Quintessentially British, his unequivocal talent and natural charm has ensured a swift rise to prominence, writes Natalie Glorney
The quintessential British gentleman. The character conjures up an image of an older man, leather briefcase in hand, wearing a tweed jacket and brogue shoes. This image is one that has been synonymous with an English gentleman for decades, if not centuries. But oh, how times have changed. Cue thespian actor Benedict Cumberbatch, international man of the moment who is deemed today’s embodiment of a British gentleman but with charm, youth and a whole lot of talent to boot.
“So excited and honoured to receive this recognition…. To ring my parents who are both actors and tell them that their only son has been nominated for an Oscar is one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said on being nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing.
An Academy nominated actor, Cumberbatch is best known for playing the title role of Sherlock Holmes, a role that earned him international acclaim and several awards including an Emmy as best actor in 2014. He followed this with a portrayal of Alan Turing in the multi-award winning film The Imitation Game, that earned him a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy nomination as Best Actor. But aside from international critical acclaim for his acting, there is so much more to this inimitable man.
“I’m a Prince of Wales Trust ambassador, so I’m all about giving youth an education, a voice and a chance to not take the wrong road.”
He is a great believer in giving back and is a supporter of several charities, several of which are associated with children including the NSPCC, Save The Children, Small Steps Project and the GEANCO Foundation. He is also ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, which offers support by training, mentoring and financially assisting disadvantaged young people achieve their potential. It is this philanthropic dedication that led to him being appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2015 for
his services to the performing arts and
“Some of the most inspiring and effective people I’ve met – whether it’s from the charity sector or the political sector – are the people who do things quietly and calmly behind closed doors. If you search for the common ground to build consensus then great things, global things can happen.”
A family man, Cumberbatch married Sophie Hunter in 2015. A skilled pianist, Sophie studied avant-garde theatre in Paris and trained in New York before becoming a Director. The couple have two sons and shy away from the limelight, preferring the relative calm of family life.
“It’s an amazing thing to find somebody you love. It’s amazing to find somebody you love at all, let alone somebody who loves you back and to the same degree.”
Cumberbatch was introduced to the theatre and acting from a young age. His father, Timothy Carlton, had a long career on stage, television and film, and his mother, Wanda Ventham, is known for her role as Colonel Virginia Lake in the 1970s sci-fi TV series UFO. Theatre was his first love, performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 12. He went on to study drama at Manchester University before training at The London Academy of Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Although his title role in Sherlock catapulted him to worldwide fame, Cumberbatch was a theatre actor and starred in several television shows prior to this. Early TV roles included To The Ends Of The Earth, The Last Enemy and his incredibly powerful portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the acclaimed drama Hawking which earned him his first BAFTA nomination. He went on to star in notable films including The Fifth Estate, Twelve Years A Slave, Black Mass, Star Trek Into Darkness and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
In 2011 Benedict returned to The National Theatre, alternating the roles of creature and Dr. Frankenstein in Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein. This earned him a Laurence Olivier Award and an Evening Standard Award for Best Actor. In 2015, his lead role as Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre broke box office records.
A horology enthusiast, Cumberbatch is a brand ambassador for luxury Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre. He first became familiar with the brand when filming the movie Doctor Strange, where his character wears the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual timepiece. “Watches are a key character prop in my role as Dr Strange, so when the time came for me to choose one it had to fit a man of status. The Jaeger-LeCoultre watch spoke to me most about classic elegance.”
In 2014, he was included in Time magazine’s annual Time 100 as one of the most influential people in the world. He’s been named on of GQ’s 50 Best Dressed British Men and last year, PETA declared him one of the most beautiful vegan celebs. His list of accolades grows, as does his talent, tenacity and adoration.
This year, Cumberbatch stars in TV movie Brexit: An Uncivil War. He plays political strategist Dominic Cummings, who lead a controversial campaign to convince British voters to leave the European Union from 2015 until present day. 2019 will also see him reprise his role as Doctor Strange in Avengers: Endgame. It is the last in the hugely successful Avengers franchise. Speaking about his character, egotistical neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, Cumberbatch says:
“You know, he’s an intelligent man, he’s arrogant, and there’s a certain sort of Englishness to the character. … He’s not dissimilar to certain traits of characters I’ve played before.”
Whether a Shakespearean tragedy, a political drama or the latest Hollywood blockbuster, it seems there is no role that phases Benedict Cumberbatch. This attribute also carries through to his personal life and his roles as father, husband, philanthropist and activist. And we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.