Benedict Cumberbatchposing for the crowd before they had to turn off all cameras - Oz Comic Con presents Benedict Cumberbatch sunday panel
Oz ComicCon took over the Adelaide Showgrounds this past weekend, giving geeks ample opportunities to indulge in Q&A sessions with voice artists, actors and animation artists, as well as spending up big on the multitude of stalls selling merchandise, prosthetics, clothing and more. Of course, Adelaide won out over the Perth event in a huge way, with Benedict Cumberbatch stopping by for the first of two special Australian appearances.
Closing out the Q&A sessions on Sunday, Cumberbatch drew a huge crowd in the Ridley Pavilion to the point where there was another room set up for people to view the session via simulcast. We were lucky enough to gain access to the man (and by ‘access’, I mean three rows back from his stage in a crowd of many) and were able to gain some thoughtful insights into a career that is currently one of the hottest/most talked about at the moment. From the onset, he’s charming, eloquent, hilarious and not afraid to take the piss out of the audience as much as himself. Here are some of the big things we learned from BC. Benny C. C-Batch. Or, as he would like, ‘Sir or Lord Cumberbatch of London’.
Benedict is not on social media. He’s been tempted, though.
When asked if he was aware of the widespread response to the initial screening of “The Empty Hearse” via social media, Benedict is quick to point out that he doesn’t maintain an online presence. Benedict noted that he has been tempted in the past however, whether it’s been to correct a review or misrepresentation, or to lend his support online to a certain need or charity, but he’s always drawn himself back from jumping down that rabbit hole.
“I get that it works for a lot of people…I’m just not one of those people.”
Where was he when the episode went to air, though? Watching it with his girlfriend at the time with Martin Freeman at Steven Moffatt and Sue Vertue’s house, naturally. When shit hit the fan online and fans around the world collectively lost their minds, he laughs and acknowledges the mania.
“They were like, ‘You’re trending!’ and I’m like, ‘What?! What the fuck does that even mean?!”
The famous U2 photobomb & ‘Ellen DeGenerate’ – BC on his Oscars experience…
First question out of the gate was something akin to ‘what possessed you to photobomb U2 at the Oscars?’. Apparently, an old friend of Benedict’s suggested he do it for shits and giggles and so…he did it.
“I didn’t do it because I needed the publicity…I did it to make my friends laugh back home and all of a sudden, it was on the news the next day!”
He praises Ellen DeGeneres‘ work as the Oscars host, though reveals in the same beat that she’s probably partly responsible for his drunken state seeing as she loaded him and other actors up with mini bottles of vodka on the red carpet before the ceremony even began. “Ellen DeGeneres or ‘Ellen DeGenerate’ as I called her by the end of the night…”
Like everyone else, Meryl Streep brought out his inner fan.
Working with an amazing cast on August Osage County was an experience Benedict is still notably gobsmacked over, but working alongside Meryl Streep (“She’s an epoch defining actress…”) was obviously a life moment where he proved that he was again, like the rest of us. On meeting her for the first time, he stutters “My parents are big fans of your films…but I am too, that’s not a generational thing!”
Benedict prefers Q&A settings over most other established fan interaction.
“I much prefer this if I’m honest, even over the photos and autographs…”
Clearly wanting to give every fan who he’s interacted with the time of day, Benedict admits that he enjoys this kind of Q&A environment over the many photo and autograph sessions that he’s taken part in – only because there is nowhere near enough time for him to sustain normal conversations with people when he’s got his head down and signing his name or having less than a minute for a photo with these people who have paid a lot of money to meet him.
Benedict and the Sherlock crew made Una Stubbs cry.
On playing pranks on the set of Sherlock, BC admits that there were some that were carried out, though the one that comes to mind was picking on the legendary Una Stubbs by unearthing an old advertisement she danced and took part in many years ago. Apparently she was so overcome when she discovered they’d found it, that the joke (and maybe the sight of Benedict imitating her?) went in the completely opposite direction.
“She burst into tears! Obviously that was not our intention!”
“Listen a lot.” Advice for younger actors working on perfecting different accents.
Benedict also advises young actors to not be afraid of trying on different impersonations in getting used to affecting different accents, getting a good dialect coach (obviously) and also using a dictaphone to record different sounds to practice with. He praises his coaches who he worked on during 12 Years a Slave and other films in helping him become comfortable with his dialogue and finding his ‘voice’, as it were.
Don’t ask him to say anything in his Smaug voice.
He won’t do it.
“I’m not a performing monkey…or dragon, I’m sorry!”
