while the four publicists/assistants seated behind him look up from their iPhones and iPads with amused interest.
“I’m auburn and there is a difference,” he says firmly.
“I’ve got very good friends and relatives who are ginger and trust me, there’s a difference. And they ain’t ever gonna see the proof! They might say, ‘We saw it when you were the Creature in Frankenstein!’ (a stage play in which Cumberbatch appeared nude), but they didn’t, they didn’t! The Creature in Frankenstein had darker hair than me.
“That was one of the oddest moments of my life, applying makeup to that particular part of my body, but I have hair that is auburn. It’s got streaks of red in it, definitely. It’s also got streaks of bronze and lighter colours and darker brown colours. When I was a kid I was as blond as the young Julian in our film.”
Such precision is what you’d expect of the man who plays Sherlock Holmes, who can deduce a man’s entire life story from the ashes of his cigar. It could also describe, conveniently enough, the nitpicky ways of Assange, the Aussie computer boffin and muckraker who stunned the world (and terrified many world leaders) in 2010 when WikiLeaks, in cahoots with several major newspapers, dumped thousands of secret U.S. military and government documents into the public domain.
Cumberbatch reached out to Assange before portraying him in The Fifth Estate (which he does very well), but Mr. WikiLeaks was having none of it. Assange was also not inclined to broach any discussion about the subject, perhaps because he’s still living under diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, still potentially facing legal charges in the U.S. and Sweden.
“I wanted to meet him, but he didn’t want to meet me,” Cumberbatch sighs, adding that he was turned down in writing, not verbally.
“I haven’t spoken to him. He didn’t want to condone a film that he felt was based on two poisonous accounts of events that might be detrimental to him and his institution and people, including some who are awaiting trial and possible extradition.
“I respected that, but at the same time as politely as he wrote to me, I returned to him and said, ‘I thoroughly disagree. This is a good thing; we want to portray you in all your glories. It’s not about vilifying you. It’s not about demonizing you. It’s not about making you into a hero, but it’s about trying to explore the complexities of it and it’s a film, not a documentary.’”
Cumberbatch’s normally perfect diction suddenly seems muffled. He sheepishly removes the maple sugar hard candy he’s been sucking on.
“Sorry, this is a really good sweet! Sorry if it’s making my diction s—!”
Despite being turned down by Assange, Cumberbatch still felt he needed to do right by the man, by showing him as more than just a humourless Internet troublemaker.
“I really profoundly wanted to show someone in private who had an emotional context, a sense of humour and the three-dimensionality which he can’t allow himself to show. I think that’s not because of being self-serving and protective, but because he doesn’t want to get in the way of the message.”
I point out to Cumberbatch that he’s not unlike Assange in his current state of notoriety. Everything the two of them say and do is under constant scrutiny, and they’re both caught in a whirlwind of media attention.
Cumberbatch keeps up a work schedule that would wear out three actors, perhaps making up for lost time over those years when he was a struggling unknown — such as when his film Starter for 10 played TIFF in 2006 and he wasn’t deemed important enough by the filmmakers to warrant an air ticket to Toronto for the fest.
How does he keep it up?
“Good diet and sleeping every now and again helps,” Cumberbatch says, grinning.
“I’ve got friends who keep me really grounded and for me — I guess in a way like Julian, although in a more flippant context — it’s about the work. So if the work is being celebrated, then all the other hoopla around it is nice, but it’s peripheral to the work.
“I’m in a really lucky position as well. I’m aware that not only is it an embarrassment of riches to have this many films at this festival, and ones with quality roles, but also that I’m actually employed at all. It’s a blessing in my industry. We’re oversubscribed and there are too many talented people who aren’t employed.”
I ask him if there any other real persons, alive or dead, whom he aspires to play in a film one day.
“Many, yes, but I’ve had quite a run on real figures, so it’s tricky to say no when they are as difficult and complex and rich and varied as the ones I’ve been asked to play, because I think that’s what draws all of us to their stories. They’re the extremes of humanity and that’s very interesting to watch and try and do.”
What he really longs to do, perhaps not surprisingly after the run of dark characters he’s been essaying, is to sing and dance.
“I’d like to play someone who can sing and dance. I’d like to do that. I’ve not done a musical. I’d also like to play a romantic comedy . . . there’s lots more stuff I’d like to do.”
Hmmm, perhaps he could combine the two, and do a biopic on Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?
With Benedict Cumberbatch, as with Sherlock Holmes, no deduction is too wild to consider.
**Still don’t like Benedict as a bleached blond..
**Don’t forget to VOTE…
With appearances in the likes of Sherlock and The Fifth Estate, the star is leading the way ahead of pop superstars Miley Cyrus, Katy Pery and Bruno Mars
With appearances in the likes of Sherlock and The Fifth Estate, the star is leading the way ahead of pop superstars Miley Cyrus, Katy Pery and Bruno Mars
Cumberbatch has the power
Benedict Cumberbatch is leading the way as the most influential actor in the world, according to an ongoing poll.
TIME magazine is working on its annual top 100 list, and the Sherlock star is head and shoulders above the competition, receiving more votes than the likes of Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence and even pop-megastar Miley Cyrus.
Although the poll is still open, Benedict is currently placed is sixth, behind the such stars as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyonce and Justin Bieber, and he is the only actor in the top 10 as it stands.
Given his prominence on the big and small screen, it perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising to see him held so highly in the minds of the public.
As well as his role as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s modern-day retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary detective, he’s become a go-to man in Hollywood.
