Cumberbatch: fanboy, photobomber, award-circuit rider
Benedict Cumberbatchis chasing the sun. Fresh off an island vacation with fiancee Sophie Hunter and just out of a steam at the Parker Palm Spring's sauna, Cumberbatch is moving his patio chair clockwise around a firepit on a chilly January afternoon.
"There's no shame today," says Cumberbatch, clad in gray sweatpants and a vintage Pink Floyd T-shirt. "I'm going back to England, where it's like the Arctic Circle. I need to store up the sun now, otherwise I'll get rickets by the time I step off the plane."
Cumberbatch has landed in Palm Springs along with the rest of the cast of "The Imitation Game" to accept an ensemble award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The movie, a look at the life of Alan Turing, the Cambridge genius who led the team that cracked the Enigma code that Nazi Germany used to encrypt its radio transmissions during World War II, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and recently won eight Oscar nominations, including nods for best picture and for Cumberbatch's lead turn.
We moved right along with the 38-year-old actor as he shifted his chair to account for the dying light and spoke about his eventful journey between Toronto and Palm Springs.
You look a lot more relaxed than when I saw you last in Toronto.
It was a really steep incline toward Christmas, just crazy, finishing "Richard III" (which will be featured in the BBC's "The Hollow Crown" series), getting ready for the holidays, moving around seeing different families. That was a big induction this Christmas. A whole new world opens up. And then we were able to just breathe, be in the present tense, be in one place, just relaxing and ... (Cumberbatch leans forward and drops his voice to an excited whisper). That's Robert Duvall! Wow! (Duvall, also in Palm Springs for the festival, walks by on a path about 20 yards away.)
I've never met an actor who doesn't idolize him. Have you ever met him?
He's one of the masters. I haven't met him. I'd love to.
Maybe tonight at the gala?
As a fanboy, yeah, to just touch the hem of the garment. But at the same time, to get a meaningful moment, you need to be away from the circus. That's why I've enjoyed the acting roundtables I've done in this roar. You get to have a free-flowing conversation about acting stuff.
Have you learned anything from those conversations?
Well, you have that moment where you meet your heroes and, initially, they're just something "other." And then the common ground of what we do for a living erases that. The best thing about the job is that it breaks down class and age and sex and race and transcends those things. You're never one person. You're always part of a team.
That's why I love this award we're getting tonight. It's a great excuse for us to get together and have a giggle.
Invite Robert Duvall to join you ...
Absolutely. He will be right here, presiding over the proceedings, calmly steering things.
Just going by the way you photobombed U2 with that impressive leap at last year's Oscars, you seem to enjoy these events.
The Oscars were really good fun. And, yes, I leapt and bound all over the place.
You showed some impressive height on that leap.
White boy can jump.
You once said your greatest regret was not being a dad by the age of 32. Why 32?
When I was growing up, I had a weird obsession with 32 being the mark of adulthood and that was part of what I thought that might mean, naively. It was just a hunch about a number. I was always a bit of an old soul. I wasn't really interested in being young. I mean, I wasn't eccentric.
But I'm glad it didn't happen. Things happen for a reason. And I'm definitely with the right person for that. So no regrets.