My love affair with British actor Benedict Cumberbatch began when I saw him in the BBC’s Sherlock about two years ago. Even though he had roles in fairly well-known films like Atonement and The Other Boleyn Girl before then, Sherlock is what really launched him into the stratosphere. He’s a pretty big star in the UK now, but still fairly unknown in the US. That should change soon though. This year he is going to play significant parts in at least five different films, including Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams’s next installment in his reboot series, where Cumberbatch will be playing a villain named John Harrison; the next Hobbit film, where he will inhabit the role of Smaug the dragon through voice and motion capture as well as that of the Necromancer; and The Fifth Estate, a biopic in which he will star as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. As we head into what’s sure to be a great year in film, let me take a moment to tell you why I think Mr. Cumberbatch is so awesome and worthy of recognition.
#1 He’s a genuinely brilliant actor.
This is what originally drew me to him in Sherlock. Whether he’s playing a genius detective on TV, an underdog airline pilot in a radio sitcom, or Frankenstein’s monster onstage, Cumberbatch brings a nuance and attention to detail to each of his performances that’s truly captivating to watch. He doesn’t just play parts; he inhabits them to the point where I see him disappear as an actor and only see the character he is portraying. He also has amazing versatility in the roles he takes on.
#2 He’s beautiful.
He isn’t exactly the conventional sort of attractive. I thought he was odd looking the first time I saw him—I suppose he’s an acquired taste. He’s tall and elegant, has amazing cheekbones, and his eyes seem to be a different color every time I see them. I’ve never seen anyone like him, and I appreciate people with that unique sort of beauty. Also, the fact that he doesn’t understand why people find him attractive makes him incredibly endearing.
#3 His personality is just as beautiful as his face.
He’s incredibly intelligent, articulate, humble, hardworking, and dedicated to his craft. He regularly works with a charity called The Prince’s Trust, but stays relatively low-key about it, which makes it obvious he isn’t just in it for the publicity. When asked what his greatest achievement is so far, he said that he wished he could say his children. “I’m building a home at the moment and it would be nice to fill it with love and life and children,” Cumberbatch said in a 2012 interview with The Big Issue. “That has long been an ambition of mine. I think I have been waiting to do it since I was twelve, really.”
#4 He survived a carjacking in South Africa by talking his way out of it and the experience gave him a new-found lust for life.
“I became very impatient and insist[ed] on living anything but a normal life, because that experience made me realize two things,” Cumberbatch said in an interview for Public Radio International’s Bullseye. “One, you die alone. No matter who you are and who you’re leaving behind, you have to face death alone. And also, the fact that I was too young to die; it made me angry to live.”
#5 He’s really good at keeping secrets.
Don’t bother trying to get him to give away plot points or details ahead of time for any project he’s working on. His responses to those attempts usually involve some combination of wit, sarcasm, and playful teasing that will ultimately tell you nothing and probably leave you more curious than you were before.
Now that you’ve been through “Benedict Cumberbatch 101,” you can consider yourself ahead of the curve when all those movies of his come out. With his talent, there may even be an Oscar in his near future.
Star Trek Into Darkness hits theaters on May 17, The Fifth Estate is expected for November 15, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is due on December 13.