Tom Hiddleston is one of Benedict’s influences – cueing a rousing ‘awww’ from the fandom.
Benedict lists many personal influences, from his parents to past school teachers and headmasters, to fellow actors he’s been able to work alongside with and others who he’s specifically looked up to. Upon his brief mention of Tom Hiddleston, the crowd goes wild (just do some googling of the two of them…), but he’s quick on the ball there, waving his hand at all of us: “Oh stop it, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about these real actors. You should be squealing as much for Rory Kinnear as much as you should for someone with the initials ‘T.H’.”
His Hamlet run was announced so far in advance so there’d be enough time for people to get used to the idea.
Set to appear onstage in 2015 as the iconic Shakespearean character, Benedict acknowledges the popularity of film/TV actors heading back to the stage and points out that he made this announcement so far in advance as to give people (‘the culture’) time to work up to it. Given there have been quite a few ‘Hamlets’ over the past five to ten years, by the time Benedict takes on the role, people will be like, ‘Yes, he is the Hamlet of this time’.
He takes on fan responses, but also tries not to let the wide opinion affect his portrayal of a character.
When asked if there are any challenges posed to him or how he prepares for a portrayal of some of the characters he’s been able to tackle over the past few years, Sherlock in particular, Benedict acknowledges the huge weight that comes with such characters as they have such a loyal fanbase behind them already. Using Sherlock as an example, he says that while the fans play a significant part in how the show is formed (‘Of course it does, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here…’), he also says that he tries not to base his performances on what everyone else thinks.
“We were reinventing a wheel that was so perfect in it’s original form…” he says of the BBC’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, and that the different directions they’ve been able to take the stories which have prompted some quite divisive responses, is all part of the show’s success.
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I extracted these from my digital edition of High Life. Please link back if you want to repost!
Benedict Cumberbatch: my London
London is my favourite city in the world. I was born there, I live there and many of my friends do too. It’s one of the most exciting cities in the world, inspiring and so incredibly cosmopolitan. I am incredibly proud to say I come from London.
Here are some of my favourite things to do there. Mind you, I hate lists. Ask me tomorrow and the line up would probably be different…
Walks and views
For a great view of London, walk over Waterloo Bridge, stop in the middle and look both ways - east to St Paul’s and beyond, west to Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. There are some fantastic views in London, and this is one of my favourites. I also love the view from the top of St Bart’s Hospital, an amazing place that traces its history back to the 12th century. That view is very special, especially for me [it’s where Sherlock fell to his non-death at the end of the second series].
Go to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral for fabulous views of London including the River Thames, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. Plus the Dome itself is magnificent. This is architect Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.
Another personal favourite vantage point is Parliament Hill in north London, near where I live. All of London is spread out below. Parliament Hill and Hampstead Heath are great places to relax or jog.
You can’t beat seeing London from the Thames. Take a riverboat trip from Tate Britain to Tate Modern — that’s a great ride — and see sights like the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s on the way. There is something really relaxing about looking at a city from a river.
I love Pollen Street Social, Jason Atherton’s restaurant and Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel in Knightsbridge. I was fortunate to eat at the latter with Heston, having every dish and the history of it explained, which was a pretty spectacular way to understand what he was going for.
I also like Yalla Yalla, a great Lebanese restaurant just off Berwick Street in Soho. Try Brindisa just round the corner for fantastic tapas. If you want a really great vegetarian fest, go to The Gate restaurant in Hammersmith.
Blacks private member’s club in Dean Street is wonderful; it’s like stepping onto a Georgian film set replete with 200-year-old floorboards and the most fantastic wine collection.
The Ivy is, of course, terrific. It has some of the best cocktails in town, a great bar and a truly fantastic restaurant.
I’m still curious about…
I haven’t done The Shard, London’s highest building, but I’d like to try it.
Added one more new photo.
Got a Benedict Cumberbatch interview in High Life tomorrow, driving Jaguars on ice. If you’re flying BA take a look
First of 30 daily facts gleaned from my Cumberbatch BA High Life interview #bahighlife 1. His favourite city is London
The frozen lake we’re standing on is speaking to us. It’s a groaning, creaking voice, almost of pain, from way down deep in the icy abyss. ‘Listen to that,’ says Benedict Cumberbatch, dressed in a thick fur-collared jacket, black salopettes, chunky blue scarf, big snow boots, thick gloves and woolly hat. He looks more Scott of the Antarctic than Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. ‘It sounds absolutely magical,’ he says, concentrating hard on the sound of the ice moaning beneath us, around us. There is no other sound. It’s too cold for birds or people or animals, too isolated for traffic.
