In 2011 the Black List was topped by a script for a biopic of Alan Turing, the computer scientist who developed the early computer that the British used to break the German’s Enigma code. You might also recognize his name from the Turing Test, a series of questions meant to determine if a machine is capable of fooling a human interrogator into thinking it’s human. The title for the biopic, The Imitation Game, comes from the Turing Test.
Alan Turing was a genius, a nerd hero along the lines of Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, but he’s slipped from mainstream consciousness, as a person. He’s best known today for the Turing Test, but the movie is not about his work in theoretical robotics, but his earlier efforts in cryptanalysis during World War II, as well as the events that lead to him being largely passed over by history: Turing was gay, in a time when homosexuality was illegal. In 1952 he was prosecuted for this, found guilty, and in 1954 he died, at just 42.
So it’s rich material. A brilliant man who made landmark discoveries, but who was brought down by a vicious and narrow-minded era (the Good Old Days never existed), the drama and stakes of World War II, thwarted romance—it’s all there. And the movie looks great, with a stellar cast including Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Tom the Chauffeur and Tywin Lannister. But the centerpiece is Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, who appears to be throwing his all into the performance, which is saying rather a lot.
The Imitation Game is being released by The Weinstein Company, so you know it’s going to get a big Oscar push. Cumberbatch is front and center in the trailer, clearly stating that he is The Star and this is His Movie (though Knightley makes a good impression, too). It’s too early for predictions but the potential field is already starting to get crowded with early festival hits like Foxcatcher and Mr. Turner featuring strong central performances, so it’s never too soon for Harvey Weinstein to start working his Oscar magic. We could conceivably be looking at a Best Actor race that includes Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Timothy Spall, Michael Keaton, Boyhood’s Ellar Coltrane and Channing Tatum. No, that’s not a typo. Sherlock and Potato Head might be competing for an Oscar. Our world is ridiculous.