Born on the 19th of July, 1976, in Hammersmith, London, Benedict Cumberbatch is an English actor and film producer who has performed in various forms of media, including movies, television series, theatre shows and radio. He’s the son of two actors – Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham – and he graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Drama, before continuing his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, obtaining a Master of Arts in Classical Acting. Essentially, he’s from good acting stock and has a fine performance background.
He’s one of the most popular actors in the world right now and is seemingly ubiquitous in geek culture in particular. The star of Sherlock, Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warhorse, Star Trek Into Darkness, Twelve Years a Slave, The Imitation Game and The Hobbit series of movies will take on the role of Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie of the same name later this year – which will see his star shine even brighter.
As well-known as Cumberbatch is, obviously not every fact about the Brit is common knowledge. With that in mind, this article’s aim is to share some little known snippets about him. Here are fifteen things you didn’t know about the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch.
15. He’s A Football (Soccer) Fan
Although he might not look like the typically sporty type, Benedict Cumberbatch is in fact a big football fan (that’s “soccer” to any North Americans who might be reading this!). He’s been seen at Stamford Bridge in recent years – the home ground of Premier League side Chelsea – but he is in fact a fan of Chelsea’s London rivals and fellow Premier League side Arsenal (making him a “Gooner”, as fans of the club are affectionately known)!
During the 2016 European Championships, in spite of the fact that he was born in London, Cumberbatch was also seen enthusiastically supporting the Welsh national football team, on the set of BBC show Sherlock whilst filming in Wales, as the Dragons shocked the footballing world and reached the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in their history.
14. He Likes Extreme Sports
On a somewhat related note to the last point, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t just like watching sport, he also enjoys participating in it – and you’ll probably be very surprised at the kinds of sports we’re talking about.
Cumberbatch doesn’t mess around playing team sports like soccer – he’ actually a big extreme sports fan and has taken part in things like skydiving, hot-air ballooning, skiing, high-speed motorcycling and scuba diving, amongst other dangerous activities. So, if you ever saw him jetting around space in Star Trek Into Darkness and were thinking to yourself “Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would ever do anything like that,” you’d actually be very wrong in saying so.
13. He Was Nearly Killed In A Carjacking
While Benedict Cumberbatch was on location in South Africa in 2005, filming the television mini-series To The Ends of the Earth, he had driven to St Lucia, on the northeast coast near Mozambique, to learn scuba-diving. However, on the journey back, things took a turn for the terrifying.
Along with former Coronation Street actress Denise Black and a South African friend, Cumberbatch experienced a terrible carjacking in which he was kidnapped, but talked his way into getting released. He said to the armed culprits: “If you leave me in here, it’s not the lack of air, it’s the small space. There’s a problem with my heart and my brain. I will die, possibly have a fit, and it will be a problem for you. I will be a dead Englishman in your car. Not good.” He ended up tied up to his associates, but was ultimately unharmed. Subsequently he wrote about the shocking moment in an article for The Prince’s Trust.
12. He Has The Same Eye Condition As David Bowie
Like the late, great David Bowie, Benedict Cumberbatch certainly has a look that could be described as “unique” – but that’s not where the similarities between the pair end. Also like Bowie, Cumberbatch has a condition called heterochromia – a mutation which means there’s a difference in colouration in his eyes. More specifically, the irises in his eyes have a varying combination of blue, green, and gold.
The connections between the pair don’t stop there either. Cumberbatch is a fan of Bowie’s and has been seen sporting a T-shirt with the legendary singer and songwriter’s face on it. Moreover, it has been said that, in his younger days, David Bowie actually heavily resembled Cumberbatch in general!
11. He Hates Downton Abbey
As a classically trained actor, and one who has appeared in such productions himself on many an occasion, you would think that Benedict Cumberbatch would be a big fan of historical period dramas and whatnot, but that’s apparently not the case at all – at least if his comments about ITV show Downton Abbey are anything to go by!
Cumberbatch told the Reader’s Digest: “We’re living in a culture now that’s revering, or having a nostalgia trip with, the beginning of the 1900s. Although Downton traded a lot on the sentiment in the last series… but we won’t talk about that series because it was, in my opinion, fu**ing atrocious.” He also added that he found the show to be very “cliché” – which is all very awkward when you consider that the series’ creator, Julian Fellowes, is a close Cumberbatch family friend!
