Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (born 19 July 1976) is an English film, television, and theatre actor. His most acclaimed roles include: Stephen Hawking in the BBC drama Hawking (2004); William Pitt in the historical film Amazing Grace (2006); the protagonist Stephen Ezard in the miniseries thriller The Last Enemy (2008); Paul Marshall in Atonement (2007); Bernard in Small Island (2009); and Sherlock Holmes in the modern BBC adaptation series Sherlock (2010). He will also be the voice of both Smaug the Dragon and Sauron in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Cumberbatch was born in London, England, the son of actors Timothy Carlton (birth name Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch) and Wanda Ventham.
Cumberbatch was educated at two independent schools, Brambletye School in West Sussex and Harrow School in northwest London, where he began performing as an actor. After graduation, he took a gap year to teach English in a Tibetan monastery. He then attended the University of Manchester, where he studied drama. After graduating, Cumberbatch continued his training as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Since 2001, Cumberbatch has had major roles in a dozen classic plays at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, Almeida Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, and the National Theatre. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role for his performance as Tesman in Hedda Gabler, a role he performed at the Almeida Theatre on 16 March 2005, as well as at the Duke of York’s Theatre when it transferred to the West End on 19 May 2005.
Cumberbatch acted in The Children’s Monologues, a star-studded theatrical event at London’s Old Vic Theatre on 14 November 2010. The show was produced by Dramatic Need. In February 2011, he began playing, on alternate nights, both Dr Frankenstein and his creature, opposite Jonny Lee Miller, in the stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. Frankenstein was broadcast to cinemas as a part of National Theatre Live in March 2011. Both The Children’s Monologues and Frankenstein are directed by Danny Boyle.
Cumberbatch’s television roles include two separate guest roles in Heartbeat (2000, 2004), Freddy in Tipping the Velvet (2002), Edward Hand in Cambridge Spies (2003), and Rory in the ITV comedy drama series Fortysomething (2003). He was also featured in Spooks and Silent Witness.
In 2004, he starred as Stephen Hawking in Hawking. He was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor and won the Golden Nymph for Television Films – Best Performance by an Actor. He also appeared in the BCC miniseries Dunkirk as Lieutenant Jimmy Langley.
In 2005, Cumberbatch starred as the protagonist Edmund Talbot in the miniseries To The Ends of the Earth, based on William Golding’s trilogy.
He also made brief appearances in the comedy sketch show Broken News in 2005.
Cumberbatch next starred alongside Tom Hardy in the television adaptation of the book Stuart: A Life Backwards, which aired on the BBC in September 2007. In 2008, he starred in the BBC miniseries drama The Last Enemy, for which he was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Film. In December 2008, Cumberbatch appeared in an unreleased pilot for The Dark Side of the Earth, a fantasy film in development, as Max, a Victorian paranoid about germs who lives inside a sealed bio-suit.
In 2009, Cumberbatch starred in Marple: Murder Is Easy as Luke Fitzwilliam. Also in 2009, he played Bernard in the TV adaptation of Small Island; the performance earned him a nomination for BAFTA Television Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Cumberbatch narrated the 6-part series South Pacific (U.S. title: Wild Pacific), which aired May to June 2009 on BBC 2.
Cumberbatch, a fan of long-running British science fiction show Doctor Who, suggested in a July 2010 interview that he would be interested in appearing as a main or recurring character on the show, run by Sherlock producer and personal friend Steven Moffat. In 2008 he had discussed with David Tennant taking over the part of The Doctor but had decided not to try for the role.
In 2010, Cumberbatch portrayed Vincent van Gogh in Van Gogh: Painted with Words. The Telegraph called his performance “[a] treat … vividly bringing Van Gogh to impassioned, blue-eyed life.” Also in 2010, Cumberbatch began playing Sherlock Holmes in the first series of the BBC television programme Sherlock, to critical acclaim.
In 2006, Cumberbatch played William Pitt in Amazing Grace. The film is the story of William Wilberforce’s intense and lengthy political fight in the late 18th century to eliminate slave trade in the British Empire. Pitt was Wilberforce’s closest friend and staunchest political ally, and became Prime Minister at an early age. The role garnered Cumberbatch a nomination for the London Film Critics Circle British Breakthrough Acting Award.
Cumberbatch subsequently appeared in major roles in Atonement (2007) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). In 2009, he appeared in the Darwin bio-pic Creation as Darwin’s friend Joseph Hooker. In 2010, he appeared in The Whistleblower.
He is scheduled to appear in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011). He is also slated to play Peter Guillam in the 2012 adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson, also starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy.