On Music: For Benedict Cumberbatch, a Powerful Connection

by Armando Gallo May 9, 2018
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Golden Globe nominee

armando gallo/hfpa

This is Benedict Cumberbatch’s moment: Dr. Strange is on the big screen with Avengers: Infinity War (over $ 1 billion at the box office) and soon he'll be seen in a mind-blowing acting tour de force with Patrick Melrose, a five-episode limited series on Showtime. “How does music help his extraordinary performances?” we asked him.

“Very much.  It's an interesting question, you know, there are certain things that come into your hands by luck. I remember one very clear moment in Hamlet when I just press at random on my iPod and it took me back to a time when I was 13 when I'd first ever thought about playing Hamlet. It was an amazing, emotional piece of music, Henryk Górecki's Symphony No.3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. At the time it was on a documentary about this extraordinary Polish composer and (they set) this piece of music to images of concentration camps of the Second World War but also the ethnic cleansing that had gone on during the First World War.

I was studying Hamlet at the same time as experiencing that and tying in with that moment where Hamlet goes for a plot of land that is not big enough to hold all the dead, the waste, the horror of war. It was just a synthesis, I think is the best way of describing it. (The music) brought all these loose connections together in a really powerful way and I found it an amazingly helpful thing to help me into a state before the curtain rose - a grieving son, and it was quite late in the run that I really discovered that music.  It was by chance.  Pure serendipity.  It's a gift when you find some music that leads you towards an emotional state or gives you a tool to help you get that.”