What is the biggest take away from your masters at LAMDA?
Benedict - I try not to go in with any one technique. I’ve felt that one method would restrict the range of roles.
'I played a lot of girls when I was younger … Until my voice broke around the age of 22!'
“drama school taught me about just being still and centered”
He just dropped the F bomb!
“Some jobs are much more about the method than others”
The first question was about #BenedictCumberbatch’s first memory of acting? I was too busy tweeting a pic!
“I like doing a lot of takes … I can’t remember what my record is, it’s pretty heinous”
Q. What career did you envision for yourself as an actor? “I just wanted to do as varied amount of work as possible" "We’re spoilt in England as all the mediums are available in one place”
Q. How has fame impacted you as an actor? “There are ways of staying in disguise in plain sight… I value privacy" "Surprisingly, some of us do take public transport”
Q. Do you of anything specific between projects to cleanse the palate? He had a week off between Frankenstein and Sherlock
He just did a Spielberg imitation “that was great”
On portraying a real person: “There is a moral responsibility not to do any living people an injustice" "I always look at it as fictionalised truth … It’s a conversation starter”
Q. There is a sense that you are timeless …
Benedict, the blessing of having a weird face … Somewhere between an otter and vaguely attractive.
“I was fortunate to grow up in England where you are surrounded by heritage”
Benedict is talking about his variety of roles which he calls 'mask shifting’
Q. Sherlock, when did it become clear that it would work?
“I knew the stable was good - so I read it and I fell in love with it”
On Smaug: I really enjoy the technical side of what I do. I do have an awareness of it’’ “you feel very self conscious as you’re in a gray suit mapped almost in aboriginal dots”
“Research is a security blanket it gives me a little bit more courage to play something far from what I’m from”
“The rehearsal process in theatre is the most privileged part of being an actor”
It’s getting hot in here. Benedict is flapping his jacket. The doors have been opened for air.
Theatre is so nourishing because you have an immediate idea if what you’re doing. The trick of believing that you’re doing something new every night is very hard to achieve. In film you can still have a broad canvas to shift things.
And the question is: is there a particular motto or creed that you live by? 'Love as though you’ve never been hurt, sing as if no one is listening!’
“I was an art scholar back at school, but I wouldn’t call myself David Hockney or anything.” During the interview, Benedict drew us a picture on our iPad.
via @soniaestradav http://standardculture.com/posts/8510-Being-Benedict-Cumberbatch
Last Thursday, English actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, August: Osage County, Star Trek Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, War Horse, The Hobbit, et al.) kicked off our new In Conversation series with BAFTA at The Standard, High Line. Before the event, we had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about the perils of fame, why Brits make better actors, and those devoted Cumberbitches …
You’re kicking off our In Conversation series with BAFTA. Happy to be here?
I am. It’s genuinely a really big thrill. BAFTA is such a great non-profit organization that does so much to help promote the arts and the British role in them. What bigger honor than to be the first one to be asked to do this series in Manhattan? It’s very cool.
British actors are having quite a run in the States. Why do you think that is?
I think the Americans are extraordinary as well, of course, but I think what we’ve got at the moment—which we’ve always had, but now is more useful—is that fact that when we train in England we have the opportunity to do radio, television, film and theater all in one place. In America, actors have to make a really difficult choice. If you’re fresh out of Julliard, you’ve gotta ask yourself, ‘Am I gonna do the classics off Broadway? Am I gonna go ply my wares for TV pilots? Am I gonna try to do films?’ There are so many ways up the slippery pole.
I think we’re also grounded in the classics but at the same time completely in touch with pop culture and social media. We can fly in the face of convention as quickly as the States can.
Was there a point in your career where you packed your bags and headed for Hollywood?
Not at all, no. James McEvoy actually was my main inspiration. I could see him doing everything brilliantly, and the work was coming to him. He was in the States if he needed to be for work, but he wasn’t gonna come over and kick his toes around in a pool waiting on some pilot script. I think once you do that, you kind of want to stay here, and I’ve never wanted to stay here. I’ve always wanted to be free enough to just travel to where the work is, because my base of family and friends are in London.
