Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

by HFPA December 29, 2014

Yoram Kahana/HFPA

We almost lost Benedict Cumberbatch to law.

The talented and acclaimed British actor, who was born Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch to thespians Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, revealed to us that acting was not really his first choice. “I wanted to be a lawyer for a long time,” he said. “Not for a long time, but for a year. I was about 15, 16, something like that. I wanted to be a criminal lawyer or barrister because there’s a bit of acting involved. That was the only career I really took seriously as an alternative for a little while.”

Cumberbatch who is nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor this year, admitted that he tried not to follow in his parents’ footsteps and they themselves tried to put him off in being an actor as well. “Of course, yeah, all the time,” he disclosed. “Mum and dad genuinely worked incredibly hard to give me this education where I could choose to turn to my hand to being a doctor, a sculptor or an artist of any sort other than an actor. They wanted me to do a grown up job and being a barrister for a while was a very attractive option for them in their minds but they got it.”

“They got my decision to be an actor and I was at the university when my dad turned to me. It was maybe the second or third year I was there. I played Salieri in Amadeus and he turned to me and he said, ‘You’re better than I ever was or ever will be. You’ll have a good time doing this. I’m going to support you if you want to do it.’ It was a huge thing for a man to say to his son or for anyone to say to anyone. It was really humbling and very moving. It is one of the reasons I get out of bed in the morning and try to do the best I can. I want to make them proud.”

The 38-year-old English actor from Hammersmith, London, whose versatility and talent may be seen onstage, film, radio and television, received several accolades this year as one of The Sunday Times “100 Makers of the 21st Century,” cited as this generation’s Sir Laurence Olivier, one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” one of GQ’s “100 Most Connected Men in the UK” and one of Country Life magazine’s “Gentlemen of the Year.”

Asked who taught him manners, the soft-spoken Benedict said, “My mother and father. I have to credit them with that. I would never get out of here alive if they heard I had not credited them with that. I had a good education. I was very spoiled. They worked incredibly hard. They were not particularly moneyed as many of the parents were at Harrow. They worked incredibly hard as actors to see me through. Mum did an awful lot of commercial theater and farces in the 90s and the 80s to make sure that the school bills were paid. Dad did that as well so I’d say a combination of good schooling and good parenting.”

Benedict first got Hollywood’s attention when he portrayed Britain’s most famous detective in the BBC hit TV drama series, Sherlock. He was soon making waves on the big screen when he appeared as Peter Guillam in the Tomas Alfredson-helmed Cold War espionage film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and as Major Jamie Stewart in Steven Spielberg’s British war drama, War Horse.

The actor delivered a memorable performance as William Ford in the Golden Globe, Oscar and BAFTA winner, the historical drama, 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen. Benedict also won critical acclaims for his portrayal of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange in the biopic thriller, The Fifth Estate, which was directed by Bill Condon. He also pitted talents as “Little” Charles Aiken with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the John Wells-directed family saga, August Osage County.

This year, Cumberbatch is recognized for his portrayal of British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, pioneering computer scientist and code breaker, Alan Turing, in the historical thriller film The Imitation Game, with a Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama nod.

Janet R. Nepales