Benedict Cumberbatch Talks The Perils of Fame, The Magic Of Acting

Benedict Cumberbatch Actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 2, 2014.  Reuters

Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the PBS series on fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, may be one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, but he said fame is never something he strived to achieve.

“It’s really hard. It’s really, really hard,” Cumberbatch, 37, who also had a key role in the ensemble cast for the 2013 blockbuster film, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," said of show business during a recent interview with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.  "It’s a difficult job and with all the success comes a whole new load of problems."  

Since 2012, Cumberbatch has portrayed the characters of Smaug and the Necromancer through voice and motion capture in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" trilogy. He has also appeared in "Star Trek Into Darkness," "12 Years a Slave" and "August: Osage County." The Golden Globe-nominated actor recently sat down to talk with BAFTA's YouTube channel called "In Focus: Acting."

Cumberbatch prefers to keep his private life just that and has taken great pains to keep the identity of his rumored girlfriend from the media. But the British-born actor did open up with advice on how to break into the business. "The landscape of it is forever changing," he said. "I just think, persevere."

While Cumberbatch may have gained a loyal fanbase playing the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, the actor said his performances are, and never will be, as “perfect” as his fans believe them to be. The BBC-produced "Holmes" airs on PBS in the United States.

“You can never perfect what we do. There is no way,” he explained. “I have never met anyone who goes, ‘That’s perfection.’ I mean to an audience, outside of your work, people can think that that’s the only way they would ever want to see that part played or that moment done, whatever, but as an actor, and this is not humility, I think it just goes for all art forms really, that the whole point is perfection is unachievable.”

While Cumberbatch may shrug at the public notoriety his acting talents have deservedly brought him (In April 2014, Time magazine included him in its annual Time 100 as one of the "Most Influential People in the World."), he still retains a sense of refreshing awe and wonder about his craft, even at one point referring to the world of acting as “magic.”

“It’s that constant pursuit of the unattainable which is kind of magic, really,” Cumberbatch said with a smile, while discussing the art form. “It should keep us kind of motivated to try better. Fail again, fail better. “

Cumberbatch is in Boston filming the Whitey Bulger crime drama, “Black Mass,“ alongside Johnny Depp and Dakota Johnson. The  film, which is based on a true story, is being written and directed by Scott Cooper. It's due out next year.

Cumberbatch said that when he's choosing a role, the importance of a character overrides how big a part it is. “Usually what I try to look for in a role is something I haven’t done before,” he said. “I like to sort of throw some fresh stuff out and I think about, well how important is this character? Not how big, but just how important. How interesting is this going to be to watch and to bring to life?"

The actor said rehearsals also are critical. “It’s a great thing to have rehearsals and just know that you’re coming at it from the same point of view. It just means you can be more free, you can play and enjoy it, and I think that's what elevates good work to great work.”

Cumberbatch has three films set to debut in theaters later this year: Morten Tyldum’s biographical thriller, “The Imitation Game,” (Nov. 21); the animated feature, “Penguins of Madagascar,” (Nov. 26); and the highly anticipated, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” (Dec. 17).

The three episodes that will make up Season 4 of "Sherlock"  are expected to air on BBC One sometime in 2016, plus a  Christmas special to hold fans over is in the works and will presumably air in December 2015.

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