Oz ComicCon took over the Adelaide Showgrounds this past weekend, giving geeks ample opportunities to indulge in Q&A sessions with voice artists, actors and animation artists, as well as spending up big on the multitude of stalls selling merchandise, prosthetics, clothing and more. Of course, Adelaide won out over the Perth event in a huge way, with Benedict Cumberbatch stopping by for the first of two special Australian appearances.
Closing out the Q&A sessions on Sunday, Cumberbatch drew a huge crowd in the Ridley Pavilion to the point where there was another room set up for people to view the session via simulcast. We were lucky enough to gain access to the man (and by ‘access’, I mean three rows back from his stage in a crowd of many) and were able to gain some thoughtful insights into a career that is currently one of the hottest/most talked about at the moment. From the onset, he’s charming, eloquent, hilarious and not afraid to take the piss out of the audience as much as himself. Here are some of the big things we learned from BC. Benny C. C-Batch. Or, as he would like, ‘Sir or Lord Cumberbatch of London’.
Benedict is not on social media. He’s been tempted, though.
When asked if he was aware of the widespread response to the initial screening of “The Empty Hearse” via social media, Benedict is quick to point out that he doesn’t maintain an online presence. Benedict noted that he has been tempted in the past however, whether it’s been to correct a review or misrepresentation, or to lend his support online to a certain need or charity, but he’s always drawn himself back from jumping down that rabbit hole.
“I get that it works for a lot of people…I’m just not one of those people.”
Where was he when the episode went to air, though? Watching it with his girlfriend at the time with Martin Freeman at Steven Moffatt and Sue Vertue’s house, naturally. When shit hit the fan online and fans around the world collectively lost their minds, he laughs and acknowledges the mania.
“They were like, ‘You’re trending!’ and I’m like, ‘What?! What the fuck does that even mean?!”
The famous U2 photobomb & ‘Ellen DeGenerate’ – BC on his Oscars experience…
First question out of the gate was something akin to ‘what possessed you to photobomb U2 at the Oscars?’. Apparently, an old friend of Benedict’s suggested he do it for shits and giggles and so…he did it.
“I didn’t do it because I needed the publicity…I did it to make my friends laugh back home and all of a sudden, it was on the news the next day!”
He praises Ellen DeGeneres‘ work as the Oscars host, though reveals in the same beat that she’s probably partly responsible for his drunken state seeing as she loaded him and other actors up with mini bottles of vodka on the red carpet before the ceremony even began. “Ellen DeGeneres or ‘Ellen DeGenerate’ as I called her by the end of the night…”
Like everyone else, Meryl Streep brought out his inner fan.
Working with an amazing cast on August Osage County was an experience Benedict is still notably gobsmacked over, but working alongside Meryl Streep (“She’s an epoch defining actress…”) was obviously a life moment where he proved that he was again, like the rest of us. On meeting her for the first time, he stutters “My parents are big fans of your films…but I am too, that’s not a generational thing!”
Benedict prefers Q&A settings over most other established fan interaction.
“I much prefer this if I’m honest, even over the photos and autographs…”
Clearly wanting to give every fan who he’s interacted with the time of day, Benedict admits that he enjoys this kind of Q&A environment over the many photo and autograph sessions that he’s taken part in – only because there is nowhere near enough time for him to sustain normal conversations with people when he’s got his head down and signing his name or having less than a minute for a photo with these people who have paid a lot of money to meet him.
Benedict and the Sherlock crew made Una Stubbs cry.
On playing pranks on the set of Sherlock, BC admits that there were some that were carried out, though the one that comes to mind was picking on the legendary Una Stubbs by unearthing an old advertisement she danced and took part in many years ago. Apparently she was so overcome when she discovered they’d found it, that the joke (and maybe the sight of Benedict imitating her?) went in the completely opposite direction.
“She burst into tears! Obviously that was not our intention!”
“Listen a lot.” Advice for younger actors working on perfecting different accents.
Benedict also advises young actors to not be afraid of trying on different impersonations in getting used to affecting different accents, getting a good dialect coach (obviously) and also using a dictaphone to record different sounds to practice with. He praises his coaches who he worked on during 12 Years a Slave and other films in helping him become comfortable with his dialogue and finding his ‘voice’, as it were.
Don’t ask him to say anything in his Smaug voice.
He won’t do it.
“I’m not a performing monkey…or dragon, I’m sorry!”
Tom Hiddleston is one of Benedict’s influences – cueing a rousing ‘awww’ from the fandom.
Benedict lists many personal influences, from his parents to past school teachers and headmasters, to fellow actors he’s been able to work alongside with and others who he’s specifically looked up to. Upon his brief mention of Tom Hiddleston, the crowd goes wild (just do some googling of the two of them…), but he’s quick on the ball there, waving his hand at all of us: “Oh stop it, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about these real actors. You should be squealing as much for Rory Kinnear as much as you should for someone with the initials ‘T.H’.”
His Hamlet run was announced so far in advance so there’d be enough time for people to get used to the idea.
Set to appear onstage in 2015 as the iconic Shakespearean character, Benedict acknowledges the popularity of film/TV actors heading back to the stage and points out that he made this announcement so far in advance as to give people (‘the culture’) time to work up to it. Given there have been quite a few ‘Hamlets’ over the past five to ten years, by the time Benedict takes on the role, people will be like, ‘Yes, he is the Hamlet of this time’.
He takes on fan responses, but also tries not to let the wide opinion affect his portrayal of a character.
When asked if there are any challenges posed to him or how he prepares for a portrayal of some of the characters he’s been able to tackle over the past few years, Sherlock in particular, Benedict acknowledges the huge weight that comes with such characters as they have such a loyal fanbase behind them already. Using Sherlock as an example, he says that while the fans play a significant part in how the show is formed (‘Of course it does, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here…’), he also says that he tries not to base his performances on what everyone else thinks.
“We were reinventing a wheel that was so perfect in it’s original form…” he says of the BBC’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, and that the different directions they’ve been able to take the stories which have prompted some quite divisive responses, is all part of the show’s success.