Select Page

With three starring roles at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, it seems as though this was the year of the Benedict (and not the egg).

Benedict Cumberbatch literally opened the festival with his controversial role as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. Crowds lined up for hours to catch a glimpse of him at the premieres of both The Fifth Estate and 12 Years a Slave, with the latter already pegged by many to be a front runner in the 2014 Oscar race. At the 12 Years a Slave premiere, the Toronto Star reported that fans begun chanting his name outside the Princess of Wales theatre, wanting another glance of the famed British actor. It should be noted that he received the same attention, if not more, as co-star Brad Pitt. This fact alone attests to the new star power of Benedict Cumberbatch.

But just how did the, once small-time BBC actor, manage to explode on the international film scene in such a short time? Well, he’s been working his way up in the British entertainment world for over a decade. After graduating from the University of Manchester’s drama program, Cumberbatch continued perfecting his craft at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In the early 2000s, he had a number of major roles in London plays and guest roles on numerous British television series. With his growing popularity, he secured supporting roles in 2007’s Atonement and 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl. But before this he had already been a mainstay in Britain’s film and television industries. To this date, he may be best known for his starring role as Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s “Sherlock”, which was also broadcast on PBS in the U.S.

It wasn’t until he was cast in the high-profile role of Khan in Hollywood’s Star Trek Into Darkness, that he was catapulted into the American consciousness. It’s obvious that his acting talent, his ability to morph so seamlessly into each character he plays, can be attributed to his rise to fame. In “Sherlock” he plays a modern day version of Sir Conan Doyle’s famed character. He plays odd, quirky and brilliant so effortlessly — things that guaranteed him the controversial role of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. While he can sure play sinister, there is a whole other side that TIFF viewers got to see in films 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage County, his other two movies that premiered at TIFF. In 12 Years a Slave, he plays the conflicted, more progressive and kind, of main character Soloman’s two slave owners. Although a small role compared to his others, he has said in numerous interviews that he fought for the part in the film, now being touted as the early shoe in for Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards in March. In August: Osage County, he plays “Little” Charlie Aiken, the character constantly berated as the “screw-up” of the family, which takes away the usual confidence his past roles have demanded.

We all know the guy can act, so what is the last reason for Cumberbatch’s rise to fame, you ask? I took to Twitter to answer my question. What is it about him that women just can’t get enough of? One tweet suggested it is his “sassy British wiles,” referring to the deviousness and enticing qualities of the characters he so easily becomes. But what stands out to me is another tweet that came my way: “He’s not a Pretty Boy, among all the pretty boys.” This certainly makes sense considering the amount of attention he received at the 12 Years a Slave premiere.

Toronto audiences will be glad to hear me say that this is sure to be his first of many appearances at TIFF in the years to comes. This is just the beginning of Cumberbatch’s long and illustrious career as one of Hollywood’s (and TIFF’s) leading men.