Benedict Cumberbatch was at Big Finish playing Howard Carter, not the Howard Carter I mentioned earlier, the composer, but Howard Carter the Egyptologist. And he had big fluffy sideburns at the time, I don’t know why he’d grown those. I went into the studio to visit while this was being done, and Ken Burns was directing, and I went in just to visit as executive producer.
Benedict Cumberbatch has always been one of my favorite actors anyway, and I’d always thought that he would make a great Doctor Who. So I went into see, and I was just due off the next day it was to go to Nottingham to play Sherlock Holmes in Holmes and the Ripper in this lovely big mansion theater, the Theatre Royal, in Nottingham. So I was very much looking forward to that.
So while I was chatting to someone in the Green Room and Benedict was recording, I went to sit down and I moved a bag to sit down, and the bag was open and I just happened to notice some paper flopped sideways in the bag, and I noticed it said on the front, SHERLOCK BY STEVEN MOFFAT AND MARK GATISS. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this is this thing that Mark told me about months ago, it’s happening!” And I thought, “Ooh, it’s interesting, I want to know more.”
So I managed to contrive, quite skillfully, when Benedict came back into the Green Room from coming out of the studio, that I was just getting someone to ask me what I was doing in Nottingham the following week. And I said, “Oh, of course, I’m off to Nottingham.”
And they said, “Oh, well, what are you doing?”
And just as Benedict came up to me I said, “Well, I’m playing Sherlock Holmes.” And I really saw him sort of twitch.
And he said, “Excuse me, you’re playing Sherlock Holmes?”
And I said, “Yes, that’s right, in Holmes and the Ripper by Bryant Clemens.”
And he said, “Oh, right. Yes, I can see that — you’ve kind of got the look, haven’t you?” Which, you know, I wish I could get that officially as a quote. (laughter) He said, “Listen, I shouldn’t tell you, really, but in my bag I’ve got a script… “ and I was going, “Oh, really, have you?” Like I hadn’t accidentally spied in his bag.
But yeah, so that was a lovely moment, that. And he was saying, “They want me to play Sherlock Holmes, this is going to be incredible!” So he was very excited about it. I don’t know if he’d accepted the role at that point, but he certainly was aware that he’d been offered it, so very exciting.