Benedict Cumberbatch gets ahead of the game

Benedict Cumberbatch has a GREAT new interview with TimeOut London in which he talks about both his Oscar chances and the kingmaker grooming him for center stage. The Batch is always an interesting interview for several reasons: 1) He’s 38 and fame came late-ish for him, striking in his mid-thirties after he’d had a chance to fully form—they’re better when it happens that way, as Lainey recently pointed out;  2) he’s an intelligent, well-spoken guy; and 3) he’s got a nice edge of British bitchiness to keep things lively.

But it’s not the inner bitch that’s on display in this interview—it’s the first two things, his age and his sensibility. This interview is a masterpiece of Hollywood diplomacy and management. He hits all the right notes—his career is on fire but he worked for years without (relative) notice, he’s grateful for the opportunities but he’s also being choosy and working for himself, he praises Harvey without blatantly kissing Harvey Weinstein’s ass, he gently reminds us that he has orbited the sun that is Brangelina, he’s demure about his Oscar chances while also tweaking the machine known as The Campaign.

He nails just the right tone between recognizing the capricious aspect of fame but also acknowledging his own efforts at achieving it and that, now that it’s come, accepting it as his due. He calls the ALS ice bucket challenge “grubby” without demeaning it, and he simultaneously acknowledges that Weinstein is pushing him and The Imitation Game for Oscar while also suggesting that he’s not a participant in The Campaign. That’s the part that struck me most sharply—his seeming disengagement with the political side of award season.

12 Years a Slave ran a pretty safe not-too-in-your-face campaign last year and still won Best Picture and several other major awards. Maybe he thinks every movie can do that, or maybe—and this is what I think is behind his comments—he doesn’t want to be seen WANTING IT. They all want it, but some of them want it harder and more openly than others. (I’m already exhausted by Reese Witherspoon’s campaign and it’s barely even started.) Best Actor is going to be, as per usual, highly competitive, and The Batch has stiff competition from fellow Brit-playing-a-genius Eddie Redmayne.

If this is the tack he’s taking, letting Harvey work his magic behind the scenes while he remains a little distant from the process, it’s not a bad idea. Years ago, when Cumberbatch’s name first started circulating in LA, he caused a minor frenzy by delaying his inevitable trip to Hollywood in order to make Sherlock. By the time he finally arrived, people were salivating over the chance to cast him. He orchestrated his arrival brilliantly and he did it by being withholding. Perhaps he thinks he can win an Oscar the same way.


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