With J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, English actor Benedict Cumberbatch is poised to become an international star. And most of us at Cinema Blend couldn't be happier about it, as we've been on Team Cumberbatch for years. (There are dissenters, but more on that later.) But in case you aren't yet on our team or maybe don't get what all this buzz about the man with the very British name is all about, we've decided to break it down for you with ten reasons we can't get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch, complete with video guide.
We're including some spoilers from Cumberbatch's other films, but don't worry, none for Star Trek Into Darkness. Also, a special thanks to Paul Jeremiah Hayes, who kindly pointed us to many of the clips below.
Obviously first places goes to his thrilling turn as the complicated genius and consulting detective of BBC's rightfully celebrated mini-series Sherlock. Each episode of this ambitious detective drama plays out like its own feature film, presenting a mystery for this sociopathic sleuth to unravel with scads of style. And with an irreverent wit that lets you laugh in the midst of murder and mayhem, this show has understandably made Cumberbatch a thinking woman's sex symbol. Much like Irene Adler in "A Scandal in Belgravia," we are Sherlocked. As she says in the clip above, "Brainy is the new sexy."
#2 He holds his own against master actors.
We weren't the only ones who became entranced by Cumberbatch's Sherlock. Not long after the series premiered, acclaimed auteurs like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and Tomas Alfredson began pulling Cumberbatch into their prestigious projects, like War Horse, The Hobbit, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In the last of these, shared the screen with intimidatingly accomplished actors like two-time BAFTA winner Gary Oldman, two-time Academy Award nominee John Hurt, and Academy Award winner Colin Firth. While some might wilt under the pressure, Cumberbatch blossomed, and even proved believable battling against the brawny Tom Hardy.
#3 Even when he's bad, he's good.
But Cumberbatch had been making memorable movie appearances prior to Sherlock. In Joe Wright's lauded adaptation of Ian McEwan's World War II-set romance novel Atonement, Cumberbatch played chocolate magnate Paul Marshall, who oozed a certain seediness that later proved pivotal to the film's plot, when he (spoiler ahead for Atonement) rapes young Lola (Juno Temple, a rising star herself) then flees the scene. In the clip above (which you can seee by clicking the screengrab) we see him begin his sickening pursuit of the young girl. Knowing what's to come, this scene is hard to watch, but cheers to Cumberbatch for nailing this mix of smarm and charm that sucks the naïve Lola in.
#4 He can make even a car commercial seem deep.
This Jaguar ad clearly capitalizes on Cumberbatch's celebrity. But since it gives us a bit of access to the man behind the mystique, we're cool with it. The commercial shows him driving around in a flashy red vehicle while in voiceover he speaks about his passion for the craft of acting, and what "drives" him. Curiously, the offbeat soundtrack to this ad reflects Cumberbatch's own offbeat appeal. There's something intense, esoteric, and even sometimes condescending about his persona, and yet he's undeniably appealing.
#5 He can make science sexy.
Before he began catching on Stateside playing a fictional genius, Cumberbatch had earned UK acclaim (specifically a BAFTA nod for Best Actor) for playing real-life genius Stephen Hawking in the television biopic Hawking. In the clip above, you can see him playing down his natural charisma with the help of an uncomely haircut and clunky glasses. Still, he manages to seduce a beautiful bird at a bar by explaining Einstein's theory of relativity. Watching this, it's a wonder he hasn't landed the lead in a big Hollywood romance by now.
#6 It's even a joy to watch him be uptight.
While Cumberbatch's typecasting niche is decidedly of the brainy variety, there's plenty of room to play within that. He showed as much in the 2006 comedy Starter for 10. This Brit flick starred James McAvoy as a blue-collar student trying to make his way into Bristol University's quiz team, but his biggest obstacle is overcoming the snobbish tyrant played by Cumberbatch. In the supercut above, you get a taste of how fun it is to watch Cumberbatch be an uptight asshole, who of course gets his comeuppance. Also acid washed jeans plus slap attack equals hilarity. Always.
#7 He can break his niche.
Some actors have their niche-- think of Ben Stiller as the frantic everyman, or Tom Cruise as the hotshot. They do well in it, and don't always need to do much else. There's something about Cumberbatch that screams high society. And yet, he's managed to break out of that expectation in Inseparable, the short film above. It begins with him playing into his type as Joe, a young family man with a crisp suit, sleek hair, and a terrible diagnosis. Then enters his twin brother Charlie—also played by Cumberbatch--who is frumpy, low-class, and everything we wouldn't associate with the posh actor. You can watch the entire short above.
#8 He can do subdued drama.
Considering he's well established in the realm of British television, this one may be considered a given. Still, subtlety is a virtue that should not be overlooked. In the World War I mini-series Parade's End, Cumberbatch plays Christopher Tietjens, a brilliant upper class man who is tormented within a marriage to a disloyal and cruel wife. In the clip above, he converses with the object of his secret affections, a fiery suffragette (are there any other kind?) named Valentine Wannop. If you want to watch the entire series, it's now playing on HBOGo.
#9: He's versatile on stage too.
By now, you've probably gathered this guy has range. But Cumberbatch has also done an acting feat that is exceptionally rare. In 2011, he and Johnny Lee Miller co-starred in Danny Boyle's Royal National Theatre production of Frankenstein and alternated the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his horrific creation. Essentially, depending on what night you went, depended on who you'd see play monster and master. You can get a feel for this impressive swapping in the dizzying trailer above.
#10: He does a bang-on impression of Alan Rickman
We've show a bit of how Cumberbatch has a skill for comedy, but this clip from The Jonathan Ross Show reveals how untapped his skills still are! Turns out, he's also an impressive mimic. Can someone get him on SNL or in a Will Ferrell movie ASAP? Thanks.
Did we miss why you love Benedict Cumberbatch? Share your reasons in comments.