I think just about any actor would love to pick the brain of Meryl Streep, who is widely recognized as one of the best actresses of all time.
Benedict Cumberbatch admits that he approached Streep on the set of August: Osage County, which is due out later this year, to ask her about how she would approach a multi-layered character like his Star Trek Into Darkness villain John Harrison. Unfortunately, Streep didn’t have much advice for him — but as he tells New York magazine, that was oddly exactly what he was hoping for!
Cumberbatch explains that he wanted to give his character an artificial or manufactured quality, saying, “I wanted Harrison’s voice to have something slightly manufactured and odd, that sounded test-tube-made, where every word was sort of etched. I was keen to make his violence quick—not balletic, but purposeful. And his physique—he’s not Bane, he’s not this unsurpassable physical entity. He’s a warrior, a spearhead—someone who just carves his way through and doesn’t stop. There had to be emotion in the movement as well, and when he was at rest, it was more reptilian.”
In fact, Cumberbatch reveals that he actually spoke with Streep about how to approach such a character. However, he was actually happy to hear her admit that she didn’t know. He explains, “I asked her how she approached the multiple layers of her part. And she said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t have a process. It changes with every job, doesn’t it?’ And I thought, Oh, thank God, to hear her say it. This whole thing about technique or method? It’s bullshit. People say, ‘Oh, you’re so precise.’ But within that I work very hard to give every part a heartbeat. I learned a lot from just watching Meryl in repose. It was a bit like a Sherlock deduction actually.”
I’m hoping the next time someone asks me for advice they’ll be just as happy with my shrugging of the shoulders and blank stares.