'The ice is quite solid, I assume?' asks Benedict, articulating what we're all thinking. We're about to power around this frozen lake in a range of Jaguar sports cars and nobody wants their F-Type to turn submarine. 'Quite solid,' says our Finnish instructor, Tomi. He shows us a contraption that measures ice thickness. 'It's 35cm,' he says reassuringly. (That's just over a foot.) 'Although maybe less thick in places.' (An unhelpful postscript.)
We’re in southern central Finland taking part in a Jaguar winter-driving course. Alongside me is probably the biggest British TV or film star since Anthony Hopkins made Hannibal a cannibal or Colin Firth performed his royal stammer. In excess of 16 million Brits watched Benedict reappear as Sherlock Holmes for his third series on BBC1, making it the most-watched — and certainly best-loved — British TV drama in over a decade.
He’s tall (6ft), ramrod straight, just 37, slim (though trying to bulk up for his next part as a mercenary in Blood Mountain), has a blemish-free and stubble-free complexion, ice-blue eyes and swept-back auburn brown hair — which was dyed black forSherlock, blond for Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate.
It was Sherlock, of course, that made him a star. Since that first series in 2010, it’s been nonstop. ‘I’ve played so many characters so fast,’ he tells me. ‘I had a bank holiday weekend to transfer from Sherlock Holmes into Christopher Tietjens [inParade’s End].’
He admits he’s gone from an ‘anonymous actor’ into ‘apparently a sex symbol — although it’s a bit of a mystery why as my face has not changed that much during the ten years I have been in this business’. He’s even been responsible for a new word: Cumberbitch. (Urban Dictionary definition: ‘Any woman who has a deep fascination with the wonderful, beautiful, talented English stage and on-screen actor Benedict Cumberbatch’.) Meanwhile, @cumberbitches is one of the largest social-media fan groups around, with over 123,000 Twitter followers, describing themselves as ‘the most glorious and elusive society for the appreciation of the high cheek-boned, blue-eyed sex bomb that is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch’.
There are no Cumberbitches around today. It’s too cold for them, or anyone else. It’s -7°C out on this frozen lake and feels bitterly, bone-bitingly chilly. Tomi says it’s not cold. ‘Last week was -24. This is mild for February.’
Tomi says when it’s -24 you can’t touch anything metal with bare skin — so no touching a car with your hands, no touching the viewfinder of your camera with your eyelid. Otherwise you’ll leave your skin behind. Benedict seems rather worried by that. I guess being eyelid-less wouldn’t be a good look for an actor. He tells us he tripped recently while jogging on Hampstead Heath and, when he fell, he thought he was going to smash his face. His next thought was for Steven Moffat, the co-creator of Sherlock, who, ‘would not have been impressed’.
The sun — hugging the horizon, even though it’s early afternoon — has just come out from behind the clouds. It’s the first time we’ve seen it. Up until now it’s been flat grey soft wintry light, like you get in Scandinavian crime dramas The Bridge and The Killing. Suddenly that big lake, carpeted in fresh snow, ringed by white-dusted pine and birch, sparkles under the bright winter sun.
It’s time to go rally driving. That’s the big attraction of Alive on Ice, a Jaguar winter-driving course open to all. You get to drive very powerful sports cars on a frozen lake (on this occasion near the Finnish town of Hämeenlinna), instructed by former Finnish rally champions. Benedict is a Jaguar brand ambassador and, back in London, drives a shiny black XKR sports car. On the Alive on Ice course, you also drive Ski-Doos and ride in sleds pulled by huskies. (Benedict loves dogs although he says he’s too busy to own one. Before he goes out on a sled, he’s on all fours in the snow with a dog tickling its tummy, his new best friend.)
On the frozen lake, driving a fast car, Benedict applies himself with the customary concentration of Sherlocksolving a murder mystery. ‘I do take challenges seriously,’ he admits. Tomi and a former Finnish female rally champion, Minna (‘She’s the fastest driver here,’ says Tomi) show him how to steer, how to brake and how to accelerate, to get the Jaguar to dance on ice.
His enthusiasm and determination are as clear as the bright Arctic light. At first, he spins (we all do). Later, after some practice, he’s powering and pirouetting around the Finnish ice lake, more Senna than Sherlock.
