Silver Screen Spotlight: Benedict Cumberbatch

How can one describe an actor such as Benedict Cumberbatch? With iconic roles on and off the screen -- from Hamlet, Van Gogh, and Sherlock Holmes, to Frankenstein, Stephen Hawking, and Alan Turing -- already under his belt at such a young age, you could say an actor as silently versatile as Benedict Cumberbatch comes around only once every millennia. With a name that sounds almost forbidden to say, and a boyish charm that's slowly bringing him to the top of the Hollywood A-list, Cumberbatch has become almost a charismatic chameleon on and off the silver screen. With his newest blockbuster venture, this month's psychedelic superhero flick Doctor Strange, already rocketing his name further into the stars, it's the perfect time to take a look at some of the actor's best roles, and question how a guy with such a strange name got so big.  

With much of Benedict Cumberbatch's career beginning on the theater stage, in such ambitious productions as Danny Boyle's adaptation of the classic story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (where he acted alongside fellow Sherlock Holmes actor Jonny Lee Miller, who also plays the famous detective in the CBS drama Elementary), as well as other projects like After the Dance and Hedda Gabler, I didn't find out about this silent force of an actor until he hit the big screen in 2011's World War I epic War Horse. While the Steven Spielberg film didn't lend much more than a supporting role for Cumberbatch, the film ended up being a memorable war film with fantastic performances, and introduced me to a name I never expected to become a Hollywood star.

While his earlier projects on the big screen mostly included supporting roles in films like the 2007 drama Atonement, the biographical thriller The Whistleblower, and more notably, the 2011 spy drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Cumberbatch truly dove into the depths of Hollywood when he appeared in the first of a trilogy of films based on author J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit series. Providing the voice and motion-capture for the characters of both Smaug the Dragon and the Necromancer in 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (and its subsequent sequels through 2014), the actor's brilliant range of soothing yet terrifying vocals gave the Hobbit films a thrilling antagonist of both massive scale and emotion.

Aside from the follow-up to the first Hobbit film, 2013 gave rise to some of Cumberbatch's most memorable and transformative roles. Beginning the year off portraying the central antagonist in J.J. Abrams' satisfying follow-up to his 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise in Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch entered yet another blockbuster franchise, as his cunning interpretation of the classic Trek villain Khan delivered one of the film's best performances. While the Trek sequel might not be as groundbreaking as the first in Abrams' series, Cumberbatch's dynamic and conspiring dive into the franchise remains one of the film's highlights. With other somewhat transformative roles also bringing Cumberbatch's name further into the spotlight, in films like the Oscar-winning drama 12 Years a Slave and the adaptation of Tracy Lett's play August: Osage County, 2013 also put the actor's name at top billing in the gripping indie thriller The Fifth Estate. Playing Australian hacker Julian Assange, who worked in part in developing the exploitative website WikiLeaks, white-haired and brimming with snake-like cunning, Cumberbatch delivered one of his most interesting performances to date. While the film still came under fire for its subject matter, the actor's phenomenal chemistry with co-star Daniel Brühl made the film an enjoyable venture.

The following year lent the actor a number of intriguing roles, the most defining being the biographical thriller The Imitation Game, where Cumberbatch's versatile emotion oozed effortlessly from his turn as brilliant World War II cryptanalyst Alan Turing. With awkward yet witty charisma and fantastic chemistry between him, co-star Keira Knightley, and the rest of the cast, one of my favorite roles from Cumberbatch remains to be his sensitive and sharp take on the legendary mathematician.

Now before I wrap things up, it would be criminal not to mention one of the actor's most iconic roles of recent memory -- one not on the big screen, but rather the small. Beginning his television career with a handful of supporting roles on series like Heartbeat and Silent Witness, the actor earned his first starring role in the 2004 BBC film Hawking, where he played the brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Receiving critical acclaim for his performance, Cumberbatch then took on another ambitious television role, one that would shake up the TV fandom world forever. While his film roles might be limited as of now -- his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe surely a major force in knocking his name up to that of an A-list actor -- his sensational and satirical turn as famous detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's Sherlock remains one of the actor's most riveting and fluent roles of his career.

With his fascinating filmography slowly building as he takes on more and more interesting roles, most recently in last month's mesmerizing entry into the superhero genre in Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch remains one of the most emotionally-captivating up-and-coming actors of Hollywood. Entering franchise after franchise, but also settling in for the occasional Oscar-worthy drama or thriller, Cumberbatch's chameleon-like acting and versatile, boyish charisma makes him a joy to see perform on and off the screen. 

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