Thursday 27 September 2012

Strange but interesting article on Benedict Cumberbatch in the London Magazine

Tell me, why have all the girls and boys fallen in love with Benedict Cumberbatch? There was a moment in the first episode of Tom Stoppard’s Edwardian drama, Parade’s End, when Sylvia, the errant wife of Cumberbatch’s character, Christopher Tietjens, decides to leave her lover and return to her husband.
“Why?”, wailed her horrified lover, wielding a gun in a vain attempt at finding the courage to shoot himself. “Because,” she says, crispily, “he knows everything about everything and it’s the difference between being with a grown man and trying to entertain a schoolboy.”
Sylvia is talking about Tietjens, but, in that simple line, she explains the basis of our strange new crush on the self-described startled meerkat, the hammerhead shark with a head the size and shape of Sid from Ice Age – better known as Benedict Cumberbatch.
When did it happen? The actor, 36, has been knocking around for a while. After an education at Harrow and a year at drama school, parts in Heartbeat, The Other Boleyn Girl and To The Ends Of The Earth have never been hard to come by. Yet a quick straw poll reveals that it was the dominatrix scene in the second series of Sherlock that did it.
Like the sudden appearance of Colin Firth’s Darcy out of the water in his breeches and wet shirt, this clever, complicated, awkward man was suddenly sexual too. “I’ll never forget it for as long as I live,” says one obsessive new fan.
We’d been trying to fancy him for months, of course. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman’s John Watson have a deep, complex and compelling friendship; so much so, it has given birth to a whole new genre of fan fiction.
But it was more than that. Cumberbatch’s self-control, the gold standard kind that frustrates and delights women, was balanced out by a deep, dark intellect. It’s a reminder – listen up, the cast of Towie – that sexual charisma is all the more potent when a man’s head is somewhere interesting too.
Last year, Cumberbatch split from Olivia Poulet, his girlfriend of 12 years, a successful actress in her own right, although he’s always saying in interviews (despite the recent rumours of a new Russian girlfriend) that he “still loves her to bits”.
Men like Cumbie & Co don’t love just any woman, and beautiful is not enough (even if their girlfriends always are). He expects feisty banter so that he doesn’t have to explain himself twice. And strong women love him back because, behind the stern exterior, his heart’s as soft as butter too (never mistake strength for macho: his first acting job was playing Titania in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
The poshness is far more nuanced than the rentable version we’ve come to see around us in recent years. Cumberbatch went to Manchester University after Harrow, catching it in the heyday of dance music and the Haçienda. “I needed to be out of the danger of tying a cashmere jumper round my neck,” he has said. “I wanted something a bit more racy, a bit more different, a bit more egalitarian.”
‘Racy’ is said to have given him a kidney infection on more than one occasion, but that’s not a surprise. Here’s a man who grabs life recklessly by the balls. Cumberbatch’s own favourite dinner-party anecdote is the story of the time he and two fellow actors were carjacked in South Africa. He rides a motorbike and gave up a stage role because, “I want to run round a desert shooting guns at aliens and looking like I barely have to take a breath. I’d love to do all that shit!” Does he have shadowy friends in the SAS? We’ll never know about that.
What we do know about is one of the hallmarks of his work, a sense of robust self-denial aligned to the sort of high moral codes that leads a man to marry the broad he may or may not have made pregnant during that knee-trembler on a train. “I stand for monogamy and chastity,” declares Cumberbatch’s character in Parade’s End, proudly and without flinching.
Except wait – are we confusing the man with his roles? Was the actor Paul McGann really Percy Toplis in The Monocled Mutineer? Was Ralph Fiennes actually Count Laszlo de Almásy in The English Patient?
If we are – and yes we are – it’s only because Cumberbatch, both the actor and his work, strikes a note with the times that we cannot afford to ignore. It’s the spectre of a man-type cantering back into view, sweeping aside the baby-faced narcissists such as David Beckham and Peter Andre, just as the world was beginning to look so wobbly.
Welcome Dominic West, Eddie Redmayne and even Bruce Parry: strong, thinking men who might, just might, save the day. These are men who know about real friendship (consider Colin Firth as King George VI and his Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue; Holmes and Watson). Men for whom real-life success is just the beginning of doing well in the world; and for whom money is a means of pursuing one’s real passions rather than buying a yacht.
Cumberbatch’s intellectual hunger and social conscience – he’s an old-school socialist wrapped up in the body of a gentle Tory – has secured him an ambassadorship of the Prince of Wales’ Trust. Colin Firth’s other job is a not-for-profit film production company, Brightwide. Dan Stevens is editor-at-large of online literary journal, The Junket. Dominic West is preparing to shoot a documentary about an Indian religious festival with Sanskrit scholar Sir Jim Mallinson. Bruce Parry has written a book about what it means to be human.
“I’m interested in art for all,” says Cumbie. “I don’t want it to be only the sons and daughters of Tory MPs who get to see my plays,” summing it all up for the rest of them.
Commercialism has given us a strange legacy: a longing for the graciousness and noblesse oblige bits of the Empire, but with less prejudice and more heart. “ ‘Parade’ stands for a certain way of conducting yourself, a bearing, a stance to do with integrity, dignity and not being swept away by commercialism or nationalism,” says Christopher Tietjens in Parade’s End.
Could The Cumberbatch be that man?
source: TheLondonMagazine

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