The first time most of us were introduced to Benedict Cumberbatch was back in 2010, when he landed his lead role as the eccentric private investigator Sherlock Holmes in the BBC hit series Sherlock. Since then, the British-born actor has become the face of several blockbuster movie franchises, appeared as the spokesman of Jaguar Automobiles, was seen onstage with Pink Floyd, launched his own production company, hosted Saturday Night Live and has consistently topped “sexiest men alive” lists.
In terms of cult followings, Cumberbatch’s die hard fans (which have dubbed themselves as “Cumberbitches”) rival the likes of George Takei and Harry Potter. But how has Cumberbatch transformed himself from an unknown English actor to a Hollywood action hero and heartthrob?
First of all, he is a fantastic actor. Cumberbatch was introduced to the world of acting at a young age by his parents, who were both successful actors. He made his acting debut at the age of 12 as Queen Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His drama teacher claimed the young Cumberbatch was, “The best schoolboy actor I’ve ever worked with.”
After completing boarding school, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in drama from the University of Manchester and later received a Master’s degree in classical acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He’s one of the most overqualified actors to grace the screen of an American action film since Ewan McGregor played a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars’ prequel trilogies.
While his academic background in drama and natural acting ability have aided him in his recent rise to fame, that’s not how he earned the moniker of “The Internet’s boyfriend.” His dry, British humor and the humility in which he carries himself has made him an Internet sensation. His interviews alone have inspired a generation of “Cumberbabes” to create hundreds of Twitter and Tumblr accounts in homage to the star. His extensive professional training has allowed him to have continued career success, but the actor’s personality is what makes him every PR agent’s dream.
Along with his comprehensive training and lovable personality, the manner in which Cumberbatch imparts his own genius unto each of his characters is what elevates him above the rest of the acting field. Letting audiences into the higher level intellect of Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch added depth and personality to the character that put Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal to shame.
In his most recent screen appearance in Dr. Strange, Cumberbatch plays a brilliant surgeon who — after a car accident leaves him unable to perform surgery — travels the globe in search of a way to regain the use of his hands. Later discovering the secrets of inter-dimensional travel and dark matter, Strange must use his intelligence and newly found powers to help protect the natural order of the universe. (Read the Emerald’s full review of the film here.)
However, Dr. Strange is an American superhero, forcing Cumberbatch to abandon his sharp British accent and learn an American accent for the role. It’s fitting that he credits Harrison Ford, America’s former heartthrob, as the inspiration for his American accent.
From his Oscar nominated performance in The Imitation Game to his impression of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to his depiction of Star Trek super villain Khan, he plays the role of a mad genius better than anyone has ever before and maybe better than anyone ever will. Cumberbatch’s rise to stardom can be mostly attributed to the type of character he plays.
By adding an intellectual aspect to the archetypical action hero, he has created an entire brand for himself and entertained audiences in a new, innovative way. He compels audiences across the globe by giving even the most studious of characters a complex emotional aspect. His professional training and charisma make him an intriguing celebrity, but the true genius of Cumberbatch is the genius himself.
Watch the trailer for Marvel’s Doctor Strange below: