BENEDICT Cumberbatch once described his name as “sounding like a fart in a bath” but after an incredible 12 months it not only resonates well beyond his bathroom but famously, too.
Star Trek, The Hobbit, 12 Years A Slav e, a Julian Assange biopic, a role opposite Meryl Steep in August: Osage County and a return as Sherlock Holmes – some are calling 2013 the year of the Cumberbatch. The man himself is just hoping we’re not all utterly sick of the sight of him by now.
The 37-year-old Londoner has become one of the most respected, versatile and in-demand actors around and it’s all there on screen in his rich and various roles from the past year.
Trekkies and Tolkienites love him, women have the hots for him and movie buffs lap up his performances, yet Cumberbatch remains unchanged by his recent success.
Right now he’s coming down from a big night at the Oscars, a Best Picture win for 12 Years A Slave and a triumphant return as Sherlock Holmes in the acclaimed BBC series Sherlock.
London’s Barbican Centre last week announced Cumberbatch would play Hamlet at the venue next year and he has been voted the most popular Sherlock ever by fans, a title that sits nicely alongside the “sexiest man” titles thrust upon him.
It’s all part of a side of the business that you sense the actor accepts and plays along with rather than enjoys.
Fiercely private (he refuses to talk about his past relationship with Brit actress Olivia Poulet, whom he was with for more than a decade), Cumberbatch insists he still isn’t used to all that comes with being famous – and may never be.
Here, the likeable star talks about his incredible run of good fortune in film, his star status and talking to fans.
Q The past year has been incredible for you. The Year of the Cumberbatch!
BC (Laughs) I don’t know about that! But thank you very much.
Q Do you ever get sick of seeing yourself on screen?
BC I’d hate to think anyone is sick of the sight of me, although I wouldn’t blame them. It’s just crazy. I’ve overexposed myself! Actually that sounds a bit dirty (laughs). No, it is a real high point and I’m really enjoying it. I’m proud of every single project. I can genuinely say that it is varied enough, as a slate, to not fear too much overexposure. I just hope the public agree because they are seeing a lot of me.
Q Are you getting used to all the fans and the screaming at premieres?
BC Not at all! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. It all feels very peculiar. My day job is standing in front of a camera, that’s true, but it’s under very different circumstances because I’m in character and I’m doing my job. I’m an actor, not a spokesperson, a political pundit or an expert. While I dabble with the ideas and try to get a handle on the subject matter to give it some integrity and depth and understanding, beyond that I try to let the work speak for itself.
Q But you are enjoying your star status?
BC I am enjoying myself, yes. It would be really churlish to complain about anything to be honest. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in.
Q How was it to be involved in 12 Years A Slave and a movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars?
BC I only had a small role in that fantastic film, but just to be involved was amazing. Steve McQueen is a fantastic director. It was an intense film to work on but so rewarding and to be there at the Oscars was thrilling and a very proud moment for everyone involved.
Q There was so much secrecy surrounding your recent return as Sherlock Holmes. Is that hard to keep up?
BC It is but it’s always lovely to be back as Sherlock. He’s a character that I truly love and it’s always a treat to wear that hair again and be back with Watson.
Q You have a very close relationship with Martin Freeman who plays Watson…
BC We’re great friends and working with Martin is a joy. He’s a brilliant actor and a fantastic Watson and his performance in coping with what he believed was the death of his best friend was an integral part of where the third series started. But Martin is an adorable man and blissfully, ridiculously funny and entertaining.
Q When were you first aware of Sherlock Holmes as a character?
BC I would have been about 12 years old when I first read a Sherlock story and it immediately made me hungry for more. Those stories are just very addictive reading, and it’s an utterly absorbing world. It’s just a really rich tapestry of characters and extraordinary adventures.
Q What do you do to prepare for a return as Sherlock?
BC The character is familiar to me now, so in terms of research I don’t have to do too much. Physically, I do a little swimming and yoga. It sounds funny I suppose, but I find it helps.
Q With Sherlock, Star Trek and The Hobbit, you’ve been exposed to some of the most obsessive fans there are. What were you obsessed with growing up?
BC Not much really. I loved certain Saturday TV staples like Knight Rider, The A-Team and even Baywatch – yes I had some sophistication when I was younger (laughs).
Q When people stop you in the street, which role do they want to talk to you about?
BC It’s mostly Sherlock. Even in America it’s Sherlock I get asked about most. It’s amazing just how many people have seen it over there. I get a few Trekkies, too.
Q How does it feel to be voted one of the sexiest men in the world?
BC Erm, baffling? No, I’ve been doing this job for a long time and it’s only recently that I’ve been blessed with this incredible good fortune by way of incredible opportunities. A side effect of all that is that kind of thing and it’s as funny to me as it is flattering.
Q Will we soon be seeing the last of you as Sherlock?
BC I genuinely don’t know. That’s not me trying to be mysterious. None of us knows if there will be a fourth, fifth or sixth series. (x)