Cumberbatch’s intensity comes as no surprise. You have to be committed and laser-focused, I guess, if you’re going to morph convincingly from Sherlock Holmes to Stephen Hawking, from Vincent van Gogh to Julian Assange, from Frankenstein and the monster to Smaug the Dragon. He’s been an aristocratic WWI army officer (in Parade’s End and War Horse — he says he has the face for it), a secret agent (in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), a slave owner (12 Years a Slave) and a Star Trek arch-villain. He’s been Pitt the Younger and Young Rumpole. He’s even been on Sesame Street — ‘one of the best fun things I’ve ever done’.
In real life, he’s been car-jacked and has taught in a Tibetan monastery. And now he is in Finland, driving sports cars fast on ice. He tells me, on that frozen lake, that he tries to embrace ‘all the riches of life’ and likes daredevil sports: ‘I’m not a macho alpha male sort of guy but I do like living on the edge a bit. I like skydiving, snowboarding, kite surfing and I ride a motorbike in London.’
We first meet, the day before, at Heathrow airport, at the beginning of our two-day adventure. He tells me the only Nordic country he’s visited is Iceland ‘which I loved — it’s like the gateway to another world’. He says, ‘I love cold weather but I’ve never driven on an ice lake before. It sounds amazing’.
His biggest driving challenge to date was on Top Gear. He did Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, in which celebrities lap the test track as fast as possible in a low-cost hatchback. He practised longer than anyone. In the end, he was disappointed with his performance, which he describes as ‘middling’, which about sums it up — he was seventh out of 13, faster than Charles Dance and Ron Howard but slower than Susan Boyle, Jimmy Carr and Hugh Jackman. It is probably Cumberbatch’s only on-screen failure. He’s determined to have another go.
On the road from Helsinki airport to Hämeenlinna, we stop in a roadside café which reminds me of an American diner except the tables are real wood, the food is better and the drinks are way more expensive. Benedict tells me he got the part of Sherlockafter the producers saw him in Atonement playing Paul Marshall, ‘a chocolate millionaire paedophile rapist. He’s the darkest character I’ve ever played.’ The hardest character to play? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ‘There is such moral ambiguity there. Also, he wouldn’t meet me although we had an email relationship to try to get his perspective.’ The character he’d most like to play? ‘David Bowie.’
The next day, after some ice-driving instruction on icy fields near our hotel in Hämeenlinna, it’s off to the big frozen lake for the real fun.
We all power around a figure of eight. And around a short circuit — maybe half a mile long — constructed by snow-ploughing the lake. The piled snow acts as a crash barrier. It’s terrific fun driving fast, and mostly sideways, on ice. It’s a bit like snowboarding — always on the edge of being in control — but with 500bhp rather than gravity to power you. You’ve got a huge amount of power and very little grip, even with studded tyres. If you spin (and you will) you’ll hit nothing more metal-mutilating than a soft snowy bank.
I drive the XKR-S sports car, the fastest and most powerful machine Jaguar makes. It’ll do 186mph. But not here. All the cars are fitted with metal-studded tyres, for extra purchase. UK-specification tyres would have as much grip on the ice as a pair of brogues.
The object is to slide sideways around corners, just like a rally driver. You need to use the accelerator pedal deftly, the steering wheel quickly and precisely (during a manoeuvre your hands will pump like pistons) and, as Tomi says, you really need to feel the car through your backside. Get it right, and the tail of the car pendulums out, you steer into the slide and then you flick the car the other way for the next corner, Torvill and Dean on tyres. Or that’s the theory, anyway.
Benedict has another go, this time in a roof-down F-Type sports car, heater on max, V8 engine screaming, tyres grappling for traction. He energetically goes around the corners, nicely sideways, and when he stops he jumps out of the car — almost slipping over on the ice — and says, ‘Absolutely amazing! Amazing! That was the most brilliant fun!’
His enthusiasm is as palpable as the tyre tracks he’s carved in the ice. And, on one occasion, the chunk he’s taken out of a snowy barrier (we all do that). His instructor over the whole programme is Jaguar test driver Gary Palmer. How did Benedict do? ‘He’s determined, a good listener. He’s driven very well. He’s got a natural touch.’
I think Benedict Cumberbatch will be very pleased to hear that.
More for the Cumberbitches: Benedict’s guide to London.
Fantastic. The coat he wears on thar cover is the most beautiful piece of clothing I’ve ever seen.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP is interviewed on the podium by actor Benedict Cumberbatch after the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 30, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is seen in the paddock prior to the qualifying session for the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 29, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
*secretly pleased he does sometimes appear in public without half a pound of concealer on his face*
Benedict Cumberbatch leaving AGO after-party [HQ]
#HQ - Benedict Cumberbatch attends the Oscars held at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California
Benedict at the Oscars!