Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Interview

Benedict Cumberbatch attended Sherlocked the first official fan event for Sherlock and delighted audiences with an in depth discussion of playing the world’s finest consulting detective. Full transcript below and be sure to check out our other posts for Benedict’s answers to an array of fan questions as well.

Do you remember your audition for Sherlock?

I was just thinking about what a strange thing that was. I saw Beryl just now in the front row and it was at her flat that I first met Mark, Steven and Sue about this extraordinary reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes. The flip side of that just very quickly, to see Beryl at the front of this incredible audience is amazing, to have gone from that moment to this is just incredible. But the audition itself was just lovely. I was a little bit nervous to the point that Beryl was offering so many cups of tea and biscuits to me that I thought she was playing Mrs Hudson in the audition. I just remember having a good time and being so relieved that Mark and Steven seemed to find it quite funny, the way I was reading the lines they’d beautifully written.

It felt wonderful. When I first heard about the idea I knew that they were keen on me but I didn’t know who they were. Then I knew who they were and I knew Mark from league of Gentlemen, I knew all of Steven’s works and I’d known the Vertues through my parents. I thought this is a great statement for what could have been a very tricky idea. Why fix something that isn’t broke, I mean Sherlock as it stands is this wonderful iconic and incredible cannon of work for Conan Doyle. It has been embodied so successfully in the Victorian ear for so many incarnations before. But then I found out who was involved and thought well it’s going to be good isn’t it. I read the scripts and I loved it.

We had fun at Beryl’s flat and they seemed to like what I did, so afterwards I toodled off on my moped as it was back then and thought “Well this would be amazing if it came off and everything worked out”… And here we all are now…

Holmes is nothing without his Watson and your Watson is fantastic, did you have an instinct about it when you first met?

It was a fantastic feeling when he walked through the door. From the minute he started reading I felt that I had to up my game essentially. It’s that simple he made me play it better. Obviously I was a huge fan of his work in the Office, actually I think I’d seen him on stage when he’d just started out of drama school and he was in a couple of things at the National. So I was already a big fan, but the minute we started reading together I thought it would be a fantastic fit, there was great chemistry and a great collaboration as well. It’s proved true.

You shot the pilot first how did you feel about the finished result?

Well my hair was a little different; it was sort of a more mod haircut. It was a sort of indie moppy kinda haircut. He was slightly looser and sot of more adolescent in a sense. There were jeans instead of suits, there was a jacket and obviously the coat. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the idea of it being more condensed and going back to the one hour format. The story is fairly well known but it was upto the BBC how they wanted to evolve it. It was a great thing to have a pilot for the BBC because they were obviously all investing a lot in it. Then when it came back in the form we now know it I couldn’t believe how much better it had gotten. We felt that we were making on and half hour films. With Paul McGuigan at the helm it just exploded, Paul’s universe just expanded it and made it even richer and more impressive. It became truly ground-breaking in its sounds and effects. It was an amazing evolution again just there and that seems to be the standard we’ve set so that now every time we tackle it it keeps getting better and better.

You shot the last episode of series one first, did that help when you went back to A Study In Pink?

Yeah very much so, just having the pilot was great because going back to so much you’d already established and knowing you could do it better is a huge difference for all of us as actors anyway. Sometimes when we shot out of sequences on the next few series it was hard actually but it’s interesting. I found the transition from the first series to the second pretty difficult but I found the switch from second to third felt comfortable the minute we were on set. But the first time after we’d been out of the gate and the show had had this sort of reception beyond our wildest reception it felt a little like I was acting opposite someone who I thought was really good as Watson in something I’d watched last Sunday. It felt very surreal, it had really taken on a life and it was a little surreal and difficult. It was only for the first few days filming on Hound of the Baskervilles, it took a bit of time to get our rhythm and for everything to feel natural again.

