The mysterious allure of Benedict Cumberbatch

benedict cumberbatch

The actor with a mouthful of a name has eased his way into the spotlight over the past couple of years. From photobombing this year’s Oscars, to having an entire cult following on the blogging site Tumblr, the world can’t seem to get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch. Through the uprising of the actor who’s starting to become a household name, 4 significant roles come to mind from his past that has helped put his name on the map.

1 | Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock, BBC)

Sir Conan Doyle’s beloved sociopathic detective has been portrayed over and over again. Robert Downey Jnr took a stab at it in Guy Ritchie’s films Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, as well as Trainspotting actor Jonny Miller who currently plays the detective in the American TV series Elementary. But what makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal so distinct and unique from the rest is the prowess of his acting skills.

A recurring theme in Steven Moffat’s Sherlock is the use of a mind palace, a scene that might last all of about 30 seconds can turn into a 5-minute spiel where Sherlock goes into the depths of his mind to reach out bits of information to solve a crime. This results in such a rapid-fire explanation; tangent after tangent of clues linked to linked to clues, until it all comes together and creates a picture perfect solution. Just trying to explain the idea is quite mind-boggling, but Cumberbatch is the actor that has mastered it, and even co-writer of the series Mark Gatiss agrees that it’s quite a feat of acting. That level of dedication plus all the wit, the mop of unruly curly hair and some intense fight scenes and we’ve got ourselves the man who’s managed to make ‘smart’ the new ‘sexy’.

Best Line: ‘I’m not a psychopath Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.’

2 | Commander John Harrison/Khan (Star Trek: Into The Darkness, Paramount Pictures)

Star Trek is a massive franchise within itself. So to be part of such an important series in all of sci-fi, and as a main villain nonetheless, landing the role as Khan is huge deal in terms of where Cumberbatch is right now in his acting career. His portfolio has consisted of drama heavy roles (Atonement, Third Star, War Horse), but when he branches off, he branches off big. To see his name cast in Gene Roddenberry’s classic through J.J. Abrams movie adaptation, shows that the actor means serious business in breaking through the wider audiences.

As for his performance as Khan, Cumberbatch brings out a different, more ominous feel to the forefront. Known as more of a charismatic character in the original Star Trek series and movie Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan, Cumberbatch’s portrayal seems to up the ante in terms of menace. If you’re all for accurate depictions of characters, his performance may not be for you, But if you’re a little bit more open then you won’t be able to stop yourself from appreciating the kind of malice that the actor has poured into the character, which makes it quite a refreshing take on the Star Trek villain.

Best Line: ‘Intellect alone is useless in a fight, Mr. Spock. You … you can’t even break a rule, how would you be expected to break bone?’

3 | Smaug the Dragon (The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug, Warner Bros.) 

Coming from an actor who has only really had the role of Khan (previously) in regards to fantasy fiction type agendas, it feels like another big step forward when Cumberbatch was announced as the dragon for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy. The Tolkein legendarium is in a whole different league to Star Trek. Many great actors like Patrick Stewart and William Shatner to Sir Ian Mckellen and Viggo Mortensen have delved into the two alternative universes, so it’s definitely a big deal for Cumberbatch to be a part of both of them. And what makes his role in this film even more unparalleled is that he literally plays the dragon.

They put him in a mocap (motion capture) suit, much like Gollum’s actor Andy Serkis, and had him crawling on the floor while he said his lines. He plays a villain on a different scale in The Hobbit from the way he plays Khan. And while this one man plays both characters so viciously, his performances are so diverse you couldn’t possibly tell it was from the same actor. It’s that level of commitment he puts into every character he plays that has every casting agent turning their heads. Director Peter Jackson himself mentions praise for Cumberbatch’s devotion to Smaug, how he put himself and his own creativity into the character, and what more than a hardworking and dedicated actor do you need?

Best Line: ‘I am fire… I am death!’

4 | ‘Little’ Charles Aiken (August: Osage County, The Weinstein Company)

John Well’s film adaptation of Tracy Lett’s play August: Osage County brings light to Cumberbatch’s more dramatic side. As an actor who trained in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, it’s no surprise that most of his work has consisted of serious, upper-class roles. While his appearance in the film as ‘Little’ Charles Aiken may seem like a small supporting role, it’s the prestige of the film that is sure to push his name forward in the film industry. During his work in August: Osage County he’s made connections with some of Hollywood’s most prolific actors and actresses. Cumberbatch has mentioned going over acting techniques with Maryl Streep, and any advice from the winner of 3 Academy Awards with 18 more nominations, would come a long way for anyone. Not to mention acting alongside Pretty Woman’s Julia Roberts herself, award-winning Justified actress Margo Martindale and Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin. Another factor that plays in this role’s importance to Cumberbatch’s discography is that he’s solely been a British actor for quite some time now. ‘Little’ Charles Aiken is one of the few roles we see him with a pure American backdrop and accent. People were shocked when they found out House actor Hugh Laurie had a British accent (because he is in fact British), but the way he manipulates his voice just makes it natural for him to sound and be American. If Cumberbatch keeps on getting these Hollywood roles soon enough his American accent may blend in and in the future when he’s presenting an Emmy people will also say ‘…he’s British?’ 

Best Line: ‘It’s just, I want people to know I got what I always wanted, and that means I am not a loser.’

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