He signed up to Star Trek Into Darkness before he'd even been told who he'd be playing. Instead, director J.J. Abrams merely pitched the character to Cumberbatch as a mash-up of some of cinema's greatest villains.
“JJ described the role in movie terms as a mixture of Hannibal Lector, Jack in The Shining and The Joker in Batman ,” the actor says. “There are sorts of levels to pitch in amongst quite a high bar as well to succeed in comparison to. It was a framework to understand this character before I saw the whole script.”
Benedict eventually discovered who he'd be playing a week after he'd been cast – the film's script was delivered to him by a studio rep who flew from Los Angeles to London with the script handcuffed to his wrist. Now that's security...
He was annoyed about inaccurate reports that he was merely voicing the character of Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.
“It was publicised that I 'voice' Smaug, and I thought, 'Fucking hell. My voice, my motions – I worked my arse off to create that dragon!'” he told New Yorker magazine.
So, just in case you're wondering, Cumberbatch also mo-capped the scaly reptile, meaning the character is entirely his creation. And it sounds like it was bloody hard work, too...
He thinks he looks a bit odd – at least compared to Hollywood heavyweights like Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
In an interview with the Radio Times in 2012, Cumberbatch rather modestly joked: “If you put me in a room with Brad and George and all of them, you do kind of go, 'Lovely, yes. Handsome, yes. Oh, strange-looking guy.'”
We're sure there are many people who'd rather have a “strange-looking guy” than a Brad Pitt. Right?
Preparation Preparation Preparation
Clearly a bit of Sherlock Holmes has already rubbed off on Cumberbatch. The actor performed detective-levels of investigation while preparing for his role as Peter Guillam (“I've always wanted to play a spy!”) in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy .
He headed to the Moroccan town of Essaouira, where Guillam was stationed in the story. “It's got a slightly nightmare quality,” he said of the town. “I was wandering around the streets at night, thinking what it must be like to know that every turn could be my last."
The character's sexuality was also changed. “Sexuality was a very powerful tool then,” Cumberbatch says. “Guillam keeps his homosexuality secret because he is so open to blackmail; it necessitates a certain amount of secretiveness, which goes hand in hand with spying.”
Think Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin was, uh, impressive? Well, you've obviously never heard Benedict Cumberbatch's impersonation of Alan Rickman.
It's so good that he even voiced Rickman (as Snape) for a special Valentine's Day episode of The Simpsons in February 2013. (On top of voicing the British Prime Minister, which he based on Hugh Grant's Love, Actually character).
And his talents don't stop at just Rickman...
He's good friends with fellow Brit actors James McAvoy, Tom Hardy and – naturally – Martin Freeman. The latter he met while shooting TV series Sherlock , and the pair went on to work together on Peter Jackson's Hobbit films (while they were both on hiatus from Sherlock ).
“It was a joy from beginning to end,” Cumberbatch said in 2011 of collaborating on Sherlock with Freeman. “He's very easy to get on with. The audition said it all; he came in the room and by the time he left... he made me raise my game.”
He's genuinely baffled by the fact that he's become a nerdy sex symbol. Talking with the Mirror in 2012, Cumberbatch said:
“It’s interesting and it’s something I’m processing. It’s new to me and I’m sure I’ll get used to it and find a way of dealing with it, but at the moment, it is quite odd.
“Do I like being thought of as attractive? I don’t know anyone on Earth who doesn’t, but I do find it funny. I look in a mirror and I see all the faults I’ve lived with for 35 years and yet people go kind of nuts for certain things about me. It’s not me being humble. I just think it’s weird.”
While filming To The Ends Of The Earth in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 2005, Cumberbatch and his friends were held at gunpoint and kidnapped. Cumberbatch was pulled from his broken-down car, tied up and thrown into a car boot.
“I was scared, really scared. I said: 'What are you going to do with us? Are you going to kill us?'” he told The Hollywood Reporter . “I was really worried that I was going to get raped or molested or just tortured or toyed with in some way, some act of control and savagery.”
In the end, Cumberbatch and his friends were driven into the middle of nowhere and released with no explanation for what had happened. “It taught me that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own,” the actor says. “It's made me want to live a life less ordinary.”
One of Cumberbatch's first ever acting roles came when he was just 13. He played Titania, Queen of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Years later, he'd go on to play Nick Bottom in the play, which prompted one of his first ever reviews.
What did the critic write? “Cumberbatch's 'Bottom' will be long remembered.”
Cumberbatch is, somewhat surprisingly, a fan of extreme sports. In his spare time, he's taken part in skydiving, hot-air ballooning, skiing, high-speed motorcycling and scuba diving.
In fact, Cumberbatch went skydiving while in New Zealand – surely the perfect place to get above the scenery.
“It was the most exquisite sensation and when I landed on the ground I wanted to do it again,” he told Contact Music . “I felt incredibly horny as well, because it's such an extreme thing. You think, 'God, I've just had the most massive bite out of life and I'm really hungry for more!'”