How tough is it delivering Sherlock’s long seemingly breathless dialogue

Errrr…..(long dramatic pause) It’s very difficult, the difficult thing is learning it and getting the details right.  I have good days and I also have very bad days. When it works I think the physicality of things feeds it. You have to do it like that; you have to do it with energy and focused intensity. The thing of doing it all in one breath is just a necessity. I guess theatre training helps, you need to be very articulate, your diction needs to be very clipped. When you’re speaking at that speed and volume you can’t slur. I really notice when I watch myself back. I re-watched the last episode of series 3 last night and I could hear a bit of slurring, I was cross with myself. It’s usually so crisp because it needs to be. You just don’t take in that information anyway. It takes a couple of viewings sometimes to take in every detail of what he’s saying. The firework of it is fun for audiences though. You just sit there going.. F*k! Sorry I shouldn’t swear, sorry it’s terrible terrible. It’s okay my parents aren’t here.. Actually wait Beryl is, I’ll apologise to her later.

I think that’s just the thing, the fun and immediacy of it, the ability to do that and sit there as an audience and go that just happened is great. But the great thing about all these scripts and specially the deductions is that however silly fun and spurious some of them may be, you really get a lot from repeat viewings you really do.

The Best Man speech was a brilliant and very heartfelt performance?

Thanks you very much indeed. That was very wonderful to do as well. It was almost a week; it was about five days that we were on that location in Bristol. It was extraordinary because everywhere I looked there were these well cast supporting actors as well for that whole scene. I was basically doing it for five days. Not the same bits obviously. There were certain bits that flowed and then some that needed complicated camera moves as well. But it became almost like doing a sort of one man show with the most surreal brilliance. It was this sort of solo flight and I had to pull myself away. The rest of the cast where all there and I just remember that first drink at the end of the week feeling the relief of being a human being again. Not to suggest I deliberately isolated myself, but the rewards were very rich is slightly bizarre t time. Like slapping myself and having these sort of bizarre schizophrenic episodes in the middle of it where I’m talking to Mycroft or watching this sort of internal reel of film in my head so to speak. Then coming back into being the Best Man again, that was hard and exhausting but yet incredibly good fun.

If Sherlock was walking toward you in the street would you cross the road to avoid him?

Oh yeah absolutely! He doesn’t have time for pleasantries or niceties and I quite like people who are polite. He might keep severed heads in his fridge but that’s his speciality, you have to give him that. It’s his hobby its fine. Everyone has his hobbies. Though I couldn’t live with someone like that, I really don’t think I could. I’m not saying I’m the polar opposite to him but yeah. People sort of want to cutify him and make him more cuddly. They want to make his something more approachable and I understand why, because in reality he is vicious, ferocious, brilliant, funny and attractive because of all those things. But he is a brutal human being; he has to be to be at that level of his game and maintain that skill set. I know of people who are brilliant in my life, I’m married to one. (Applause) Thanks for that… it’s getting more like an American chat show now. Keep your Britishness! Scowl at me, frown don’t smile. (laughter).

But yeah so personality wise Sherlock is tricky  mother…thingy. He’s someone that it’d be very hard to be cosy with and have a pint. He’s always on the edge; it’s a very front foot energy. He’s also ruthlessly duplicitous. There are those he’s incredibly close with that he’s fiercely loyal about and that I completely understand. But that’s at the detriment of letting other people in, to the point of being very very cold. Also he’d just take me apart. He would just rip layers off me in a second and I don’t really need that in my life.

Given how badly Sherlock treats Molly, why do you think she never really tell him to get lost?

Girls…. (exchanges knowing look) It’s like Bond and a lot of these outsider hero characters, the romance of them is to think yeah but if I was the person looking after him, he’d be alright. To think that I could make him better. I think Molly does suffer form that, but there’s a more mature understanding between them now to an extent. I really do think that because she saved his life basically.

Although Molly was also having it off with Moriarty…

I don’t think Sherlock was jealous of that!

You were on a chat show  recently with Harrison Ford, what was that like?

He was really lovely, charming and a nice guy, although he had to leave early on the sofa so it was quite enough quality time. But I’ve met him a couple of times socially and he’s a hero. Crashing planes into golf courses and stepping away virtually unharmed. Bits of set fall do on him and he comes back to rule the day. He’s a force to be reckoned with that man.

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