“Metaphorically speaking, it’s easy to bump into one another on the journey from A to B and not even notice. People should take time to notice, enjoy, and help each other.”
He has the talent, the distinct look, and the charisma: Benedict Cumberbatch is everywhere these days. He’s been successful on stage in the West End theatres of London; Sherlock has been a critical darling and a huge hit with audiences; he frequently stars in big-budget Blockbusters and award-winning films, plus he’s got a key role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to boot! Cumberbatch is currently one of the most unique and sought after actors working in the world today. So where did it all begin? How did he end up where he is today? Is his favorite breakfast food really Eggs Benedict? Keep on reading for 42 fascinating facts about this English actor.
42. Respect Your Elders
In Sherlock, the protagonist, for all his idiosyncrasies, has a rather good relationship with his landlady, Mrs. Hudson. That’s probably in part because Cumberbatch and Una Stubbs, who plays the character, have a good relationship in real life—Stubbs just happens to be a good friend of Cumberbatch’s mother. Best behave!
41. My Turn
Cumberbatch is good friends with fellow stage actor Jonny Lee Miller—the two starred together in Danny Boyle’s 2011 stage production of Frankenstein. What else connects them? They both played the legendary Sherlock Holmes on television at the same time! Cumberbatch in the BBC series Sherlock and Miller in the CBS series Elementary.
40. Good Partners
Cumberbatch has starred alongside Keira Knightley in two films, both of which received big Oscar buzz and a number of nominations. The first was the 2007 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, and the second was the 2015 biopic The Imitation Game. Maybe they should act together more often?
39. A Gentleman and a Scholar
Cumberbatch has the credentials to back up his chops on stage and on screen. He received his Master’s degree in Classical Acting for the Professional Theatre at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Lot’s of people claim to be masters of the craft of acting, but Cumberbatch has the papers to back it up!
38. Eye of the Beholder
Cumberbatch has central heterochromia, a harmless genetic mutation that makes each eye have multiple colors. Cumberbatch’s eyes have a combination of blue, green, and gold. The patterning of these colors is slightly different in each eye.
37. One Fascinating Bloke
In 2013, Tatler, the longstanding British magainze, ranked Cumberbatch fifth place in its list of the “Most Fascinating People in Britain.” He ranked higher than the Duchess of Cambridge, though fell just below the Queen. But, like, she has corgis. How can he compete with that?
36. Two Peas in an Enigmatic Pod
Cumberbatch gained much acclaim for his portrayal of the famed mathematician, computer scientist, and cryptanalyst Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Turns out, the two are actually related—they share family lineage dating way back to the fourteenth century.
35. A Well-Read Man
After he was cast to lead Sherlock as the legendary detective, Cumberbatch decided he needed to really get acquainted with the role. So, naturally, he decided to read every single one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Now that’s doing your homework! I wonder if he forced the entire crew to sit down and listen to his book report.
34. Like the Cut of His Jib
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo who created and produced the Sherlock series, wanted Cumberbatch to be the man to play the sleuth after they saw him in Atonement—they thought he had the perfect look. Do you agree?
33. Switching Places
Martin Freeman’s Watson may be the loyal sidekick to Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in the BBC series, but when Peter Jackson tapped them both for roles in his Hobbit series, he gave Freeman the lead as the iconic Bilbo Baggins while Cumberbatch settled for doing the voice and motion capture for the villainous dragon Smaug.
32. All the Right Sources
Cumberbatch is distantly related to Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the original Sherlock Holmes stories. They are related through John of Gaunt and are sixteenth cousins. Who isn’t this guy related to?
31. To Be Strange or Not to Be Strange?
That IS the question. Cumberbatch was first choice to play the role of Stephen Strange and join the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he initially turned down the role because he was committed to playing Hamlet on stage in London, but he eventually came around. All’s well that ends well, as they say.
30. Strange Stranger Buys a Doctor Strange
While Cumberbatch was filming Doctor Strange, he walked into a comic book store, dressed in his full Doctor Strange costume, and bought a copy of a Doctor Strange comic. Strange encounters, indeed!
29. Getting Funky
Doctor Strange uses very intricate and precise finger-tutting movements whenever he casts a spell. These movements were so complex that Cumberbatch had some difficulty performing them, so he enlisted hand-dancer Jayfunk to help him with the movements. A strange choreography.
28. Spiritual Connections
One of the reasons Cumberbatch found Doctor Strange such an appealing character to play was due to the spiritualism he embodies. Doctor Strange taps into a kind of spiritual dimension, which Cumberbatch finds fascinating as someone who meditates on a regular basis.
27. Good Stock
Acting is in Cumberbatch’s genes. He was borne at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in West London to Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, both of whom are actors themselves!
26. A Man of the World
After finishing at the Harrow School as an arts scholar, Cumberbatch took a gap year before attending Victoria University of Manchester. He spent his gap year in Darjeeling, India where he volunteered to teach English at a Tibetan monastery. I wonder if he tapped into those memories at all when filming the Kamar-Taj scenes for Doctor Strange.
25. Student Becomes the Teacher
Since he received his Master’s at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Cumberbatch has maintained his ties with the institution. In January of 2018, he succeeded Timothy West as President of LAMDA. As if he wasn’t busy enough already!
24. Danish Nights
In 2015, Cumberbatch joined the pantheon of actors to perform as the melancholy Dane. He performed a 12-week run as Shakespeare’s Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre. He received his third Olivier nomination for his portrayal.
23. I Know That Voice
Cumberbatch has an instantly recognizable look, but his voice is quite distinct as well. Naturally, he’s a fit for doing voiceover work. He has provided his voice for a wide variety of projects, including documentaries for National Geographic, the documentary Cristiano Ronaldo: The World at His Feet, and several audiobooks. Seriously, where does this guy find the time?
