“You’re a child. You’re playing again. You’re utterly free, there are no restrictions” – Benedict Cumberbatch on Playing Smaug in The Hobbit films.
While Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the frontrunner for winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role as English mathematician and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, the role is one of his most impressive in a career already filled with impressive performances. In an interview with NPR, Cumberbatch talks about portraying Turing’s social awkwardness, playing Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit films, and dealing with his fame.
Cumberbatch points to situations in his personal life that allowed him to portray Turing’s social awkwardness. He explains, “I’ve turned up to costume parties in the wrong costume. I’ve made social faux pas aplenty. I’ve put one foot in front of the other and fallen over. If you’ve ever experienced the idea of feeling slightly outside, or the creeping paranoia of a teenager where you just feel that you don’t quite fit into anything, where you’re just finding out who you are and everyone else seems to have got it sorted, [you can relate]. … I think what formulated very early in his life was this incredible sensitiveness to the world and his environment and the way people treated him, and that was born out of having a stammer.”
The Sherlock star also spoke about playing Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy, which involved more than just voicing the dragon (as this video shows). Cumberbatch explained the process, revealing, “[The voice is] not a natural thing to sort of switch to — it always leaves its scars. But how often do you get to play the dragon of all dragons? So it’s something you commit to. It’s endlessly dynamic and challenging both to how you produce the sound and what the sound is and crawling around on your belly. You’re stretching, you’re overarticulating your neck, so there were all sorts of journeys of discovery with that which were great. … They did a lot of facial recognition motion capture as well as full body [work]. … You’re a child. You’re playing again. You’re utterly free, there are no restrictions — no hair, makeup, continuity marks, camera lens sizes, there are hardly any other actors. You’re free-falling. It’s great, great fun, and you get Peter Jackson all to yourself, which is a rarity on a production of that scale.”
The one aspect of fame that Cumberbatch is still learning to cope with is, well, fame itself, which is something that he’ll have to deal with even more so now that he is signed to star as superhero Doctor Strange in Marvel movies. He says, “I’m still getting used to all of it. There are days when, like everybody, you feel not your best and not yourself and uncomfortable with who you are and not in your own skin and you’d rather be at home under a duvet doing what you do at home. You crave privacy, basically, and you have to get along in the world and see a colleague and go into the office with your cold or your hangover or just whatever the thing that’s griping you. And that’s the same with fame, I guess. There are days you wear it lightly and you don’t mind that people you’ve never met before recognize you when you walk in a room, or there are days when you just wish you were invisible.”