I had heard your name six months before I even knew what you looked like. Do you have the best PR team in the world or are Sherlock fans really that rabid?
You know, a lot of people who don’t like me say, Oh, he’s got really good PR and he should shut up, but actually it’s all down to this wonderful sort of exponential growth of cultish adoration forSherlock, which is global now. That’s why you really got to know my name, I guess. But also a series of things happened at the same time as that series first aired. I got cast inWar Horse,Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, andFrankenstein, so it was just a sort of bumper crop in all sorts of mediums. So that’s why. To be honest, my PR team are there to stop me from being overexposed. You’re contracted to promote the work you’ve done, and have conversations like this, and normally it’s kind of abhorrent. You don’t want to do it. You want the work to speak for itself. But people need to understand the messenger as well as admire or enjoy the message, so there’s this constant examination of the personal.
Does it bore you?
I bore myself! I bore myself listening to myself. You get stuck in a bubble talking, especially when you’re promoting a film in an airless hotel room, unlike this one, I should add. It’s horrendously repetitive. But these are high-class problems. It’s hardly hard work. It’s just rather nullifying and not particularly elevating or creative. You’re sort of talking in a loop.
How much of your time is devoted to promotion?
Despite what my critics might say, my publicity team are brilliant about stopping me from doing things that I don’t need to do, and just pointing out what’s good to do, what I have to contractually do, and what I really don’t need to do. So it’s getting less, hopefully. I don’t engage in social media because of that …
You don’t? You have quite a devoted following. The Cumberbitches, I think they’re called.
Nope, not at all. Not at all. I get on with my work and my fans are very respectful of that, weirdly. I think they’d love it if I started Tweeting, but as I’ve said before, the people who are good at it are great at it. It’s like a new art form. It’s phenomenal how much it’s opened channels of communication. I like those channels of communication for my work, but I don’t want to journalize my life and publicize it because I really value my privacy and also my time. It would take me forever! I’d worry about it and fret over it. Unless you’re as instantly brilliant as Stephen Fry is—unless you have that kind of immediate capacity to condense a moment into a pithy phrase—why bother? He’s Wildean in his epigrammatic ability to do that. I’m full of admiration for it.
Have you ever logged on to Twitter?
I joined once under a pseudonym when the London riots were happening ‘cause I thought I wanted to get some kind of idea of what was happening on the street. It was rubbish, actually, by the end. They were saying the Electric Ballroom was burning and all these people were writing fierce comments back saying, No, no, no, that happened two years ago! If I did Tweet, I think I’d probably become dangerously obsessed by it and never pick up a book again and never really be able to do my homework and stretch myself as an actor. So I’m kind of protecting myself. It’s not because I feel it’s wrong.
How do you spend your downtime?
I just increasingly enjoy the quiet moments when I can be on my own with my friends and family, or with a book, having a live experience. That’s really what I crave, and I always have done. It’s very weird for my friends now, and they’ve realized that unless they get me in their kitchen, or in mine, or a hotel room somewhere private like this, the amount of demands on my attention—very polite, usually; very polite and considered—are just too much. They know they can’t get any access to me until we’re alone.
That doesn’t sound very fun.
It’s strange, and my friends see it. They get it very quickly. After all, they’re my friends, so they’re very empathetic.
It’s all pretty good stuff though, no?
It really is, actually. People aren’t throwing insults at me. You get the occasional one, but the majority of people just want to touch base and say that they saw your movie. I have to say, I’m so sorry, which one?
You’re 37 now. Do you think that’s helped you cope with fame?
I think it’s got to have helped, but you still experience learning curves that nothing prepares you for. I’m still walking into a lot of my experiences as an innocent. I guess you have a slightly more secure and comfortable sense of who you are, so you’re able to deal with that with a little bit more maturity. It’s difficult, though. I’ve had to wean myself into a position where I can say “no” to things. I’m usually quite acquiescent in a kind of cooperative way, but then it costs me, and I get resentful. People will say, “But you said you wanted to do it!” I’ve got to stop saying “yes” to everything. I’ve gotten better at that. A little bit.