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6 Reasons Why Benedict Cumberbatch is the Storytelling Icon of Our Generation

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Benedict Cumberbatch speaking at the 2016 San Diago Comic Con International

As advocates of storytelling, Me Books is always on the lookout for individuals who share our interest; especially fellow storytellers. More often than not, we find ourselves being surprised when coming across names of famous celebrities who are passionate about the art of storytelling. One such example is well-known English actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. You know him. He’s the charming actor with a name so unique, it’s impossible to forget once you’ve heard it once. Cumberbatch has played a number of iconic characters in the last decade – some of which include Doctor Strange, wizard extraordinaire of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); the sarcastic, genius detective and titular character of BBC hit show Sherlock; as well as the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing in the critically-acclaimed movie The Imitation Game.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s notable characters include Doctor Stephen Strange in Marvel’s Doctor Strange (left) and the titular character of BBC’s Sherlock (right). Photo credit: The Tylt

Think you know everything there is to know about the man who has been dubbed one of the Sexiest Men Alive by several magazines, such as Empire and People? Read ahead to find out the facts that you may not know about this versatile actor, including about the book he narrated in our very own Me Books App!

1. Benedict Cumberbatch has narrated many factual documentaries

Cumberbatch has provided his voice for a number of different documentaries. His unique and distinct tone can be found in various factual programmes on National Geographic and Discovery channels. In fact, he has even narrated a documentary about Portuguese football superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo!

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict has narrated various documentaries, including Christiano Ronaldo: The World at His Feet; a documentary about Portugal’s national football team captain. Photo credit: BBC America.

Here are some documentaries where Benedict Cumberbatch has lent his voice that you should check out:

– South Pacific – Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking – Jerusalem – Globalised Slavery – Walk with Me

As fate would have it, his extensive experience in voice-over was also where he would find an enemy in a certain species of flightless birds. The public discovered this little flaw in one of the documentaries he voiced, BBC’s South Pacific, where his pronunciation of the animal name gets progressively funnier as he goes from partially getting the word right to absolutely butchering the name of the animal! Check out the hilarious video below (starting from the 3:20 mark), where he talks about his inability to say ‘penguins’ in an interview featured on BBC’s The Graham Norton Show. There is even a short clip of the aforementioned documentary!

2. A lifelong dream almost stopped him from becoming Doctor Strange.

Can you believe that the role that is now so synonymous with Benedict Cumberbatch was almost not his? Although the character of Doctor Strange is now so deeply associated with the actor, he was actually close to turning down the offer to play the character.

You may now wonder, how did he almost miss out on Marvel’s Doctor Strange? Well, it all comes down to one reason: Hamlet, a theatrical play written by famous playwright William Shakespeare.

Cumberbatch has extensive experience in the world of theatre. He was an Arts scholar at Harrow School, where he discovered his passion in theatrical arts by taking part in the school’s stage productions and becoming a member of The Rattigan Society, Harrow’s principal club for the dramatic arts.

We know that this actor is capable of playing every role given to him, even those which are completely unexpected and unconventional. In fact, in his first theatre play at Harrow School; the classic A Midsummer’s Night Dream, he took on the role of Titania, the Queen of Fairies.

Talk about an actor with a wide spectrum!

Benedict Cumberbatch during his theatre days
Benedict (in red circle) has been involved in theatrical arts since he was young boy. Photo credit: Shakesphere’s Globe Theatre.

He has an experience of about 20 years in theatre; the time span in which he has participated in nearly 30 productions; some of which include Hedda Gabler, After the Dance, and Frankenstein. His involvement in theatre has landed him several accolades, including the coveted Olivier Awards in the Best Actor category for his role in Frankenstein. The lifelong dream of this well-rounded thespian is to star in one of the most renowned Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet; a dream that he achieved in 2015 when he was cast as the main role, Prince Hamlet for a 12-week run at London’s Barbican Theatre.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet
In 2015, Benedict starred in the main role of Hamlet, a lifelong dream of the actor. Photo credit: National Theatre Live.

So, how did this almost stop Benedict Cumberbatch from playing possibly his most defining role in the film industry? It turns out that the original filming schedule of the Marvel film clashed with his run as Prince Hamlet. As he has already agreed to star in Hamlet, Cumberbatch’s integrity as an actor initially brought him to the decision of rejecting the part as Marvel’s sorcerer supreme. However, as both Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios’ president and producer of all 23 MCU movies to date) and Scott Derrickson (director of Doctor Strange) insisted that Benedict Cumberbatch was the only actor they “seriously considered” to cast for the prestigious role, they ended up adjusting the filming schedule of the blockbuster so that the actor can play Doctor Strange.

