The 37-year-old actor filmed his Star Trek Into Darkness audition on an iPhone in his friend's kitchen.
“I was in a panic,” Cumberbatch told Entertainment Tonight. “I could not find a single casting director or camera set up to do my lines [ during our holiday break ]. So it was sort of desperate measures and desperate times.
“I was literally crouched down in one corner of the kitchen with my two god-children asleep in the background somewhere, and my unborn, new godson Jake – he was madly kicking away whilst [ making ] the tape. He gave it a little thump of support.”
The Fifth Estate
Cumberbatch will next appear on the big screen playing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate , but it's a role that Cumberbatch would never have played if Assange had had his way. The WikiLeaks man emailed Benedict Cumberbatch to ask him to not to participate in the film.
“It was a very considered, thorough, charming and intelligent account of why he thought this was morally wrong for me to be part of something he thought was going to be damaging in real terms – not just to perceptions but to the reality of the outcome for himself,” Cumberbatch told The Guardian.
“Of course [I wobbled ]. The fact that it was coming from the man himself, the day before we started filming? Of course I would hear and feel the protests of the man I was about to pretend to be. I'm a human being."
After four hours of deliberation, Cumberbatch replied. "I said, 'Listen, this film is going to explore what you achieved, what brought you to the world's attention, in a way that I think is nothing but positive. I admit to doing work because I'm a vain actor … yet I'm not acting in a moral vacuum. I have considered this, and whatever happens I want to give as much complexity and understanding of you as I can.'”
Remember My Name
He thinks his own name sounds like “a fart in a bath”.
“Cumberbatch - it sounds like a fart in a bath, doesn't it?” he jokes. “What a fluffy old name. I can never say it on a Monday morning. When I became an actor, Mum wasn't keen on me keeping it.”
Which is probably why, initially, he used his father's surname, Carlton, instead. “When I started, I just assumed I couldn't be called Benedict Cumberbatch,” he recalls. “But then, one day, I told someone in the business what I was really called and they said, 'That's great, that's something you can use to stand out.'”
He's been Cumberbatch ever since.
When Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss watched Cumberbatch in Atonement , they knew that he was the perfect guy for a modern day Sherlock Holmes.
Cumberbatch landed the role after reading the script for them, and as part of his preparation, he then read every original Arthur Conan Doyle story.
“There's a great charge you get from playing him, because of the volume of words in your head and the speed of thought – you really have to make your connections incredibly fast,” the actor says. “He is one step ahead of the audience, and of anyone around him with normal intellect. They can't quite fathom where his leaps are taking him.”
Cumberbatch may be a huge star now, but he still has embarrassing childhood stories just like everybody else.
“When I was six, I got stung by a wasp in a Greek market. A widow pulled down my pants, held me upside down and rubbed an onion on my bum,” he told The Guardian in 2011.
Getting in shape for his role in Star Trek Into Darkness was no picnic. Not only did Cumberbatch hit the gym like “a creature from hell”, he crammed in 4,000 calories a day to pile on the muscle.
“That was the hardest thing, in all honesty,” he told the Metro . “It meant an awful lot of eating in a very short space of time, and a lot of working out – but fortunately I had a fantastic trainer.”
The actor's diet consisted mostly of chicken, potatoes and broccoli. “I'd never been asked to do that before – it was very integral to the character to have a strong physical shape and presence, and to be able to move at the same time, so I wasn't just a stiff lump of muscle.”
No wonder they put him in that figure-hugging costume for the film – all the better to show off that hard-earned physique...
He became Madonna's very own dress-up doll for an afternoon. The pop star invited him over to her London home in order to discuss him playing the Duke of Windsor in her movie W.E. (2011). It was a meeting in which Cumberbatch ended up having a “full-on dress rehearsal”.
“I'd whizzed round on my bike and thought we were going to have a read-through and a chat, but she wanted a full-on dress rehearsal,” he remembers. “So I ended up in a suit and tie with Madonna operating the camera herself.”
On the, ahem, rather racy topic of homoerotic fan fiction and fan art, Cumberbatch is coy but complimentary...
“I suppose my bodily proportions are quite flattering,” he says of the saucy art. “I'm ripped, doing something I wouldn't normally do with my body, or having done to it, involving Watson. So that's as far as I'll hit about that one, but it's all there on the web if you want to find it. I was amazed at the level of artistry; people have spent hours doing it.”
Speaking of art, are there no ends to Cumberbatch's talents? Apparently not.
The actor has also been known to donate his own personal doodles to charities - in June 2013, he created his own self-portrait and donated it to a 'silent auction'.
Most students decide to tour Europe during their gap year. Or work for a little extra pocket money. Not Benedict Cumberbatch. Before he went to study drama at Manchester University, he headed to a Tibetan monastery, where he taught English to the monks there.
“I could actually stay with monks in their home and watch them at work and at prayer, and get the chance to teach them and interact with them,” Cumberbatch recalled in conversation with The Sun . What did he learn in return?
“There's an ability to focus and have a real sort of purity of purpose and attention and not be too distracted,” he says. “And to feel very alive to your environment, to know what you are part of, to understand what is going on in your peripheral vision and behind you, as well of what is in front of you. That definitely came from that.”