Benedict Cumberbatch got quite the makeover to play WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate,” which is just one of a whopping five films he appears in this year.
The 37-year-old British actor also put on an Australian accent to play the controversial international figure, whose website contains secret documents and reports, some alleging government corruption, submitted by whistleblowers. “The Fifth Estate,” which he dubbed a “very, very balanced drama,” is set for release on Oct. 18.
OTRC.com special correspondent George Pennacchio of parent company KABC Television sat down with Cumberbatch to talk about the film and his career at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Check out five highlights below and watch VIDEOS of an extended version of the interview, as well as a trailer and clips from the movie, above.
1. His blond Julian Assange hairstyle — not real!
Cumberbatch’s hair (naturally auburn, by the way) was transformed for the film — he traded in the dyed, dark brown, short and messy style he sports for his TV job — he’s the star of the BBC series “Sherlock” — to a sleek, bleached, below-the-ears ‘do similar to Assange’s. It’s a wig, courtesy of makeup artist Christine Blundell.
She won an Oscar for her work in the 1999 film “Topsy-Turvy” and has also been a makeup artist for the “Sherlock Homes” movies, which starred Robert Downey Jr.
“She’s a dear friend and she’s fantastic,” Cumberbatch told OTRC.com. “She knows her stuff, she knows her wigs. She can hide a hairline. It’s remarkable, actually, it’s profoundly good, her work.”
2. … neither were his “Julian Assange” eyes and teeth.
“We also worked with contact lenses and Chris Lyons, a fantastic prosthetic artist, helped me with a set of false dentures to bring this top lip a little bit forward and to try to change the shape of my face a bit,” Cumberbatch, whose real eyes are a combination of light blue, green and hazel, told OTRC.com.
“I mean, I have got this weird kind of triangle, [Assange is] much more sort of round-faced,” he added, regarding the WikiLeaks founder, whose eyes are darker. “But we did what we could with this old mush, so it was great fun.”
3. What “The Fifth Estate” film taught him … (response to fan-submitted question)
“I learned a lot by doing this film, not least the achievements of WikiLeaks before 2010,” Cumberbatch told OTRC.com, citing examples such as the exposure of corruption in Kenya and violence against Tibetan monks. “Endless achievements of exposing the bad and holding people to account. That was a big learning curve for me.”
4. On his long list of acting projects …
Cumberbatch was introduced to U.S. audiences earlier this year via his highly-praised performance as the menacing villain Khan in “Star Trek Into Darkness.
In the next few months, you can catch Cumberbatch in not only “The Fifth Estate,” but alongside Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave” (see ) and in the film “August: Osage County,” which has a limited U.S. release on Dec. 25 and stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
Also, Cumberbatch voices the part of Smaug the dragon in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which is also set for release in December, and season 3 of “Sherlock” premieres in 2014.
“I’m proud enough of every single project I’m in to be looking forward to it because of the other work that surrounds me, so it’s not all about me and I can genuinely say that it’s varied enough as a slate to not fear too much overexposure. I hope the public agrees.”
5. His biggest inspiration … (response to fan-submitted question)
“Well there are two. My parents,” Cumberbatch told OTRC.com.
Cumberbatch’s mother and father are both actors and appeared together on the BBC series “The Lotus Eaters” in the 1970s.
“Definitely my mum and dad,” Cumberbatch said. “That’s a very easy answer.”