From STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS to THE FIFTH ESTATE: How Benedict Cumberbatch Became a Household Name in 2013

by     Posted 1 year, 14 days ago

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In 1976, Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was ushered into our world; in 2013, his incredibly British moniker became a household name when he landed a starring role in the global hit, Star Trek Into Darkness.  Cumberbatch is anything but a one-hit wonder, however, having built a fan following with roles in Atonement, War Horse, and of course, playing the title character in Sherlock.  Cumberbatch continues to test his skills by taking on roles across the spectrum, from voice roles in television with The Simpsons and Peter Jackson’s blockbuster trilogy, The Hobbit, to awards-worthy turns in 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County.  Hit the jump for more on Cumberbatch’s career, including where he’s been, what we’ll see him in this year, and what films are yet to come.

Before 2013, aka The pre-Cumberbatchian Era

sherlock-martin-freeman-benedict-cumberbatchPrior to 2013, Benedict Cumberbatch had starred in a number of projects in the U.K. that formed the foundation of his career.  Those early years included a turn as Hugh Laurie’s son in the short-lived series, Fortysomething; starring as Stephen Hawking in the TV movie, Hawking, and Vincent van Gogh in the TV movie, Van Gogh: Painted with Words; and roles in period dramas Atonement, The Other Boleyn Girl, War Horse and Parade’s End.  His biggest move into the zeitgeist came with the starring role in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s series, Sherlock.  His quirky and abrasive take on the Arthur Conan Doyle character paved the way for Cumberbatch to take center screen on an even bigger stage.

2013: The Year of the Cumberbatch

His first foray into massive blockbuster films came by way of a voice role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It was a brief role to be sure, but his baritone voice will be heard again in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, due out December 13, 2013, as well as the concluding chapter, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, opening December 17, 2014.  Unquestionably, Cumberbatch’s biggest role came as the divisive villain in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness.  The film’s exhaustive marketing campaign and ongoing mystery surrounding John Harrison’s true identity resulted in Benedict Cumberbatch’s name making its way into our pop culture lexicon.  (It doesn’t hurt that his name is a hell of a lot of fun to say.)  Even if Star Trek Into Darkness was Cumberbatch’s biggest spotlight so far, he still has three major awards-contending films coming out later this year, plus more high-profile features in years to come.

To Cumberbatch … and Beyond!

the-fifth-estate-benedict-cumberbatch-2The end of 2013 is only a couple of months away and yet Cumberbatch still has three more movies coming out.  Opening this weekend is Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, in which Cumberbatch stars as Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who facilitated whistle-blowers’ anonymity in exposing government secrets and corporate crimes.  You can read Matt’s TIFF 2013 review here, and check out an interview with Cumberbatch himself here.  The Fifth Estate opens October 18th.  The other awards-worthy Cumberbatch films are Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave also opening in limited release on October 18th, and John Wells’ August: Osage County opening in limited release on December 25th.

Don’t fret, Cumberbatch will return post-2013 for more films that run the gamut of genres.  He’s currently filming The Imitation Game, a biographical drama on famed mathematician Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), from director Morten Tyldum, plus two voice roles for The Penguins of Madagascar and Magik.  Another project to keep an eye on is The Lost City of Z, an adventure biography based on legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett’s (Cumberbatch) ill-fated journey into the Amazon.  While 2013 has certainly been Cumberbatch’s year,  it’s safe to say that this is just the beginning and we’ll have plenty more years of his work (and his name) to look forward to.




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  • Davis

    Sherlock and tinker tailor the only good things he’s done. He’s going to be outshined by the rest of the cast members of 12 years a slave and everything else he brought out this year or that is coming out this year looks mediocre.

