9 Things You Need To Know About Benedict Cumberbatch

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{Header image: Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. Photo copyright and courtesy DreamWorks Productions.}

Note: this article was also published on Neon Tommy.

It’s been called “the year of the ‘batch” for those of us who are his fans. And even if you’re not very familiar with him, 2013 is making Benedict Cumberbatch look like the hardest working actor in the world.

He played the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, had no less than three different movies playing at this year’s Toronto Film Festival (The Fifth EstateAugust, Osage County; and 12 Years a Slave), finished wrapping up filming for Sherlock season 3, and worked on being the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which recently released a new trailer where we finally get to hear his voice). He also helped the IndiGoGo funding campaign for the short “Little Favor” that he’s also starring in, made an appearance on Top Gear, did the narration for a National Geographic production on Jerusalem, and has just been assigned to a new film about Alan Turing. That’s not including all the various publicity jaunts he’s done throughout the year for said projects, including a trip to Japan and being on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter in September.

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Sherlock’. Photo courtesy BBC One.

But if you only know him from Star Trek Into Darkness or Sherlock, you may not know much about him. Here are, in no particular order, nine things you may not know about Benedict Cumberbatch.

1) Both of his parents were actors, who didn’t want him to be an actor. His mother was even in an episode of Doctor Who. He’s stated that if he hadn’t become an actor, he probably would’ve been a barrister (basically a lawyer, for you all who don’t know British English).

2) He and Jonny Lee Miller, who co-starred in the 2011 stage production of Frankenstein (rotating the characters of Dr. Frankenstein and the creature) are the only actors to jointly win the Olivier Best Actor award for said production.

3) He does a lot of charity work: he’s the ambassador of The Prince’s Trust, and helped launch a cancer support charity hike. He also has been quite the activist, his latest foray putting up a note for paparazzi in August during the filming of Sherlock to, “Go photograph Egypt and show the world something important.”

4) Speaking of his charity work, some of it involves donating artwork he has done. And he is a talented artist. He’s been known to doodle on the occasional autograph as well.

Promotional image from ‘Cabin Pressure’. Photo courtesy BBC Radio 4.

5) His acting talents have crossed genres and mediums. He has been on stage, in television, in film, on radio, as a cartoon in The Simpsons, in commercials, and in a video game. While most articles lately have been focusing on his dramatic work (understandably so), he also has excellent comic timing (his portrayal of the uptight Martin Crieff in BBC Radio 4’s Cabin Pressure is a must hear if you like British comedy). He also does a mean poetry reading, and has narrated many an audiobook and did the narration for an item for the London Olympics in 2012.

6) Speaking of his work in The Simpsons, Cumberbatch does a dead-on impression of Alan Rickman. He’s also been known to do other impressions.

7) As he talked about in his Hollywood Reporter article, he was once carjacked and abducted at gunpoint in South Africa.

8) He has an excellent singing voice, as you can hear in this year’s radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. He has expressed interest in being involved in a musical.

9) He was not only the only person to read for the character of Sherlock Holmes, Steven Spielberg called him “the best Sherlock Holmes on screen.”

Cumberbatch in ‘Hawking’. Photo courtesy the BBC.

BAFTA Los Angeles announced in September that Cumberbatch will be the recipient of the BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year in a ceremony held in November. Meanwhile, it’s been announced he will be returning to the stage in a production of Hamlet, and he’s still the darling of the Tumblr world. He’s definitely an actor worth keeping an eye out for, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the Oscars next year (if not nominated himself, at least as part of a nominated film).