LONDON - He made his name playing a physicist, won a global following as a brilliant private detective and has Bafta and Oscar nominations for his role as a World War II maths genius.
But ahead of the BAFTA awards in London on Sunday, Benedict Cumberbatch rejects the idea that he is typecast.
The 38-year-old British actor, who has a best actor nod for playing codebreaker Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game", insists he can and has played idiots.
“If anyone’s got any other stupid people I can play, let me know,” he said while being quizzed about his latest incarnation as the troubled intellectual.
In the movie, Cumberbatch harnesses the astonishing energy he showcases in hit TV series “Sherlock” into the obsession that Turing had with cracking the Nazis’ Enigma code machine.
He puts in a mesmerising performance as a brilliant, tortured man who helped bring forward the end of World War II but ended his life in despair after being prosecuted and then chemically castrated for being gay.
S Barry Cooper, a maths professor who has written a book about Turing, said Cumberbatch “deeply inhabited Turing’s story, encompassing all his brilliant insight, struggle and 1954 suicide”.
Cumberbatch said Turing “got under my skin", and is a passionate defender of a man he said was a “war hero” but who was treated deplorably by the country he served.
Playing ‘the long game'
Cumberbatch is not classically handsome but has remarkable allure – entire fan sites are dedicated to his cheekbones – and in 2013 was named Empire magazine’s sexiest movie star.
He has an army of followers who call themselves the “Cumberbitches” although, with the good manners instilled by his expensive Harrow boarding school, he prefers to call them “Cumberpeople”.
But despite working solidly since graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he has never sought out the typical ‘leading man’ roles.