22. Another Batch of Bricks
In 2016, Cumberbatch gave his voice to none other than the legendary rock band Pink Floyd. At a show in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Cumberbatch appeared onstage with David Gilmour to sing “Comfortably Numb.”
21. Coat of Arms
Sherlock wears a number of versions of his famous coat in the filming of the miniseries. The original, the one that was used in the pilot episode, was bought by the creator of the show, Mark Gatiss, who gifted it to Cumberbatch as a birthday present.
20. Let’s Talk About Politics
Along with several philanthropic ventures, Cumberbatch has been outspoken politically. He has advocated against budget cuts to the arts, he protested the Iraq War in 2003, and he has officiated several same-sex marriages for his friends since 2013.
19. Impatient Joseph
While being interviewed by London Theatre, Cumberbatch revealed his very first role was that of Joseph in a Nativity performance at his primary school. Apparently, things were taking a bit too long for Jesus’ dad, as he rushed everyone off-stage because they were too slow!
18. Legal Matters
The acting life can seem great when you get to play your dream roles, but when you’re just starting out things can be precarious. For a little while, Cumberbatch wondered if it was best to follow in the footsteps of his actor parents. He seriously considered pursuing the law as a profession. He has been noted as saying how much he would have loved the performance of the courtroom as a barrister (a lawyer, in England). But how many layers get to put on weird motion-capture onesies and act like a dragon?
17. Blurring the Lines of Fiction
The actors who played Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ parents in the BBC series… are actually Cumberbatch’s real life parents! Allegedly, Timothy and Wanda made their son extremely nervous on set—I hope he remembered to brush his teeth and wash his face that day!
16. We’ll Add It in Post
In the DVD commentary to Atonement, director Joe Wright revealed that during the assault scene he told Cumberbatch to keep his underwear on. After shooting was finished, a naked buttocks was added digitally to the scene. I’d like to meet whoever had that job!
15. Ringing Endorsements
Alan Turing’s nephew Dermot told Allan Beswick of BBC Radio Manchester that he thought Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to play the great codebreaker because of his dedication to learning about the subjects that he portrays.
14. High Accolades
Many people were impressed with Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. TIME magazine ranked the performance #1 in its “Best Performances” list of 2014, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
13. Fitting in to the Role
Although nobody asked him to do so, Cumberbatch wore dentures while playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. No ordinary dentures, they were molded from Turing’s actual false teeth that were about 60 years old. Talk about going the extra mile!
12. Mimicry is a Form of Flattery
The creators of The Simpsons hoped to get Alan Rickman to play himself, playing Professor Snape, in an episode from 2013. Unfortunately, the real Rickman wasn’t available, so they got the next best thing: Cumberbatch stepped in and did his best Rickman impression for the show.
Cumberbatch and his Sherlock co-stars Martin Freeman and Toby Jones have all landed gigs in the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cumberbatch, of course, plays Doctor Strange, while Freeman played Everett Ross in Black Panther, and Jones played Arnim Zola in Captain America: The First Avenger, before reprising the role in Winter Soldier.
10. Awards Magnet
We can’t say for sure that it was all because of Cumberbatch, but in 2013 he appeared in four different films that received Oscar nominations. He appeared in August: Osage County, 12 Years a Slave, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. We’re also not saying that it wasn’t all because of Cumberbatch.
9. Shared Roles, Shared Awards
When Cumberbatch starred alongside Jonny Lee Miller in Danny Boyle’s stage production of Frankenstein in 2011, the two actors actually alternated lead roles, with each of them playing both the Doctor and his Monster, depending on the night. With the production, Cumberbatch and Miller became the only actors to ever win a joint Olivier Award for Best Actor.
8. Benedict Gullibatch
Funny man Simon Pegg was into pulling pranks on his Star Trek co-stars during filming. One of his favorites was when he convinced Cumberbatch that he had received radiation poisoning. Cumberbatch believed him and even blamed some missed lines on “headaches” that were symptoms of the radiation.
Asked by Greenstreet what he most disliked about his own appearance, Cumberbatch revealed that he has been likened to Sid, the ground sloth from the animated feature Ice Age voiced by John Leguizamo. Ouch.
6. Ibsen in the West
A noted stage actor, one of Cumberbatch’s first professional roles was as George Tesman in the Almeida Theatre’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. In 2005, he reprised the role, this time at the Duke’s of York’s Theatre, in his West End debut.
5. Now That’s Embarrassing
In an interview with Rosanna Greenstreet for The Guardian, Cumberbatch revealed his most embarrassing moment came when he was six years old: “I got stung by a wasp in a Greek market. A widow pulled down my pants, held me upside down and rubbed an onion on my bum.”
4. Origin Story
One of Cumberbatch’s first ever roles was in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he was just 13 years old. So was he the formidable Oberon? Maybe the dashing Lysander? Nope: He played Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
3. Life Flashes By
While in South Africa in 2005, Cumberbatch was abducted at gunpoint by some locals. He, along with his two friends, were later released out in the countryside. No explanation was ever given for the event, but it made Cumberbatch realize he needed to live his life to the fullest.
2. The Wrong Kind of Detection
Cumberbatch revealed that in 2013 he was cyberstalked by a crazed fan. Someone sat outside the actor’s home and stared inside, live-tweeting all of his movements. Even Sherlock might be disturbed by that one.
1. Getting Attached
Cumberbatch can really get into the characters that he plays. While portraying Alan Turing for The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch broke down and couldn’t stop crying in one of the final scenes. He had grown extremely fond of the character throughout the process, and he couldn’t bare the way that the British government had treated such a remarkable man.