    • Kristin

      He generally received rave reviews for his performance in STID, particularly from critics at the major in-print press such as NY Times, even The Fifth Estate the film itself gets mixed reviews, his performance as JA is again generally being highly praised. 12 Years A Slave is a large ensemble, and a lot of known actors are taking parts in it just because of the subject matter and McQueen, and again despite the small role, his performance has been mentioned in many reviews. You are talking about dominating lead and supporting characters with large trunk of screen time outshine his small role? LOL! Please don’t insult McQueen! That’s the movie supposed to be, performance-wise, it’s just a stellar cast doing their jobs as they supposed to do, no ego issues, not like you. The Hobbit is going to be huge, BO-wise, and just his voice performance as Smaug in the trailer has evoked nerdgasm across the world; August Osage County is still strong award contender for this season, and he won and Emmy nomination for his performance in Parade’s End this year, no, such work is quite stellar no matter how you cut it.

      • Davis

        STID was a mediocre movie and he just did his best deep voice for khan. Yes because according to the writer his role in TYAS is award worthy, yes the mess thatis going to “The Hobbit 2″ one book milked into a trilogy; Augst Osage County is getting average reviews anyway it’s only getting buzz because of meryl streep.

        But he is giving people nerdgasm okay sorry nerds for having a different opinion.

  • Davis

    Sherlock and tinker tailor the only good things he’s done. He’s going to be outshined by the rest of the cast members of 12 years a slave and everything else he brought out this year or that is coming out this year looks mediocre.

  • SomeGuy

    Despite the small role, I quite enjoyed him in War Horse. I’ve seen many of his other films as well, but I have yet to dip my feet into Sherlock. Also, I’ve seen bits of Parade’s End and hope to see the miniseries in its entirety soon.

    • signinwith

      DIP YOUR FEET INTO SHERLOCK SOON! You haven’t seen any of his acting abilities if you haven’t seen Sherlock.

  • SomeGuy

    Despite the small role, I quite enjoyed him in War Horse. I’ve seen many of his other films as well, but I have yet to dip my feet into Sherlock. Also, I’ve seen bits of Parade’s End and hope to see the miniseries in its entirety soon.

  • Hari

    Hate this guy so much. There is so much hype around him, for really no explicable reason. Sure, he is a talented actor… but he isn’t a once in a generation talent like Fassbender (or even a Tom Hardy/Joel Edgerton/etc). He isn’t particularly charismatic or powerful. Its inexplicable why folks act like he is a demi-god.

    • stylus59

      okay, then why hate the guy? he didn’t do wrong. hate the fans instead

    • PANTS

      Edgerton and Hardy are hardly “once in a generation” talents, though they are consistently watchable performers. Fassbender is certainly an elite thespian at the top of his game, but really, that is no reason to dismiss Cumberbatch so flippantly. The man has a huge amount of sheer presence on screen that allows him to command just about every scene he appears in, and it also helps that he possesses the voice of a god. He is also eminently professional and down-to-earth, which makes him enormously appealing to people who are sick of the tabloid-friendly hollywood stars of this generation.

    • Edith

      Though the internet gives you the anonymity, is it really a good idea to show people how irrational a person you are? That just makes your opinion as to the once-in-a-generation actors so not credible.

    • -

      Fassbender is the only one of the three who’s better than Cumberbatch, lol.

      • Mullans

        Too early to make that conclusion, Cumberbatch has not been given opportunities to show his full force in films as he’s just beginning to get lead/ substantial roles in major films, but I don’t think Fassbender can ever do theatres like Cumberbatch has been doing, because to be great onstage, an actor needs to constantly stay in it; Fassbender didn’t do much of theatres in the early years of his career and has left it for very long time.

  • The Flobbit

    Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor. He’s humble and smart enough to know that all his fangirl admirers are stupid, but he brings raw talent to the screen.

  • blakeavon

    Americans, always a few years behind the rest of the world, he was a household name in 2011, well actually what 2009 in the ‘Last Enemy’, just because most of you wont watch anything not set in US, doesnt mean everyone else around the traps didnt know him

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