10. He’s Best Friends With Judge Rinder
Celebrities are often friends with other celebrities, that’s pretty much a given – and we know that Benedict Cumberbatch has a lot of famous friends in his social circle, like Martin Freeman and Tom Hiddleston – but you’re probably not aware of his seemingly unlikely closest friend. That man is Robert Rinder – AKA television’s Judge Rinder – the star of his self-titled show… Judge Rinder.
Unless you’re British, you probably haven’t heard of Rinder, but he does indeed have his own courtroom show – think Judge Judy, but more camp – and he’s been friends since Cumberbatch since they met at college. In fact, Cumberbatch conducted the ceremony – having been legally ordained – when Rinder became the civil partner of barrister Seth Cummings, and Rinder returned the favour as one of three best men at Cumberbatch’s wedding when he married Sophie Hunter. Rinder even says that the reason he gave up acting as a youngster was because “Benedict Cumberbatch was so good.”
9. He Had A Stalker
Back in 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch called police after an obsessed female stalker began targeting his home. Cumberbatch apparently alerted the law after a woman repeatedly turned up at the house he shared with his wife and their baby in north London. He started getting concerned when the crazy lady left mysterious red ribbons at his home – on one occasion fastened to a window and, on a separate visit, tied to his car (weird, right?).
According to British newspaper the Sunday Mirror, the actor and his family were left “shaken” by the whole thing. As a result of the incident, and the subsequent reporting of it, the obsessed woman was issued with a Police Information Notice for her harassment. The newspaper also went on to say that the notice prohibits the woman from attempting to make contact with the Oscar-nominated actor or going anywhere near him, his home and his family.
8. His Ancestors Owned Slaves
You can tell by Benedict Cumberbatch’s name that he comes from a well-to-do family that has a lot of money – but that’s not something that always come with positive connotations. In fact, Cumberbatch’s ancestors were slave owners back during the days of the slave trade! This is very ironic, given that Cumberbatch starred in the 2013 period drama 12 Years a Slave (see the above picture).
The star has discussed how his name became common among families from the Caribbean because of his ancestors’ roles on the islands there – and he’s also confessed that his mother encouraged him not to use the name Cumberbatch in his professional career in case of a negative reaction. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened and Cumberbatch has made a huge success of himself, in spite of the images that his surname may invoke – after all, it’s not as though he had any part in the ownership of slaves, so it would be a little harsh to take his ancestors’ actions out on him!
7. He’s Good At Impressions
As well as being a talented actor, Benedict Cumberbatch is also rather good at impressions – his talents are seemingly endless! His most well-known voice impersonation is that of the late, great Alan Rickman but, as you will see in the video above – which was taken from an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show in his native United Kingdom back in 2011, incidentally – he can also do David Tennant and Jonathan Ross himself!
But that’s not all. Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson and even Star Wars’ Chewbacca are part of his impressive impression catalogue – and that’s just the ones we know about. Goodness knows who else Cumberbatch can pull out of the proverbial bag on the impression front!
6. His Fans Call Themselves “Cumberbitches”
It might sound like a rather derogatory term – and it’s one that often makes even Cumberbatch himself cringe and squirm when he hears it (he’s even said that he wants them to come up with a more “empowering” name for themselves and has suggested “Cumbercollective”) – but Benedict Cumberbatch’s legion of female fans quite happily refer to themselves as “Cumberbitches.”
There’s even something of a criteria to be a Cumberbitch. These include things like a high I.Q., good internet skills, a fondness for obscure films, a love of crowds, an interest in politics and history, a sense of humour, patience, and an obsession with details. While the Cumberbitches pride themselves on their name, others have argued that it undoes women’s rights and sets feminism back several years (personally, I think they should just let the ladies enjoy calling themselves whatever the hell they like!).
5. He Was Almost A Real-Life Doctor Strange
Everyone now knows that Benedict Cumberbatch is set to play the title character in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie Doctor Strange – it’s only a month away now, after all – but very few people will know that he was very nearly a real-life version of the character.
