Benedict Cumberbatch Shortlist Interview

To the visible dismay of a nearby hotel employee, Benedict Cumberbatch has climbed on to the sofa while ShortList helplessly looks on. It’s not an elaborate Tom Cruise impression. Instead, he’s waging war on a bluebottle that had been buzzing by his ear, and now, with the third precise swing of a cushion, he’s whacked it against the window and sent it tumbling to the floor.

“Sorry about that,” he says, settling into his chair with a satisfied grin. “It had to be done. But that was pretty brutal. As you can see, Mr Miyagi was my trainer on Star Trek [2].” It won’t please animal welfare groups, but the Sherlock star’s insect-slaying sets the scene for a fiery 45 minutes in his company. As he machine-guns opinions on everything from copycat Holmes drama Elementary and sex scenes to camera phone-wielding fans and cracking Hollywood, it’s clear he’s more determined than ever. So spare a thought for that fly. It never stood a chance…

You’re starring in sweeping new BBC drama Parade’s End. We couldn’t help but notice you’re playing another tortured, hyper-intelligent aristocrat…

[Laughs] Ah, but it’s a fat one this time. That’s the difference. Seriously though, despite people’s opinions, I haven’t played that many aristocrats and landed gentry. Admittedly I do talk fast because I’m a public schoolboy, but I haven’t even done many period dramas. I’ve oscillated between the First World War and the Georgian period. That’s my niche.

What was it that lured you to the role?

Tom [Stoppard] came and had tea with me at the National Theatre, which is always quite seductive. As soon as he asked me if I wanted a biscuit with my tea, I knew what was going on. Rebecca [Hall], who’s a really good friend, sort of talked me around too. But really it’s the book [by Ford Madox Ford]. It’s the first modernist novel and it takes in consumerism, the First World War and the death throes of the upper classes through the prism of this love triangle. It’s incredible.

Did your friendship with Rebecca Hall make the first episode’s sex scene easier?

No, I mean we laughed our arses off – there was a lot of wasted film that day. But [it’s good to] giggle at the silliness rather than get uptight. I’m really good friends with her other half as well, which must have been odd. “How was your day, darling?” “Well, I was just riding Benedict in a train carriage…” [laughs].

Was it a fun shoot generally, then?

We had some fun times when we were filming in Belgium. I was desperately trying to put on weight, so there was a lot of [eating] rubbish food and drinking alcohol without worrying about it. With Sherlock, it’s lots of seeds, juices, swimming and running, but on this I was doing lots of beer, wine, chips and the most f*cking amazing proper steaks and goulashes. I still didn’t put on enough, though. But for Star Trek, I went up about three suit sizes.

Read the full interview at

I’ve also added images from the interview to the gallery.

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