An interview with Benedict Cumberbatch in a Polish mag “Skarb”. 05/2014 (NOW COMPLETE!)
A quick translation of the whole thing. Sorry for the mistakes;x
Fame hasn’t changed him. He does his own shopping to make dinner for his friends, without whom he cannot imagine his life. And certainly doesn’t plan on moving to Hollywood.
You have a fantastic year behind you and equally fantastic roles ahead. Don’t you feel overwhelmed with work?
I have to admit that I did have some trouble with too many interesting offers at once and had to turn down many of them. Although I never felt overwhelmed with work. Rather astonished by the amount of it. My record is five roles in a row in less than four months. I’ve played small parts with brilliant actors in films that were coming out in regular intervals, so I often heard: „God, you never stop working”.
I think it’s a right opinion. You do not only play in movies, but also, for the joy of fans, came back on the set of Sherlock. What is the meaning of that part in Benedict Cumberbatch’s life?
First of all I need to thank all of the fans, for being so patient and forgiving. They’ve found a place where we were about to be shooting and waited there for hours to at least have a word or take picture. And what did I do? I came late and instead of giving them some of my time I could only say „My schedule is very thight, but I’ll be back later to see you”. And they’ve waited three more hours, but forgave me that. It’s really incredible, but makes me feel guilty. I think a lot of these people were there because of Sherlock Holmes who became a cultural icon. It’s also a bit discouraging. I am aware that I shoud feel grateful for the trust I’m given, for all the support and loyalty. The sympathy of my fans really means a lot to me, and that’s why I’m trying to do the best I can. Obviously, there are people who don’t like my Sherlock. After all these years I got used to the varied opinions about my acting. I used to try to convince enemies to like me, but now I don’t. I think it means I’ve grown up (laughs). Playing Sherlock is many actors’ dream, as well as mine, and I was lucky enough to have it come true.
Thanks to the series you became a sex symbol, although your character seems uninterested in the topic..
Hmm, it is weird, shocking and… cruel. I have no doubt that Sherlock subdued all his needs, along with sexual ones, to his work. I think the opinion that he has no experience in that matter is an anathema, a total antagonysm to what is believed. Apparently fans were ok with that or wanted to comfort me and started repeating that I was sexy until they actually believed I was. I’m harder to convince, because I am a habitual doubter.
Your parents also played in Sherlock. How did that happen?
They’re both actors with great history in film and theater and happened to have time when the producers of the series contacted them with an offer. I dare say, no one could have done that better. They were nervous when they first arrived at set, but I was doing my best to calm them down. Later on I could only admire them getting into their roles and build relations with their on screen son. It was a surprisingly fantastic experience. In the future, I’ll be showing these episodes to my grandchildren (laughs).
It seemed unavoidable for you to become an actor. Did you always want to follow your parents’ path?
I didn’t want to at all. I was trying hard, though not for a long time, not to become an actor. I wanted to be a lawyer, to defend people in criminal cases. I quickly realised how hard I’d have to work and how little I’d get in return. How often I’d be left wandering between one law firm and another, without an idea of when I’d have my next time off. I’ve met a lot of lawyers who kept telling me „Go back while you still can”. I though they probably knew what they were talking about and changed my plans.
What was your parents’ reaction when they heard about those plans? Were they excited?
No, they worked really hard to provide me with education allowing me to become something else. They managed to get succesful carreers, but wanted something better for me. They knew upsides and downsides of the job, knew it’s dangers and didn’t want me to suffer. I somehow managed to convince them, that acting was my destiny. They lend me money for an acting school. I paid off my dept with the very first money I earned and that made me feel extremely proud. You always have to pay off your debts. I always do. It’s one of the wise things my parents taught me.
Have you ever considered giving up acting?
I did. Oh, you seem surprised.
I am. When was that?
Right after finishing college. It was six months when I couldn’t escape one thought: „You don’t have talent, you’re going to make a fool of yourself”. I doubted my abilities and was really close to giving it up. It’s been a long time until I believed in myself and realised I wasn’t a duffer.
Did you get any proffesional advise from your parents?
They gave me plenty of advise, but on the acting matter they only gave me suggestions of what was important and what wasn’t. They rightly assumed that as I myself decided to be an actor , I also had to work my own way into the bussiness.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s hard to pick the best one. Let me think… Ok, I know. Don’t spend too much time with journalists armed with voice recorders (laughs). That’s a really wise one. And one more. Never order salmon in restaurants (laughs).
Ok, let’s get more serious. Do you feel pression, playing the most intelligent man in the world?
Sherlock’s considered the most intelligent man in the world? I think it’s what he thinks of himself, but it’s not necessarily true. Pression? I don’t feel it because I work with a team of world’s most intelligent screenwriters and what you see on the screen is parroting their and Doyle’s brilliance. Intelligence is an interesting feature, that can take many forms.
Back to the topic: fans. When did you first feel your popularity interfere in your privacy?
First I need to clear something up. I still use public transport. In London I often ride a motorcycle and the helmet gives me anonymity. I do my own shopping instead of making my servants do it for me. And I certainly don’t sit on top of an ivory tower rounded with guns pointed at the streets (note from me: somebody please draw that last one). Returning to the question, the first time I realised that something was off, was when I went to Sainsbury’s, asked for a chicken and got no reply, because the young man I talked to was staring at me with his mouth open. I repeated my question to no result and went to find someone else. He followed me, so I asked about the chickens again. He showed me where they were and asked „You’re from the telly, right?” „Yes, I’m an actor” I replied. Then he started running around the store, shouting „Oh God, he’s an actor!”. I spent the next half an hour chatting with him and his friends, taking pictures and getting hungrier. That was the first time I’ve thought to myself „Jesus, I do stuff that other people watch”. Simultaneously I’ve decided to do anything it takes not to subordinate my life to popularity. I highly value my privacy, peace and freedom to say what I think without constraints.
Don’t you think about moving to Hollywood?
Not at all. I admire James McAvoy. He’s such a brilliant actor, that work comes to him, not the other way round. He goes to the States only when he needs to, but he doesn’t want to move there and analyze his script choices while waiting for new scripts by the pool. I think when you once decide to move there, you’re going to stay, and I never wanted to live in Hollywood. I always wanted to have enough freedom to travel for work, but always come back to London, where my friends and family are .
How do you spend your free time between one work and another?
I started to value peaceful moments with the people I love or with a good book. Every time I have a break, my friends and family know about it immidiately. They know how much I need those meetings in the kitchen and long conversations with a glass of wine.
Speaking of wine. You’re said to be a connoisseur.
Well, wine is one of the pleasures I like to spend some money on. Especially when I’m having friends over. Then instead of buying a 15£ bottle, I get one for 40 or 50 pounds. Though it’s not so that I can say „Hey, look at that really fancy wine I have”. I do it for the pleasure of sharing something good with other people. Also, let me add, that I never was a lone drinker. It happened once, that I drank more than a glass, not to leave the wine in the bottle. I fell ill and regreted it the next day, so that was the last time it happened. And I certainly don’t consider myself a wine connoisseur. Rather a beggining practitioner of the fine art of wine tasting (laughs).