Behind the scenes of TIME’s latest cover shoot with Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch’s face doesn’t have a good side or a bad side — he’s very symmetrical, says photographer Dan Winters, who shot him for this week’s TIME cover.
“I’m not as concerned as I would normally have to be about where I’m positioning him, where I’m lighting from,” says Winters. “A lot of actors are pretty asymmetrical, and you have to work around that.”
In the cover image, Cumberbatch is seated behind a table, framed by both real and recreated World War II items: a rare vintage Enigma machine, a bomb wheel made by Winters, and more. The setup was meant to capture Cumberbatch as an actor with a nod to his upcoming film, The Imitation Game, says Winters.
“He showed up with a cool and modern retro version of what he wore in the film — something, he told me, he thought Turing would have worn if alive today,” Winters told TIME LightBox. “He had done his work and we used that in the shoot.”
The resulting mood of the photo was “quiet, a little pensive, sort of contemplative.” And yes, Cumberbatch looks great in it.
“I’m gonna keep this brief,” Benedict Cumberbatch charmingly promised the audience at New York City’s 92Y on Sunday night, when explaining the specifics of Alan Turing’s technological innovations shown in The Imitation Game. “I am quite simple — trust me! … It’s a very daunting thing when you look at what his mind gave the world.”
After tracing how the discoveries of Turing’s World War II decoding machine led to the modern computer, Cumberbatch clarified that the Morten Tyldum-directed film “is not a period drama” but is “utterly relevant” now because of its discussion of Joan Clarke’s (Keira Knightley) plight in a male-dominated workplace, as well as Turing’s secret homosexual status, for which he was punished by the British government and eventually triggered his suicide. “Everything that he experienced influenced his mind, which, again, amplifies the volume of the tragedy of his death,” he told Annette Insdorf, as part of 92Y’s Reel Pieces series, of the math genius he portrays. “He’s become a gay icon because he was true to his identity.”
Cumberbatch also repeated in response to an audience question that Turing’s posthumous pardon in 2013 is “still too little, too late” and added of Lord McNally, who shot down the petition in 2012, “He’s still a homophobe — he’s the one who needs to reconcile his attitude, not me. … [Turing] is the only person who has the power to forgive, and he can’t because we destroyed him.”
Such a scene was left on the cutting-room floor, “a scene where the policeman comes into the house and discovers his body — the death scene, the suicide scene, and the solution of cyanide that’s been drunken, some of the residue left on the bitten apple on the nightstand.” Cumberbatch recalled that it “didn’t feel right” during production, and Tyldum ultimately agreed during the editing process. Instead, the film’s final scene sees Turing with “someone telling him something he never had told to him in his life: that he did matter — the fact that he was regarded as different and not normal was hugely important to the world and to everybody around him. No one had told him that in his life. So to end it on that note, with someone explaining, was our way of thanking him in the structure of the film, our eulogy to him.”
Though the suicide is not shown, Cumberbatch added that it’s alluded to, with subtlety, in the movie’s last moments. “He walks in the doorframe and looks at the machine, which is the embodiment of the love of his life, Christopher. He smiles, and in my mind, what I was saying was, ‘I’m coming to see you now.’ He turns off the light, walks into the darkness, and that’s it. That’s what you see. I thought [Tyldum] was spot-on in his judgment of that.”
Cumberbatch first heard about Graham Moore’s Imitation Game script while shooting Star Trek Into Darkness, when he “was playing Khan and in a very different head space,” he said with a laugh. He loved “how uncompromising it was — there was no vanity about the character. Graham was not trying to make you like him. He was introducing this extraordinarily difficult, diffident and different man with great humor. And that was a real relief because the minute you’re playing clever for the sake of being clever, or just demonstrating intelligence, it’s very dent as drama or anything that can engage you to further investigation or interest, I personally feel.”
Hoping to “serve his legacy to a broader audience,” Cumberbatch then persistently pursued the Turing role while it was attached to another actor. “I was not onboard, but I was onboard with the idea of being onboard. In my head, I was already onboard!”
The actor was also asked about portraying another genius, Stephen Hawking, in the BBC’s 2004 film, Hawking, which covered only two pivotal years of the scientist’s life (as opposed to the decades shown in The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne). After Cumberbatch noted that Hawking and Turing are very different in personality and academic discipline, he admitted, “This is such a weird conversation — Eddie’s a really good friend of mine. … I can’t wait to see it. Everything he touches is so investigative and realized.”
The Imitation Game hits limited theaters Nov. 28.
New York Magazine has a great article on Benedict, here are some parts and 2 photos:
The ones nearest the front have been camped out for hours, bodies wedged against barricades—a scrum of people ten rows deep, jockeying for position, climbing lampposts for better views, and rendering blocks of King Street, Toronto’s main downtown drag, impassable. “Denzel must be coming,” a middle-aged male passerby surmises, since this is a Toronto International Film Festival premiere. But no, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, a movie star without a hit movie to his name and a made-for-meme, extreme-Brit sex symbol who plays his most notable roles (Sherlock Holmes, Julian Assange, Star Trek Into Darkness’s Khan) with a powerful whiff of sexlessness.
