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Cumberbatch is promoting his new film The Imitation Game, in which he plays British codebreaker Alan Turing. In his interview Cumberbatch talks about all the times he’s played geniuses and reveals how, as an actor, it is important for him to humanize them. His secret? It’s all in the eyes.
The actor revealed which of his characters he considered geniuses, including Turing, Stephen Hawking, Frankenstein, Julian Assange, Vincent Van Gogh, and of course, Sherlock Holmes. “I suppose being remarkably stupid in comparison to any of these people’s abilities is difficult sometimes,” Cumberbatch says in the video interview below. He explains how he feels like a “complete fraud” when he’s asked to do something his genius characters can do, like play a violin as Sherlock.
Here are some highlights from the full interview.
On how he conveys complexity and intelligence in a character:
With Sherlock, it’s the pyrotechnic of making the connections very quick. That’s a joy to play. It’s really hard work and it’s frustrating as hell, but it’s very rewarding. But to convey intelligence? I don’t know. Maybe I have my mother to thank for that. Just the eyes, I think they are the windows to the soul. And I think they’re also the windows to the mind that’s driving that soul, doesn’t believe in the soul or is computing whether a soul could be made out of … metal and wire and glass. In the case of Alan.
On the commonalities in his genius characters:
Well, they’re unique personalities — people who are seemingly so different that they remain in existence sort of separate from the rest of us. That is always very attractive to focus in on as an actor. My great enjoyment with these characters is to show that no, they are human beings. They have loves and likes and dislikes. They have all the sort of polarities that we experience in the human condition. But with some sort of special filters added in.
Watch part of his interview below, as well as adorable behind-the-scenes footage of BC smiling and trying out different poses as he’s photographed by Dan Winters. The cover is also below.
Cumberbatch is surrounded by both real and re-created World War II items. He was very careful about his outfit choice for the cover. “He showed up with a cool and modern retro version of what he wore in the film — something, he told me, he thought Turing would have worn if alive today,” said photographer Dan Winters.
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