Filed in Interviews The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Benedict talks career plans to Arab News

Arab News’s released a lovely new interview with Benedict (conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike) about working with Wes Anderson and his career plans. Check it out below:

Benedict Cumberbatch talks pushing himself, working with Wes Anderson

By William Mullally

DUBAI: How good is Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s a question even the actor himself doesn’t have an answer to. He’s 47 now, 13 years removed from the moment the BBC’s “Sherlock” turned him from underrated supporting player into in-demand leading man overnight. Since then, he’s been nominated for two Oscars, played an integral role in the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and become a household name across the world. But the most interesting part of his career has only just begun.  

“One thing I’ve found in myself is that the more I’m challenged, the more I rise to the occasion,” Cumberbatch told Arab News in a conversation conducted before the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike began. The star of Netflix’s acclaimed new short films “The Wonderful Life of Henry Sugar” and “Poison” — directed by Wes Anderson and based on stories by Roald Dahl — continued: “I’m finally at a place where I don’t know exactly what to do next. And it’s quite scary, but I want to be uncomfortable. I want to push myself. Actors flourish when they are fearless to fail.” 

It’s not just saying yes to a difficult role that can be terrifying for a great actor. Often, it’s even scarier to say no. Film history is littered with examples of actors whose career was killed because they passed on a hit. That’s not exactly what drives Cumberbatch forward, however. If anything, you can chock his prolificacy up to his parents, who were both working actors who never reached the heights he has managed.  

“I see the tragedy of great potential going to waste in a saturated market. My parents supported my incredibly expensive education purely because of how hard they pushed themselves — it was just dad storing away money. But it was hard — he’d often leave us in the middle of a holiday to do a call for an advert he then wouldn’t get, but then couldn’t afford to come back and join us,” says Cumberbatch. “So, there’s always part of me that feels really itchy and odd not just going to the next fight and swinging along.” 

There’s one thing every great actor dreams of, that even the best may never experience. It’s not the BAFTAs or even the box office records — it’s a phone call. If you love your craft, the hope is always that, one day, one of the best artists alive may call you up to tell you they’ve just written a part for you in their next project. For Cumberbatch, that dream came true when Anderson, a man he’d never worked with before, called to say he’d written the lead role of Henry Sugar for him.  

“It was enthralling. There’s this misperception that everything with Wes is mechanistic or devoid of love and humor, but that was certainly not the case when we worked together. He has very specific requests at times, yes, but there was still a freedom to create, and he kept raving about the fact I gave him so much to play with in the editing room,” says Cumberbatch.  

“We were all staying close to each other, so I would have him over my house every night, and we’d watch the great masters of cinema together—Powell and Pressburger, David Lean and Kurosawa. And we’d have these incredible meals and intellectually rigorous conversations, but he’s loose and funny and generous and great company. It was so invigorating,” he continues.  

It’s an experience — much like the one he had with Jane Campion on “Power of the Dog”— that will now shape the focus of his career going forward. He’s now a family man — a “brilliant, effortlessly stylish” wife, three children, a new puppy — and he wants to focus on that too, stopping himself from running off to take the next gig like his father once had to. He’s finally learning to sit at home and wait for the next brilliant collaborator to come along. The best things, after all, only come to you if you’re available.  

“For the first time in my life, I’m keeping myself available to take those calls. I’m ready to be taken to unexpected places. I have a list of people I’d love to work with, but I won’t shout it out into the universe. I’m no longer just trying to manifest my destiny — I’m opening myself up to it.”