But neither logic nor common sense seems to apply to the seismic force of female hysteria that follows Cumberbatch wherever he goes. It happened at TIFF last year, too, when he was promoting his Assange movie, The Fifth Estate, which went on to become the biggest wide-release flop of 2013. And it’s certainly happening now, at the Toronto premiere of The Imitation Game, which is very much not a blockbuster but a World War II period piece about the antisocial British cryptographer (and gay martyr) Alan Turing. By festival’s end, it will have won TIFF’s People’s Choice Award, which has previously gone to The King’s Speech and 12 Years a Slave—a strong predictor that the math movie and its hot-nerd lead actor stand a good chance at the Oscars.
A black SUV approaches, and the shrieking begins. The crowd jostles forward, hundreds of arms with cell phones raised aloft, pointing through the cloud of homemade collages of Cumberbatch’s face. “He’s so dishy!” titters one frazzled redhead carrying crude drawings of Cumberbatch in the BBC’s Sherlock, with long curls and a trench coat, collar turned up. “I love his squinty eyes and just his face. My grandmother is in love with him, too, and she’s 75!” gasps a 20-something in a peacoat. Without warning, a tiny Japanese girl hurdles, impressively, from the back of the pack to the front, kicking a few heads on the way. The car door opens. The shrieking grows deafening. “Ben-e-dict! Ben-e-dict! Ben-e-dict!”
“I’ve known Ben for 15 years,” his Imitation Game co-star Matthew Goode will tell me the next day, “and yesterday was the first time I realized that he’s like a Beatle.”
No sooner has Cumberbatch sat down on the 31st floor of Toronto’s Trump Hotel and announced that he’d “fancy a pisco sour” than our preternaturally attentive waiter appears: “Two pisco sours, I hear?”
“Please!” shouts Cumberbatch.
“Singles or doubles? What kind of day was it today?”
“Doubles, motherfuckah!” says Cumberbatch, grinning and doing a seated dance. “Gotta be. Al-ways!”
He got hooked on pisco sours, he says, because he likes whiskey sours, and a friend who’d visited South America demanded he try one. He says he likes tequila, too, which starts a debate about whether pisco is made from cactus or grapes (it’s a brandy, so grapes), which prompts a discussion about Googling and books and Kindles and how nobody ever just knows anything or retains information anymore.
“Somebody probably told me when I was born what all of my life was for, but I kind of tend to forget information until it becomes immediately relevant,” Cumberbatch says. “Otherwise my head would spin off in a thousand directions, and it wouldn’t be pretty.” The highlight of his trip, he says, has been meeting Naomi Watts (“Man, I have such a crush on her. She’s just gorgeous. I know she’s married, and I’m very happy as well, but she—I think it’s her talent”). He’s been so slammed that he hasn’t seen any movies at the festival and is “desperate” to hear my review of all of them, particularly The Riot Club, a social satire about an elitist society of young wankers at Oxford that he’s familiar with from when it was a play called Posh, directed by Lyndsey Turner, who’s directing him as Hamlet at the Barbican next year. You might assume that Cumberbatch is an Oxford wanker, too, what with that ridiculously British name, that estimable vocabulary, that affinity for saying whilst, that silky posh accent, those piercing blue eyes, that chiseled face, that translucent skin suggesting overcast skies and manor-house libraries—all of which allows
him somehow to exude eroticism while resembling a 19th-century gentleman caller drained of blood and unfrozen by aliens. Or just an alien. Or perhaps a small amphibious mammal. He’s joked that his “weird face” might be indicative of inbreeding and “is something between an otter and something that people find vaguely attractive, or just an otter, which is vaguely attractive.”
(…) “I’m pretend clever. I’m not actually clever.” Phantogram is playing over the sound system, Cumberbatch pauses to notice. “Great band.”
How are our pisco sours, the waiter asks. “Pisssssco!” says Cumberbatch. “Good to drink in company when you’re getting pissed. It’s really nice, isn’t it?” We order another round.
I tell him that sometimes when I drink pisco, my face gets weird and tingly. “Okay, we’ll sort that out,” Cumberbatch says reassuringly. “Throw ice on you or something. It’ll be all right.” Then as soon as the waiter leaves, he jumps up. “Listen, I’m embarrassed, but I need the loo.”
“The Internet’s Boyfriend” is both an accurate descriptor of Cumberbatch’s current place in popular culture and the name of one of many Tumblrs dedicated to him, another of which is a name generator spitting out even more hilarious British-sounding names, like Tiddleywomp Vegemite and Wellington Comblyclomp. Members of his rabid thinking-women’s fan base call themselves the Cumberbitches, though some prefer Cumberbunnies or Benaddicts or Cumbercookies. (The object of their affection has said he thinks “Cumberbabes” is more feminist, or “the Cumbercollective.”) A survey of audience members at Cumberbatch’s Graham Norton Show appearance last year revealed fans who’d flown in from Japan or Hong Kong (he’s just as huge in Asia) or took a 20-hour bus ride from Germany. Since April 2013, an Indonesian baker named Vereen Tjoeng has been making elaborate Cumbercupcakes in his likeness. There’s also the hashtag #cumberwatch, which tracks his physical whereabouts; at The Imitation Game’s premiere, I overheard a group of girls who used it to locate the after-party and were planning to stalk him there.
You can read the full article over at Vulture
Here are photos from the The Imitation Game Press Conference from last week:
- Public Appearances > 2014 > Nov 15 | The Imitation Game Press Conference
Watch as Benedict Cumberbatch impersonates Taylor Swift, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Hiddleston and many more! Be sure to check out his new movie The Imitation Game (2014) on November 28th.