Benedict Cumberbatch at Comic Con
Marvel Studios’ president, Kevin Feige (left) pulled out all the stops cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Photo credit:AP

In the end, not only did he manage to keep his role as Hamlet, he also ended up playing the esteemed neurosurgeon-turned-sorcerer of the MCU that we have all come to know and love. A win-win situation for everyone, if you ask us!

3. This ‘Doctor’ was a teacher.

If you know and associate Benedict Cumberbatch to the characters he plays, this fact might surprise you. This is because him volunteering as an English teacher sounds so unlike most of his characters’ prickly, know-it-all personalities. Becoming an English teacher sounds like the last thing Doctor Strange or Sherlock Holmes would do.

Well, we’re here to tell you it’s true: Doctor Strange was an English teacher.

I know what you’re thinking. When does he even find the time to become a teacher with all his achievements we listed above? Well, before pursuing his degree at the University of Manchester, this talented star took a gap year after finishing high school. Typically, people take a gap year to take a break from studying and discover who they want to be in life. Some activities people usually partake in their gap year include travelling or taking up a job. In true Benedict fashion, the actor went above and beyond by doing both.

This actor volunteered as an English teacher during gap year. Photo credit: Rex Features.

During his gap year, he took up a teaching gig at a Tibetan monastery all the way in Darjeeling, India. He taught English for a year, and he claimed that the skills he learned in his time as a teacher has immensely helped him in his acting career. Other than teaching, he spent his time there learning about meditation, a concept he is very much interested in.

4. You can listen to his calm and distinct voice in a number of audio books.

Other than documentaries, this Sherlock Holmes has also narrated a range of audiobooks. His prominent voice can be heard across a few reading materials such as poetry albums, novels, and non-fiction books! As a matter of fact, he has also narrated a specific children’s book; The Snowman and the Snowdog, a classic story based on the characters created by Raymond Briggs.

The Snowman and the Snowdog, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, is available on our Me Books App.

Other than Benedict Cumberbatch, many other celebrities and professional narrators from both the local and international scenes provided children with high quality narrations for all of the books in our app. Download the Me Books App now to have Benedict Cumberbatch and other narrators read phenomenal books to your children today: (iOS) or (Android).

5. An Acting Master: He has an impressive acting background.

It’s generally acknowledged by now that Benedict Cumberbatch is a gifted and talented actor. After all, his vast character repertoire as well as all the awards and nominations that he’s received for his various performances for both his film and television roles speaks for itself. That being said, he isn’t your typical award-winning Hollywood actor. This Sherlock actor was actually educated in dramatic arts and he even has the degrees to show for it! He studied Drama at the prestigious University of Manchester before going on to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), where he graduated with a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Classical Acting.

Fun fact: 18 years after his graduation, Benedict Cumberbatch was appointed as the President of LAMDA! Upon his appointment in 2018, he mentioned that he considered it “an honour” to be witnessing the blossoming of the future generation of actors, directors, and technicians.

Benedict with Sarah Frankcom, the new director of LAMDA, LAMDA is a drama school in London, from which Benedict graduated with a master’s degree. Photo credit: James Vesysey/Rex/Shutterstock.

Following his education, he started playing small roles in various television and silver screen productions, gradually working towards taking up bigger and more iconic roles; making his acting résumé into the impressive state that it is today.

6. He originally planned to study law.

Before ultimately deciding to pursue his education in Drama, he briefly thought about a career in law; specifically as a barrister. To put some context behind this: Benedict comes from a family where both his parents were actors. Due to their experience in the profession, his parents encouraged him to consider more stable goals, such as seeking a career in the realm of law.

Can you believe that this actor once considered being a barrister? Photo credit: Peter Yang

Besides his parents’ encouragement, the actor himself contemplated the career as a barrister due as a result of his own interest. For a period of his life, he was keen on becoming a barrister because of its connection to criminal law and the thrill of persuading an audience in court with details of a client’s case; adding that he “would have been happy” if he ended up with said career. In an interview with Vulture, he revealed,

"I would’ve loved the performance of court, the idea of persuading people, storytelling and all that. It parallels beautifully with acting, lots of frustrated, amateur dramatics going on in court all the time. I think lots of barristers literally perform in amateur dramatic societies and are very good actors. It’s a massive crossover.”

If it wasn’t already obvious, this is a testament to his passion for performing arts and storytelling. It’s great to know that even if he didn’t end up as one of the biggest actors in the world, he would still be a storyteller in his own way.



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