Q&A with Hamlet's Benedict Cumberbatch


To celebrate Benedict Cumberbatch beginning performances in Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre this evening, we thought this would be a good time to revisit a questions and answers interview that the now internationally renowned star gave us just over five years ago.

We first published our interview with the actor in the summer of 2010, just days before the BBC aired the first instalment of 'Sherlock', with Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson.

At the time of our interview, Cumberbatch was performing as David Scott-Fowler in 'After The Dance', by Terence Rattigan, at the Lyttelton, National Theatre. Our critic reviewed the play and said: "The acting is universally flawless and convincing. Benedict Cumberbatch excels in the lead as David, defining a man who is difficult to dislike and who cares for those around him rather more than he first wishes to admit."

Here is the Questions and Answers interview, as published on 19 July 2010:

Benedict Cumberbatch - in After the Dance - show pics by Johan Persson

After the Dance show images by Johan Persson

Place of birth?
London

Did you go to training school, if so which one?
Lamda

Briefly tell us how you became involved with After The Dance.
I got offered the part by the director Thea Sharrock and read it, heard that Nancy Carroll and Adrian Scarborough were in it and accepted.

Briefly tell us about the character of David Scott-Fowler you play in After The Dance
He epitomises the childlike privileged nature of the upper middle class 'bright young things' party set who lived a full hedonistic life of self-destructive self-gratification against the background of the drab and mournful death of the Edwardian era of post World War 1 England. We meet him on the eve of the second world war facing the consequence of his personal and political apathy as the storm clouds gather over Europe and his life in his Mayfair flat overlooking Hyde Park.

As an actor, do you have a preference for stage, tv or film?
No. The challenges and rewards are too variable and elusive for me to have a favourite.

Your first stage performance?
As a very bossy Joseph in the Nativity play at primary school. Apparently I pushed Mary offstage because she was taking too long. Actresses eh! Nancy Carroll's just as bad!

Career highlight to date?
This (After the Dance). The new BBC drama series Sherlock Holmes. The film of War Horse (next up) and The City, a Martin Crimp play directed by Katie Mitchell at the Royal Court. But I don't really do favourites. The people, places and conditions are always so different. Great days are followed by bad. It's the lack of consistancy that keeps you on your toes.

What roles would you most like to play?
Richard II, Oswald in Ghosts, Smaug in The Hobbit...!

What's the best advice you've ever received?
To quote Oscar Wilde in An Ideal Husband: I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
Losing my voice while playing Orlando in Regent's Park and with a microphone, hardly being heard saying the lines after the wrestling match when he's lovestruck with Rosalind: 'I cannot speak to her’ – and hearing a mixture of derision and sympathy from the audience; and hearing Tam, my brilliant understudy say the first few lines of the next scene as I cycled home in tears all the way to Shepherds Bush...! Recently at the National, curtains have become a big special effect number...! In After The Dance I have to mime closing some curtains. They often keep closing after I have walked away from them...

What is the most annoying part about your job?
The anti-social hours and odd eating habits.

If you had not become a performer, what might you have done instead?
A criminal barrister

Favourite after-show haunts
Osteria Emilia in Fleet Road, Hampstead, NW3 – an amazing north italian restaurant and local to me. Or The Ivy, but at the moment my bed.

Who are your favourite actors/actresses
Stephen Dillane, Mark Rylance, Simon Russell Beale, Eddie Redmayne, James McAvoy, Casey Affleck, Ryan Gosling, Jimmie Stewart, Adrian Scarborough, Harrison Ford, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Rod Steiger, Steve McQueen, Martin Sheen, Alison Janney, Sissey Spacek, Meryl Streep, Nancy Carroll, Juliette Binoche, Maggie Gylenhall, Amy Adams. There is an infinitely bigger list... God I hate lists!

If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would you say to them?
Hitler. I'd tell him his paintings were great and to stay off the politics and get laid. Alive... The mother of my children and I'd ask them to take a deep breath and if they fancied a drink.

What was the last book you read, and name some of your favourite authors?
Michael Darlow's terrific biography of Terence Rattigan. Nabakov, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Paul Auster, William Boyd, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Nancy Mitford, AS Byatt, Beryl Bainbridge, Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy... Must get on and read more of them!!!

What was the last film you saw, and name some of your favourite movies?
Inception. Extraodinary, breathtaking mindmaze of a thriller. Badlands, Elephant, The Shining, Let the Right One In, Zoolander, Withnail and I, Brief Encounter, I am Love, Michael Clayton, The Prophet, the Bourne trilogy and anything from Michael Winterbottom and Steve Soderbergh, Kubrick and Hitchcock.

Favourite TV programmes?
The Wire, The Office, The West Wing, Mad Men and The Sopranos - the typical cliches of great American HBO box-set drama.

Favorite holiday destinations?
Galaxidi in Greece, Villedieu in the south of France and New York

Do you have any hobbies?
Horseriding and scuba diving and motorbikes

Do you have any superstitions?
No

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Kirsty Young, a map and a speedboat.

What are your future plans?
I'm in the film of War Horse directed by Spielberg and so doing a lot of horseriding. The new BBC series Sherlock Holmes is coming out 25th July so I'm getting ready for that.

Hamlet is running at the Barbican Theatre until 31 October 2015. Previews started on 5 August 2015 and the official opening is set for 25 August 2015.

Looking for the best seats...