Perhaps one could say the same thing about the new Marvel superhero movie Dr Strange. It may be a fun movie, or it may be a slow-moving formulaic movie that resembles every other Marvel superhero movie that came before. But it has its own magic, its art of distraction – a handsome, suave, distinguished distraction in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch that leaves much of the audience spellbound.
Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was born in 1976 to parents Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, both of whom graced the British movie industry since the sixties. Like most children born to an elite stratum of society, he was soon shipped off to boarding school at the elite and prestigious Harrow, which was the alma mater of Winston Churchill himself.
The way his teachers stated it, Ben was always dreaming away or getting on their nerves. He was “attention deficient”. However, the stage captivated him even then. He made his acting debut in his first year at Harrow… as Titania, Queen of the Fairies in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Well, it was an all boys boarding school and someone had to do it! The Shakespeare bug hit, and he continued to be an active participant in the school’s theatrical productions. Perhaps as foreshadowing on things to come, he was given the “Best Schoolboy Actor” title for his endeavours.
Ready for the Close Up
In what could have been a strange parallel to his most successful movie role to date, an older Ben eventually made a pilgrimage to a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling, India for a year. Unlike Stephen Strange, Ben knew he was a privileged white kid, and he wanted to experience life through a different lens – from a different perspective. Of course, there was always time for some adventures, from trotting the Rajasthan deserts to rafting through the Kali River with his buddies.
His parents wanted him to be a barrister, but Ben had other ideas. He graduated in Drama at the University of Manchester and went on to train in classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Fortunately, his parents were supportive of his decisions, with his father being his biggest supporter.
A Brilliant Kind of Elementary
Benedict Cumberbatch’s fame truly exploded when he cinched the role of Sherlock Holmes in a TV series adaptation of Sir Conan Doyle’s popular private detective stories.
Upon becoming Sherlock Holmes, Benedict bagged many titles such as the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ in 2010 by Empire and People magazine. He was listed on the ‘100 Makers of the 21st Century’ by The Sunday Times, ‘100 Most Connected Men’ by GQ; 2014 Time 100’s ‘Most Influential People of The World’… the list goes on. Then there were the nominations and awards he has received for his outstanding performances in movies, TV series, theatre, narrations in documentaries and video games.
However, not all these titles were bagged for his professional role. Benedict received a Commander of The Order of the British Empire (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II last November for his services to the performing arts and to charity. Ben is known for his fundraising and donations of artworks to charity auctioning to render funds for organizations that help children worldwide and the youths of UK.
Ben is also a patron for the Motor Neurone Disease Association after his outstanding role as Stephen Hawking in the TV series made him their ambassador in 2004. He also helps in funding the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association in America.
Aside from being both acclaimed actor and heartthrob, Ben’s ability to connect deeply to his roles often motivates him to channel this passion into affirmative action. More impressively, he is very open about this, even if the cause may be controversial to some people.
Upon the release of The Imitation Game, where Ben starred as the British mathematician Alan Turing (who was persecuted by the government despite his significant contributions in World War 2 because he was gay), he became involved in advocating for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community on the grounds of equality for all. In fact, he has a license to officiate weddings, which he put to use by marrying two of his gay friends in 2015.
Ben is no stranger to UK’s leaders and policy makers too. He has protested against 2003 war in Iraq war and continues to fight for the migrant and refugee crisis. His latest act of advocacy comes through in the Marvel Studios Hero Acts campaign. Marvel has tied up with Save the Children, an International NGO that provides relief and support for children in developing countries. Ben didn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and plunged right into advocating support for Syrian child refugees.
Welcome to the Sanctum Santorum
It is with Dr Strange that Ben becomes what they call a bona fide movie star. As of 15 November 2016, it had grossed $152,952,234 in the US and $494,028,124 worldwide.
“It was just incredible. This job first and foremost was an acting gig,” he told the hosts of Good Morning America. “He’s this extraordinary neurosurgeon and he’s kind of built a gilded cage without knowing it and he goes from that to a place of utter selflessness where by the end of the film, you’re looking at him on his own, choosing a path that’s about other people and you think, ‘Yeah, OK. You are now an Avenger. I believe that you’ll go join them.’”
Well, in real life, he has also joined the ranked of A-list male celebs that hold the world spellbound with their charisma, talent and looks.
Describing his most famous role to date, Ben says, “Strange is incredibly arrogant, brilliant, sort of extraordinary. And his need to control fates, to control destiny and, in particular death, has brought him to the height of his profession as a neurosurgeon,” he says. “His training brings out this spiritual dimension which he never knew was possible and he soon realizes he’s potentially someone who can help on a grander scale than he’d ever imagined actually existed.”
It does not take much to see that, in an eerie manner that one could probably consider strange or even magical, there are parallels between Dr Strange and Benedict Cumberbatch.
And just like Strange, Ben is known for being a bit of a motor mouth. Whether he is speaking out a script or casually or even writing, he is opinionated. His subtle sarcasms and dry wit captivate the attention of his friends and fans.
And just as Strange’s adventures would no doubt take him to strange places and adventures, we have no doubt that Ben’s real life adventures will take him to places and adventures that are just as eventful and exciting. But we will take the real life Ben any time over Strange – he is much nicer and he is also a really good guy!
1. IMDB. Available at www.imdb.com
2. Mashable. Available at www.mashable.com
3. Vanity Fair. Available at www.vanityfair.com