By Guy Kelly8:00AM GMT
01 Nov 2014
He may be one of the most famous actors on the planet, with scores of fervent Cumberpeople in every port, but even Benedict Cumberbatch didn't get to where he is today without a significant amount of hard work.
Long before Sherlock, Star Trek, The Hobbit and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy made him a household name, Cumberbatch built an incredibly varied CV in film and television, playing an impressive variety of characters.
From prime ministers and physicists to policemen and parents (and that's without leaving the Ps), here are seven of the roles that made him the phenomenon he is today.
STUART: A LIFE LIVED BACKWARDS
An adaptation of Alex Masters’ 2005 biography of his friend, Stuart Shorter, Cumberbatch starred with Tom Hardy in this join production by the BBC and HBO. Cumberbatch plays writer Masters in the film, with Hardy as Shorter, a career criminal.
Hardy’s explosive performance was an early example of the muscular intensity he has become known for and earned him a BAFTA nomination in the process, while Cumberbatch was similarly lauded for a moving, restrained portrayal opposite.
STARTER FOR 10
Shining in an impressive cast of British up-and-coming talent of the time, Cumberbatch appears in this 2006 Tom Hanks-produced romantic comedy as Patrick, the captain of Bristol’s University Challenge team.
In the film Patrick is a fiercely stubborn intellectual - a market Cumberbatch has since cornered with some aplomb over the last decade - and provides many of the laughs. It also features a host of future Cumberbatch collaborators, among them James McAvoy (whose character in Atonement is framed for a crime Cumberbatch’s commits), Rebecca Hall (his wife in Parade’s End), Mark Gatiss (the writer of Sherlock, as well as playing Mycroft in the series) and Charles Dance (who appears in The Imitation Game).
Despite being made over ten years ago, the 2004 BBC television film Hawking is arguably still Cumberbatch’s most critically acclaimed role.
That isn’t to say his work since has been in any way a disappointment – he remains one of a small group of actors who consistently manage to please audiences and critics alike – but illustrates just how highly regarded his performance was.
The film, which charts Stephen Hawking’s early years as a PhD student at Cambridge University and was the first portrayal of the physicist’s life, was nominated for two BAFTA awards and illustrated Cumberbatch’s impressive range. Curiously, one of his biggest rivals come this awards season could be Eddie Redmayne, who has received tremendous reviews for his own portrayal of Hawking in A Theory of Everything.
Looking back, it seems a more than a little absurd that Benedict Cumberbatch once played the son of Hugh Laurie and Anna Chancellor on television (his real parents are over twenty years older than either) but in 2003 he did, and somehow pulled it off.
Laurie also directed this ITV comedy drama series which saw him play Paul Slippery, a doctor hitting a mid-life crisis as his wife begins a new job as a head-hunter. Together they have three sons, the eldest of which is the precocious student Rory, played by a fresh-faced Cumberbatch.
The series hardly set ratings alight, but gave Cumberbatch a valuable chance to act in a major series with established stars, after several years of attempting to break through.