No, we don’t mean that he was training to becoming a sorcerer or anything crazy like that, but he was considering a career as a neurosurgeon when he was a youngster – which, of course, is what Stephen Strange was before he became the Sorcerer Supreme in the popular comic books. Incidentally, in addition to considering a life of operating on people’s brains, Cumberbatch also considered becoming a lawyer, prior to choosing a life of acting, but we’re very glad that he ultimately chose the path he has ended up going down.
4. His Lesser-Known Jobs & Appearances
Everyone knows Benedict Cumberbatch for his more prominent movie and television roles – the likes of the aforementioned Sherlock, Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warhorse, Star Trek Into Darkness, Twelve Years a Slave, The Imitation Game and The Hobbit series of movies, for example – but what about his more minor and bizarre jobs and appearances?
Cumberbatch has appeared on the likes of Heartbeat (three times), Silent Witness (twice), Spooks, The Simpsons (he voiced the British Prime Minister and Severus Snape – who was, of course, played in the Harry Potter movies by the aforementioned late Alan Rickman) and even Sesame Street. He’s also done a lot of radio work, doing productions like Mansfield Park, Kepler, The Odyssey, Blake’s 7: The Early Years and Doctor Who: Forty-Five, as well as theatre shows like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, The Lady From the Sea, Rhinoceros, The Arsonists and Frankenstein. Basically, he’s been a very busy guy over the years!
3. There Was A Life-Size Chocolate Sculpture Of Him
In what might be on of the most bizarre PR stunts of all time, to promote its new Drama channel, UKTV commissioned a six foot tall, 88 pound Benedict Cumberbatch doppelgänger made entirely out of Belgian chocolate. And its name was Benedict Chocobatch.
The hollow chocolate statue took no less than 250 man hours to make and was mostly the work of chocolatier Jen Lindsay-Clark. Cumberbatch was chosen for the (somewhat insane) sweety stunt after he beat out actors like David Tennant, Idris Elba, Sean Bean and Damian Lewis in a poll that was created to name “Britain’s dishiest TV drama actor.”
The sculpture made a special appearance at a busy London mall as an experiment to find out how people would react to “Chocobatch?” Would they just take a selfie with him and continue their day? Would they lick him? Would they take a massive bite out of his face? Well, it turned out that it was a combination of all those things. Some people were happy with a photograph, others suggestively kissed Chocobatch’s thigh, while others snapped off his fingers and popped them in their mouths.
2. He Sings
Benedict Cumberbatch is known as an actor and occasional producer, but not so much as a musical performer. However, the Brit has actually delved into the musical world as a singer on a few notable occasions. Most recently – on Wednesday the 28th of October this year – he joined former Pink Floyd singer and guitarist David Gilmour on stage at the Royal Albert Hall for the iconic song “Comfortably Numb.” Gilmour was in the middle of a series of five shows at the London venue in support of his 2015 album Rattle The Lock.
Cumberbatch sang conversationally, accentuating a few lines with typically theatrical expressions and, in between verses, he stood modestly as lasers and Gilmour’s guitar pyrotechnics flashed around him. He then ceded the stage to Gilmour. Another example of his musical endeavours came in 2013, when he recorded a song titled “Can’t Keep It Inside” for the August: Osage County soundtrack, alongside renowned musicians like Bon Iver and Kings of Leon. Oh and he also learned how to play the violin in a week.
1. He Was Marvel’s ONLY Choice For Doctor Strange
In spite of what you might have heard to the contrary about Doctor Strange – with the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Patrick Dempsey, Jared Leto, Ryan Gosling and Johnny Depp all linked to the titular role by the media – Benedict Cumberbatch was actually Marvel Studios’ ONLY choice to play the Sorcerer Supreme in the character’s upcoming movie.
The movie’s director, Scott Derrickson, wanted Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Stephen Strange so badly that, after he had initially turned the part down due to scheduling conflicts, he convinced Marvel to move the production back to accommodate the actor’s schedule.
Cumberbatch was humbled by that, saying: “I really did think I had to kiss it goodbye. If you can’t jump on board when the ride’s going past, that’s usually it, so the hugest compliment they paid me was to come back to me. It motivated me to try to fulfil their faith in me.”
So, Marvel Studios even delayed the movie to accommodate Cumberbatch – which really emphasizes just how much they wanted him to portray their newest superhero!