Benedict celebrates his birthday on 19 July.
He was born as Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch in London in 1976. He is the son of the actors Timothy Carlton (his full name is Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch) and Wanda Ventham – and therefore one could say that the talent for acting came almost naturally to him.
His parents wished that he would become a lawyer and so they sent him to Brambletye School (in West Sussex) and to Harrow (in Northwest London) – with the result that Benedict starred in a school production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing the fairy queen Titania. From that moment he could no longer stay away from the stage.
After he finished school he took a gap-year and taught English in a Tibetan monastery. Back in the UK he enrolled at the University of Manchester to study Drama. After graduating he took a one year course at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) in London. With his training and his love for performing he got a roles in theatre plays at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. His first television experience was in 2000, where he secured a role in the long-running british soap Heartbeat. This was followed by a number of cameos and supporting roles in British series (e.g. in Silent Witness (2002), Cambridge Spies and Spooks (2003)) and a leading role alongside House-star Hugh Laurie in the TV comedy series Fortysomething (2003).
His first major breakthrough came in 2004 with his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in the same-titled TV.Biography Hawking, for which he received not only a BAFTA nomination but also the Golden Nymph Award for Best Performance by an Actor. This opened the doors for Benedict, and he was now to be seen in Mini-Series (e.g. Broken News or Nathan Barley (2005)) and secured leading roles in some highly acclaimed films such as To the Ends of the Earth (2005) or Stuart – A Life Backwards (2007) and charismatic parts like in Amazing Grace (2006).
International cinema roles followed in 2007. Benedict starred alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvory in Atonement and alongside Nathalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in The Other Boleyn Girl. Many exciting project followed (a detailed list can be found in our career section) and in 2010 Benedict, once again, portrayed one of the most famous people in the world: painter Vincent Van Gogh in the movie-documentary Van Gogh: Painted with Words.
But he only became well-known to the broader, international audience when he took on the role of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic master detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC Series Sherlock in 2010 – and from this moment he life changed completely. He was now an actor in demand and ready to conquer Hollywood.
But Benedict still remained faithful to his roots, the theatre stage. In 2010 he wowed the audience and critics as David Scott-Fowler in Terence Rattigan’s play After The Dance. His embodiment of the alternating roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature in Nick Dear’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre in 2011 was widely acclaimed and got him several awards. He was awarded the “Best Performance by an Actor in a Play” Award at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards and won, like his fellow actor in Frankenstein, Jonny Lee Miller, the “Best Actor” Award at the Laurence Olivier Awards and the London Evening Standard Awards.
2013 was an exciting year for Benedict. Not fewer than 5 major movies premiered that year: Star Trek Into Darkness, August Osage County, 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, and the second part of The Hobbit trilogy. One could easily say that this was the year of Benedict Cumberbatch.
This year, several new interesting movies are waiting in the wings: The biopic of Alan Turing’s life (The Imitation Game), The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Penguins of Madagascar. And there is more to come as Benedict will return to the stage as Hamlet in 2015 and a television adaptation of Richard III is scheduled for 2016.
|Interesting and funny stories from Benedict’s life|
|Horror in South Africa
During the filming of To the Ends of the Earth Benedict experienced the pure horror in South Africa. After a day of filming, he and his fellow actors Denise Black and Theo Landey were on their way back to the hotel when a flat tyre forced them to stop. Suddenly a group of armed men emerged from the darkness, threatened and handcuffed the trio for several hours, until they were finally released. Benedict got out of it with a head injury, but later admits in an interview that he thought he was gong to die in this moment while trying to calm his colleague Denise and making her less frightened.
Benedict as Doctor Who?
Benedict is an avowed fan of the British hit series Doctor Who. When the producer of the series and his good friend Steven Moffat (also heavily involved in the production of Sherlock) offered him to play the main character in 2008, Benedict rejected. His concerns: the fandom and franchise was too big for him – and he would not like see his face on all kinds of merchandising products.
Sherlock plays the (first) violin
Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes loves to play the violin. Even though Moffat’s Sherlock in the 21st century communicates with mobile phones and does his research on the Internet, he still has this passion about playing the violin as his literary character did (“I play the violin when I am thinking.”). Therefore, Benedict took violin lessons specifically to learn how to hold the instrument and strike the violin bow in a credible and correct way.
t’s a running gag among actors to respond to the question “What are you doing after this film?” with “Well, if Spielberg does not call, then I go on holiday.” It was also Benedict’s jokingly answer to a colleague when this running gag became reality for him: Steven Spielberg called! Benedict told in an interview that it remained an unforgettable moment – he almost fell off his chair! He fortunately did not and thus played the role of Major Stewart in Spielberg’s War Horse. Not enough with that, Spielberg – thrilled by working with Benedict – proposed him for Star Trek Into Darkness. Benedict, busy with another shooting, was not able to attend the casting in person so he filmed a short audition-video with his mobile phone in the kitchen of a friend – and grabbed the coveted role of the villain in the Enterprise adventure. Later he admitted in an interview that the well-known cast and the incredible set had intimidated him a bit. But he would like to repeat the experience at anytime.
About his name
Benedict’s last name always causes bizarre modifications and jokes. He himself said in an interview with Bruce Dessau of The Times (from 3.11.2007):
“It’s actually my real family name,” says Cumberbatch, between forkfuls of fish salad backstage at the Royal Court. “When I first started I used the same surname Carlton that my father Timothy, who is an actor, uses. But I wasn’t getting very far and when I changed agents, my new agent suggested I revert. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch sounded a bit bumbly and messy, but they said it’s a great name, it will get people talking about you.”
About his role in After The Dance
Timetable of Benedict’s film, tv roles and theatre plays
Awards and Nominations
Golden Globe Award
BAFTA TV Award
National Television Awards
Goldene Nymph Award
Critics’ Circle Theatre Award
Olivier Award and Londion Evening Standard Award
Image Credit: Fanpop Images, http://berkshireonstage.wordpress.com, http://dangerousminds.net, http://checkfreak.com, Timeout.com, http://ayoungertheatre.com