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People In Film | Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch | The Inside Man

Distinctive both in name and appearance, Benedict Cumberbatch plays the pivotal role of Peter Guillam -- the accomplice of George Smiley (Gary Oldman) in his quest to discover the identity of a Russian double agent -- in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. Being cast in this part was a dream come true for Cumberbatch for several reasons. First off, there’s the A-list cast, including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy and Ciarán Hinds. Cumberbatch quipped to The Guardian about the film’s talent roster, “That's a call sheet I'm going to frame and keep for ever.” Moreover, he rose to the dramatic challenge posed by playing Guilliam, a young impressionable British agent who is made to deceive the very institution to which he has sworn his allegiance. “It’s the kind of role, in the kind of film, that you crave to have as an actor because it involves subtle shifts, it’s not about everything being on enormous display,” he told the website Flicks and Bits. Indeed, as he told the Daily Mail, “I've always wanted to play a spy, because it is the ultimate acting exercise. You are never what you seem.” The elegance of his performance, showcasing both a confident intelligence and a deep emotional confusion, is not lost on critics. Xan Brooks of The Guardian applauds him: “Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as the well-groomed gentleman conspirator coming slowly apart at the seams.”

Benedict Cumberbatch | Early Stages

Cumberbatch at Harrow

London-born Benedict Cumberbatch is the son of actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton (who's real last name is Cumberbatch). From an early age, Cumberbatch was drawn to the theatre and to the spotlight. In an interview with London Theater, he recalled being “a very bossy Joseph in the Nativity play at primary school. Apparently I pushed Mary offstage because she was taking too long.” Hoping to provide him with alternatives to the stage, his parents sent him to the elite boarding school Harrow, with hopes he might pursue the law. "I got the idea of becoming a lawyer by watching Rumpole of the Bailey," he told USA Today. But real-life lawyers proved less romantic than his fictional models. "I started meeting people they throw at you to put you off — these worn, vampiric-looking creatures who hadn't seen daylight for a long time. I thought, 'Wow, I'm thinking of becoming a lawyer because it's more sensible?'" At all-male Harrow, he had to settle for playing female roles (he was Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Rosalind in As You Like It), yet it did little to dissuade him. After studying at Manchester University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he found an agent and quickly established himself as a gifted stage performer.

Benedict Cumberbatch | Small-Screen Sherlock

Cumberbatch in the BBC hit series Sherlock

Benedict Cumberbatch was so in demand as a stage actor that he could easily have made a career of playing Shakespeare, Ibsen and Eugene O'Neill in the West End; however, that was not to be his fate. In 2004, he was chosen to play Stephen Hawking in the BBC's small-screen biopic of the physics genius, Hawking, and gave a brilliant performance that won him a Best Actor nomination at the BAFTA Awards. A number of other TV roles followed (including playing opposite fellow TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY star Tom Hardy in STUART: A LIFE BACKWARDS in 2007) before he found even greater success playing another brilliant British brain, Sherlock Holmes, in Sherlock, the smash hit BBC series that transposes Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries to the present day. “There's a great charge you get from playing him, because of the volume of words in your head and the speed of thought – you really have to make your connections incredibly fast,” Cumberbatch told The Guardian about playing Holmes. “He is one step ahead of the audience, and of anyone around him with normal intellect.”

Benedict Cumberbatch | ACTOR OF THE YEAR

Cumberbatch in upcoming WAR HORSE

His poise, stature and very proper voice give Benedict Cumberbatch an aristocratic quality that makes him a natural for costume dramas, and it's no surprise that he made his first major impact on the big screen in a period piece, playing William Pitt the Younger in AMAZING GRACE, the 2006 biopic of British abolitionist William Wilberforce. The same year he appeared opposite James McAvoy in STARTER FOR 10 (based on a novel by One Day's David Nicholls), and in 2007 reteamed with McAvoy on ATONEMENT. More period roles arrived, with Cumberbatch playing William Carey, a courtier of Henry VIII in THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (2008), and Charles Darwin's friend Joseph Hooker in CREATION (2009). With a hit TV show and a lead in the TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, it’s no wonder that British GQ crowned him “Actor of the Year," noting these achievements, as well as his upcoming turn in Steven Spielberg’s WAR HORSE and in Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT, are “all proof (whatever your powers of deduction) that Cumberbatch’s huge star is surely rising.”

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