The likes of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and his part in Star Trek Into Darkness have made him a valuable box office name, while taking on the role of Wikileaks leader Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate proved he could tackle the big issues.
Some of the biggest names in Hollywood currently have started their careers on television
Cumberbatch was a successful theatre actor in England. Hollywood was a distant dream. And then Sherlock happened. The TV show in its first season (despite only consisting 3 episodes) created a sensation worldwide, and Cumberbatch topped all list as the best reprisal of Sherlock Holmes, a character that over the years has been portrayed by so many legends and stars. Post the first season of Sherlock, Benedict was offered to be represented by the best agents in Hollywood, owing to the exposure that Sherlock gave to his talent. He has had a staggering dozen odd movie releases that feature the best ensembles and the best directors. His releases include the Oscar nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated and commercially successful Warhorse, Star Trek: Into Darkness where he played Khan, The Hobbit, followed by The Fifth Estate where he played Julian Assange, then came the The Hobbit: Desolation Of The Smaug, then came the Oscar for Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave, where he played one of the few positive characters in the movie and his last release was the Oscar nominated (yet again) August: Osage County, where he shared screen space with stalwarts such as Meryl Streep & Julia Roberts. The combined worldwide grosses of the above releases are in the reign of a billion dollars plus. Phew!
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In the peculiar-looking, former cross-dressing Shakespearean actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Hollywood has found an unlikely leading man.
Benedict Cumberbatch was in mid-monologue, holding forth on the dangers of the surveillance society, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was meant to be promoting his latest movie, whatever that was (he has been in a lot of them lately). He talks superfast, so that when he paused, the effect was of a train driver slamming on the emergency brakes. “Why does anyone want to know my opinions?” he asked. “I’m not interested in reading my opinions.”
He has no idea. There are people out there these days who so love to hear Cumberbatch talk — who so love to watch Cumberbatch exist — that they do not care what he does, as long as they get to observe him doing it. Somehow, along a career consisting of highly interest-ing but generally non-megastar-making roles (most recently, the lead in the BBC series “Sherlock”; Khan, the wrathful villain in the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness“; the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in “The Fifth Estate” and the voice of Smaug, the very bad-tempered dragon in the latest “Hobbit” movie), Cumberbatch has progressed from being everyone’s favorite secret crush to one of the most talked-about actors in Hollywood.
His celebrity manifests itself in unexpected ways. When Cumberbatch, who is 37, appeared on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” Fallon noted that more people were waiting in the standby line than for any other guest that year. He was reportedly tweeted about 700,000 times in 2013. Last fall, he appeared on the cover of Time’s international edition. Although he has not been a romantic lead in any big films, and although he says he looks like “Sid from ‘Ice Age’ ” and although he once declared that “I always seem to be cast as slightly wan, ethereal, troubled intellectuals or physically ambivalent bad lovers,” there are numerous websites devoted to the subject of his romantic prowess, e.g.,“Benedict Cumberbatch — Fantastic Lover,” a compendium of clips set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” that has been viewed more than 490,000 times on YouTube. (These are mostly posted by his army of female fans, who call themselves “Cumberbitches” and who use the hashtag “Cumberwatch” when they tweet about his activities.)
His appeal is manifest, yet hard to pin down. His name is odd, Hogwartsian, suggesting both an Elizabethan actor and a baker whose products are made with rustic ingredients no one has heard of. Tall and lean, he has an other-century look about him, with his long, narrow face, his mop of crazy hair (he keeps it shorter off-duty) and bright, far-apart, almond-shaped blue eyes that on-screen can play intelligent, ardent, manic or insane, depending on the job. In “Sherlock,” he looks like the sort of person who has a stratospheric I.Q. and an abysmal E.Q. but is dead sexy with it; at the same time, if you were to remark on his resemblance to an otter, you would not be the only one.
When he sat down with a cup of coffee in a Camden pub last November and began to discuss electronic surveillance, the government, his favorite movies, his career, the rabidity of “Sherlock” fans and how coffee affects him (it makes him talk even faster), Cumberbatch had just come off an extraordinary run of work. “The Fifth Estate,” in which he perfectly captures the slippery nature of Julian Assange — free-speech hero, treacherous colleague, possible megalomaniac — had just come out. Over the next two months, three more of his films would be released: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” in which he gets to intone things like “I am death” in a creepy dragon voice; “12 Years a Slave,” in which he plays a sympathetic slave-owner; and “August: Osage County,” in which he has a small role in an ensemble of superstars like Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.
The Time cover had just hit the newsstands, and Cumberbatch was slightly freaked out. “It’s one of the more bizarre levels of success,” he said. At first he thought it was fake. “Someone sent me a photograph of it and I thought, ‘Some fan has got hold of a photo and done one of those neat apps where they impose your head on something,’ ” he said. Also, he had had an exciting experience on a British talk show, when Harrison Ford, a fellow guest, emerged from his taciturnity to announce that he loved him as Holmes. This has been happening to Cumberbatch a lot lately, fellow actors declaring themselves fans, such as when Ted Danson saw him through a crowd of stars at a pre-awards party recently and began shouting “Sherlock!” A few days earlier, he had wrapped his most recent movie, a biopic of the British cryptographer Alan Turing. Cumberbatch talked for a long time about the tragedy of Turing’s life and about what has been a series of very intense roles, heavy on iconic fictional characters and real people. “I am so ready to play a really dumb character,” he said.
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