Benedict Cumberbatch Says He Would Fight Intolerance "to the Death"

Benedict Cumberbatch Oscars - H 2014
AP Images

Benedict Cumberbatch Oscars - H 2014

'The Imitation Game' actor is saddened by prejudice and obstacles faced by gay leading men in Hollywood

Benedict Cumberbatch is getting a lot of awards buzz for his portrayal of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, but for the actor there was a deeper significance to the role beyond just playing another genius, a "Sherlock in tweed."

In a lengthy and revealing interview with British gay lifestyle magazine Out published Wednesday, Cumberbatch said that Turing's private life and not just his accomplishments breaking the Enigma code resonated strongly with him. Turing was gay during a time when it was dangerous to be so and fell afoul of the U.K.'s then-laws, which made homosexual acts illegal. Many believe Turing's tragic death in 1954 stemmed from his arrest for "indecency." Then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology in 2009.

Cumberbatch, though, feels that the apology was an insult. "[F]or anybody of authority or standing to sign off on him with their approval and say, ‘Oh, he’s forgiven' ... the only person who should be [doing the] forgiving is Turing, and he can’t because we killed him," the star said. "And it makes me really angry. It makes me very angry.”

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Though Imitation Game is a historical drama, Cumberbatch is keen for audiences to take present-day lessons from it, telling Out: “It’s not a history lesson — it’s a warning that this could very easily happen again,” he said. “People are being beheaded in countries right now because of their beliefs or sexual orientations. It’s terrifying. It’s medieval — a beheading!"

Cumberbatch feels so passionately about the rising intolerance he is willing to fight for his beliefs, he told Out. "I’d take up arms against someone who was telling me I had to believe in what they believed or they would kill me," he said. "I would fight them. I would fight them to the death. And, I believe, the older you get, you have to have an idea of what’s right or wrong. You can’t have unilateral tolerance. You have to have a point where you go, ‘Well, religious fundamentalism is wrong.' ”

Read more Benedict Cumberbatch on Playing an "Eccentric Genius" in 'The Imitation Game'

Hollywood also comes in for criticism from Cumberbatch, particularly the obstacles and prejudice that gay actors like his friend Zachary Quinto face in looking for roles as leading men. “I think if you’re going to sell yourself as a leading man in Hollywood ... to say ‘I’m gay,’ sadly, is still a huge obstacle," he said. "We all know actors who are [gay] who don’t want to talk about it or bring it up, or who deny it. I don’t really know what they do to deal with it." 

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