From Baker Street to the final frontier ; INTERVIEW Benedict CumberbatchHe is boldly going where other British actors have gone before by playing a big summer movie villain, but Benedict Cumberbatch isn't going to make it a habit, as Shereen Low finds out
HE has worked with some of Hollywood's biggest names, so it comes as a surprise to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch still gets star- struck.
The latest incident came during a recent script-reading session. We had one scene around the table with Meryl Streep and I just couldn't act. I was in awe of her, he admits.
The Sherlock actor stars opposite the Oscar-winning actress in the upcoming adaptation of the play August: Osage County, produced by George Clooney.
I'm only at the beginning of the fame game, so I still get star- struck all the time.
Meryl is spellbinding to watch. She really is extraordinary, he enthuses. He's in the capital to film Sherlock and was on set until midnight, he admits. The 36-year-old is plays John Harrison, a villain in JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, which sees him joining the cast of the Starship Enterprise including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin.
Harrison, an intergalactic terrorist with unclear motives, is targeted by Kirk (Pine) and his team after a bombing at one of the Starfleet offices in London.
Cumberbatch was chosen after director Abrams watched episodes of Sherlock. He auditioned on his iPhone, filming a clip and sending it over. It had taken a day to compress this little file so once that had been done, I sat back and waited, he says.
Then I got a note back saying JJ's on holiday, which is fine because he has to have a rest sometime. I just didn't get the tape in before the Christmas holidays.
Once the film-maker replied, Cumberbatch admitted it took a while for the news to sink in.
I got an e-mail and I didn't pick up on the signals. The e-mail said, 'Do you want to come and play?' and I thought, 'What - squash or tennis or some kind of racquet-based activity?' Then the penny slowly dropped, he recalls.
It was the most thrilling news. I was a huge, huge fan of the first film. It's just such a rich experience to be in his and the storyteller's hands on a journey of high emotion, adventure, romance and comedy. I knew it would be a riot so I was well over the moon.
Cumberbatch has only compliments for Abrams: He's fantastic.
I love him to bits. Anything he turns his hand to, he seems to conquer and master. And he's ridiculously charming and smart too. Cumberbatch considers it an honour that he was picked to portray a baddie.
I'm following in the hallowed footsteps of (Jeremy) Irons, (Alan) Rickman and Tom Hiddleston, my great friend in The Avengers. There are a few of us who have done it before, it stretches back as old as time. I think it could have fallen into stereotype though. There's a grey area. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter but I think you can empathise with his cause - maybe not his means of going about getting his ends. He has a moral core - he just has a method, which is pretty brutal and abhorrent.
Throwing himself into the action is a far cry from the period parts Cumberbatch normally plays. I loved all that. The amount of live action this man JJ lets us do and wants us to do is part of the visual thrill.
It's more than 13 years since Cumberbatch first appeared on screens with a cameo in ITV drama Heartbeat, but it's only in the past four years that he's become a household name, with roles in BBC shows Sherlock and Parade's End, and films like Steven Spielberg's War Horse and The Hobbit. Still, his rising star status shows no signs of abating, with forthcoming roles in Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave, Peter Jackson's Hobbit sequel The Desolation Of Smaug, August: Osage County and The Fifth Estate, in which he plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
My ten-year-old self would have been pretty chuffed [at what I've achieved]. He wouldn't have quite believed it. And he still doesn't, he admits.
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