Since leaving the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Benedict Cumberbatch has made a name for himself as one of England’s most enigmatic leading men.
Bringing a roguish self-assuredness to everything from BBC costume dramas to surprise West End hits. “Some casting directors only see me as a posh, clever antihero,” he admits.
This month, American audiences will get to see the London-born actor playing black-slapping members of the British military upper classes in Two of December’s most anticipated period dramas.
In the espionage thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he is the pragmatic Peter Guillam, right-handman to to the cold, calculating George Smiley (Gary Oldman), while in Steven Spielberg’s World War I epic, War Horse, he plays the less sympathetic Captain Stewart.
“I’m very careful about historical dramas unless it’s this kind of quality,” he says. “You really have to fight for period detail and accuracy and intelligence.”
The two films cap off an eventful year, who followed his actor parents into the family profession. After a sold-out run in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein at London’s National Theatre, he made a documentary about his hero, playwright Terence Rattigan, for English television; traveled to New Zealand to film Peter Jackson’s first installment of The Hobbit and spent several weeks in Wales wrapping the second season of the BBC/PBS co-production Sherlock–a modern re-imagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle books, which sees Benedict Cumberbatch playing the famous master of deduction with an air on stylish detachment.
Much like Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch approaches each project analytically, as a puzzle to be solved. He describes his character in Parade’s End, for instance–the Ford Madox Ford epic, which he is currently filming in Belgium for HBO–as “an extraordinary man of his time, in a world that’s out of joint.”
It would be easy to imagine Benedict Cumberbatch eventually for going the whims of casting directors and taking things into his own hands as a writer of director.
“I want to archive a lot more as an actor first, but I’d absolutely love to make my own films,” he explains. “I think and talk way too much not to.”