What’s the Big Deal with Benedict?
I really (really, really, really) like Benedict Cumberbatch. Like so many legions of screaming, rabid fangirls, I consider myself a Cumberbitch. Or a member of the Cumbercollective. Or a Benaddict/Cumbertadpole/Cumbercookie/Cumberperson – whatever the current vernacular permits.
Whether you’re a Cumberbabe or not, there is no denying that he has taken the world by storm. With roles in five high-profile movies this year alone, Benedict Cumberbatch is seeing his stock as an actor rise even more quickly than his newfound status as a sex symbol. Which is definitely saying something – whether they are tailing him around the world to watch a 10 minute stint on a talk show, queuing for hours to catch a glimpse of him at a film festival, or gathering in the thousands to greet him at the airport – the actor’s fans are both widespread and highly dedicated. He is the object of a whole other class of fandom so reminiscent of the likes of Beatlemania and Bieber Fever that it has garnered its own name: Cumbermania.
But why? Benedict Cumberbatch certainly receives much attention for his remarkable acting skills, but there is something particularly unique about him that drives his fans wild. With his oddly angular face, unruly mop of Sherlockian curls and geeky demeanor, he is far from your run-of-the-mill heartthrob. So really, what’s the big deal with Benedict?
REASON #1: He can act
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first – the man can act. Whether we’re talking about his stint on stage in Frankenstein, his breakout role as Dr. Stephen Hawking or the role in Sherlock that made him a near national hero – most people agree that Benedict Cumberbatch is very competent at his job.
Such was the case when Star Trek: Into Darkness was released. Despite a flurry of epic Abrams-esque special effects, a gorgeous cast, featuring the Ken-doll-like Chris Pine, and the equally striking Zachary Quinto, the world was fixated on Benedict Cumberbatch. His fearsome, yet layered portrayal of the villainous Khan demonstrated his signature ability to bring great depth to characters, who otherwise left in the hands of a lesser-skilled actor would seem two-dimensional and flat.
While the characters he plays are quite different – the modern, fast-talking Sherlock Holmes, the ruthless space-age villain in Star Trek: Into Darkness, or the tortured Ford Maddox Ford in Parade’s End – there is something they all have something in common: they are all exceptionally smart. Benedict Cumberbatch has made a name for himself playing brilliant, cerebral characters – but did you know that he’s also quite adept at comedy?
If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend you give BBC Radio 4’s sitcom Cabin Pressure a listen. In the series, Cumberbatch plays the hilariously unlucky and insecure Captain Crieff – quite the divergence from his usual gigs. Whether he’s uttering lines like “The code word for the real Ouagadougou is Ouagadougou Ouagadougou!” or putting on an intentionally awful French accent, he delivers John Finnemore’s script with hilarious aplomb.
While Cabin Pressure is a personal favourite of mine, you can also catch Benedict Cumberbatch flexing his comedy chops in Starter For 10, a comedy starring James MacAvoy about a mismatched university trivia team. Once you’ve seen him as the gangly, painfully nerdy, turtleneck donned Patrick Watts, you’ll never quite look at his menacing Khan the same way again. And that’s a good thing – Cabin Pressure and Starter For 10 both showcase Benedict Cumberbatch’s great versatility as an actor, proving that he is just as comfortable in a situational comedy as he is in a drama on stage or screen.
REASON #2: He’s actually smart & fascinating in real life
It’s no coincidence why our hero is always cast as interesting and intelligent characters; he is indeed both of these things. Benedict Cumberbatch is someone who radiates intelligence, without being a know-it-all (Proof Here!). He is easily excitable and long-winded, but at the same time can be quiet and pensive (Proof Here!). He has lived a life of adventure, travel and thrills, yet covets simpler things in life, like reading, and time with his family. And, to top it off, he is all of these things without taking himself too seriously – for all his deeply profound and intelligent moments, he has many goofy and eccentric ones to make up for it (Proof Here!; Also Here!; And Here!). It would take several volumes to compile all the research I’ve done as a dedicated Cumberfan on this subject, but take it from me – Benedict Cumberbatch is a truly fascinating person, who is full of surprises.
REASON #3: He is not handsome. Or is he?
Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t find himself overly handsome. While he does acknowledge some of his more attractive features, he finds his head much too large, his eyes too far apart, likening himself to and alien, or Sid the Sloth. I do agree with him – he does not have the perfectly balanced features of an Abercrombie model, and his head is disproportionately large and asymmetrical. And while the tens of thousands of “Benaddicts” would vouch for how incredibly magnetic he happens to be, most people wouldn’t have even considered the 37-year-old thespian to be anything resembling a sex symbol prior to 2010.
But somehow, he has become just that. Beating out the likes of Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, Benedict Cumberbatch topped Empire’s “100 Sexiest Film Actors” this year, after also being ranked number 1 on Glamour Magazine’s “Sexiest Actor Alive”. Evidence of his ascent from average British chap to bona fide Hollywood heartthrob is everywhere. It is impossible for him to attend any sort of public event – be it a theatre production, film festival, a reading for a BBC radio program, or a taping, without being surrounded by throngs of swooning, smitten young women. Type in “Benedict Cumberbatch” on Tumblr or Twitter, and read the thousands and thousands of fanatic captions, pictures, collages, fan art, fan fics, and gifs that lovestruck fans have posted about their paramour (admittedly, some of these might even be mine!).
Being the modest chap that he is, he bashfully deflects this sudden attention as a product of his work and the characters that he plays, as opposed to what he actually looks like. Which is partially true on one hand – Benedict Cumberbatch’s appeal is primarily rooted in his great intellect, wonderful personality and talent as an actor. Because of these traits, his odder features are often overlooked, and his more appealing features are compounded. But on the other hand, he is completely and utterly wrong about this. He is tall, lean, athletic and chiseled, with a piercing blue gaze that could floor anyone caught in it. In other words, Benedict Cumberbatch is a certified hottie!
REASON #4: He’s a lovely person
Despite his recent meteoric rise to fame, legions of screaming fans, and an increasingly star-studded group of friends – Benedict Cumberbatch remains as humble and grounded as the day he started acting. Watch any of his interviews, and you’ll find that he is so friendly, earnest and forthcoming that it is easy to forget how big of a star he truly is. While I do realize the folly in judging a celebrity’s character based on their outward persona alone, it is difficult to imagine that Cumberbatch’s modest charm and self-deprecating humour to be anything but genuine.
Don’t get me wrong, most respectable actors are likely very kind and respectful to their fans. But Benedict Cumberbatch – having been largely in the shadows of celebrity fame until a couple years ago – still has this wide-eyed, boyish excitement when it comes to his newfound fame. Because of this, he holds a great deal of humility about himself, and deep gratitude towards everything that has happened to him in recent years. With all the reports of celebrities being cold and distant towards the most fervent admirers, I’m all the more grateful that Benedict Cumberbatch is around.
Most of my friends (my friend the Sleepy Skunk included) scoff at my devotion to Benedict Cumberbatch, and dismiss my praise for him as a product of fangirl lust. I’ll admit, this is partially true. But yet the points I have outlined seem to be universally apparent in almost every other icon Hollywood has ever produced. A true versatile talent with a good, genuine heart is the formula a movie star needs to become timeless, and Benedict Cumberbatch truly embodies all of that. To those of you who see it, I salute you! Come visit me on Tumblr. To those of you who don’t see it, just keep keep watching. He will win you over when you least expect it.
- The Skeptical Sloth