Benedict Cumberbatch: the tricks of the star of the moment – La Tercera

Christopher Tietjens fights a fight to maintain his integrity. A member of the British aristocracy, he is a government worker who tries to elevate the notions of duty and honor in a historical moment from which he feels increasingly alien, the England of the years before the Great War.

When appropriate, he will come to the call and leave his job to be in the trenches; However, first his moral code will be called into question, once he falls in love with a young suffragette and his bitter marriage to an egocentric and unfaithful socialite falters.

In that character surrounded by contradictions larger than life, on whom the HBO and BBC miniseries focuses Parade’s end (2012), New Zealand director Jane Campion observed a battery of qualities that attracted her. “I was very impressed with the level of sensitivity he had,” explained the filmmaker of The piano Lesson (1993), delighted with the performance of the actor behind the role, Benedict Cumberbatch (London, 1976).

The actor at the premiere of the new Spider-Man: in Los Angeles, California. Photo: REUTERS / Mario Anzuoni

The stardom of the interpreter is explained by another television role (Sherlock, which debuted in 2010 and released its most recent chapters in 2017), and in the same medium he has put himself in the shoes of Stephen Hawking, Vincent van Gogh and Ricardo III. But it was the wealth of Tietjens’ character that ultimately allowed him to take on his most celebrated role on the big screen.

For his return to the cinema after more than a decade, Campion thought of the actor from The enigma code (2014) as the best card to play Phil Burbank, the relentless cowboy who stars The power of the dog, his adaptation of the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, now available on Netflix and would be a contender for the next edition of the Oscars. Refugee on the ranch he owns in Montana in 1925, he is a man who imposes his strict terms either on top of his horses, in his treatment of his employees or in his cutting relationship with the surrounding indigenous communities.

His features harden even more the moment his mild-mannered brother, George (Jesse Plemons), marries and comes to live in the same place with Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow with a teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). whose ways arouse his irritation. Beneath this man who has obvious macho and homophobic attitudes there is a previous story that the director strives to study incisively but without abandoning ambiguity, in the logic of her introspective and acute cinema. And that he was interested in delving into the hand of the British actor.

“Many men can do the roughest things, but can they go the other way? I had to make sure that we had someone who could go to the other place ”, raised the director about the choice of Cumberbatch, an interpreter with a wide range who was also willing to look at the borders of what is usually willing or not an actor.

At Campion’s request, he exercised method performance, the technique that names like Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis have resorted to. or recently Lady Gaga (The Gucci house) y Jeremy Strong (Succession). This implies staying in the role at all times, so the filmmaker at the beginning of filming in New Zealand introduced him by name to the team, but later he did not even address his fellow cast members or technicians like Benedict afterwards. Cumberbatch. And if someone didn’t call him Phil, he didn’t take it for granted.

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With Kirsten Dunst he was more radical: during all the filming he simply did not speak to her, in order to preserve out of scenes that in history he permanently treats Rose with contempt. “I didn’t want to be really mean to Kirsten, but I needed to stay in character,” the actor told NME, defending his approach to work.

Always in Phil Burbank’s shoes, he stopped grooming regularly (“I wanted people in the room to know what he smelled like,” he said) and learned carpentry and to roll his own cigars with one hand, just like described in the book. by Savage. In most of the scenes in the film, the interpreter smoked without adding filters to cigarettes, which caused him three nicotine poisonings. In addition, the story of the film called for some nude scenes in a river, which Cumberbatch has rarely had to do in other productions.

With that pile of anecdotes, your immersion in the role can seem that it edged in the ends, and that everything could have been a nonsense. But it is quite the opposite. The result pays for every risky decision and to the limit: Campion’s film cannot be understood without the presence of Cumberbatch, at times exasperating, at times colossal, at times vulnerable.

It could be the role that gives him the Oscar that he couldn’t get on his first try, for his version of Alan Turing in The enigma code (2014), according to the forecasts. Without minimizing your delivery in The power of the dog, the actor revealed that this time the most difficult thing was to play the banjo as someone who has mastered the instrument his whole life, because that is one of the few passions his character has. That, he commented, was the most “painful.”

Upon leaving college in the 1990s, a 19-year-old Benedict Cumberbatch took a sabbatical. He left his native England for India, to a hillside town not far from Darjeeling.

The main idea of ​​his trip was to teach an English course to Tibetan monks – which he actually completed – but during his stay, without planning it, he and a group of friends ended up lost, without food and with little water reserves on an excursion. in the Himalayas.

More dramatic was when, in the middle of filming the miniseries To the ends of the Earth in 2005, he was the victim of a kidnapping in South Africa. Both experiences, he said, “have made me want to live a less ordinary life.”

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His rise to fame was later, so the way he has built his career could also be marked by that change of perspective in his existence. A career in which he has mixed a theatrical version of Hamlet, a TV movie about Brexit (Brexit: The uncivil war, 2019) and films about real characters that have yielded disparate balances (The fifth estate, about Julian Assange; A brilliant war, in which he put himself in the shoes of Thomas Edison), with his work in some of the biggest franchises in Hollywood.

First was The Hobbit, later Star Trek and finally Marvel, where he has five tapes incarnating Dr. Strange, the wizard of the universe in which Thor coexists with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Hulk. After debuting in 2016 with a solo feature film and then sharing scenes with the Avengers, his latest foray is the most-watched movie in theaters in the world right now. Spider-Man: No Way Home, where he teams up with the arachnid played by Tom Holland.

More honest than most of his peers, Cumberbatch recently explained what those comic book blockbusters get him: “It’s a well-paid role that gives me some flexibility to make bolder artistic decisions.”

One of those recent and far removed blockbuster films is The electrical life of Louis Wain (available for rent on digital platforms), in which he gets close to a real-life character: the inventor who would later become famous as the author of psychedelic paintings about cats. Another is The Mauritanian, released at the beginning of the year, where he assumed a somewhat more secondary role, a colonel who wants the maximum penalty for a Mauritanian citizen held in Guantánamo after the attack on the Twin Towers.

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The electrical life of Louis Wain

In the short term there is a Marvel movie coming under the direction of Sam Raimi (Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness, in May 2022) and probably another period of stay in that saga. But his future is also linked to a definition that seems uncompromising and that suggests that in parallel he will continue to lend his acting voltage to more personal projects.

“I didn’t want to keep coming off as a fast-talking, elegant Englishman. That used to be the main driver. But now it’s much more about the people I can work with, ”he said this year. You already did a blast with Jane Campion, now for the next one to come.

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Benedict Cumberbatch: the tricks of the star of the moment – La Tercera