Benedict Cumberbatch was welcomed to Cheltenham with applause from 2,000 fans that were almost completely muted by shrieks and screams of the predominantly young female audience as he emerged from behind the curtain at The Centaur on Saturday, October 6.
The 36-year-old star had no new book to plug at the Literature Festival on Saturday. He appeared simply to discuss his career as the 71st actor to interpret Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s London based sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. The audience, who clearly adore his technique and charisma, were not disappointed despite some topics of discussion being of the upmost secrecy.
When questioned on how Sherlock survives in series three of the show, it was of no surprise that Cumberbatch would not shed any light on the detective’s resurrection. Needless to say he grinned with the suggestion that he knows far more than he lets on.
It seemed however that probing for answers was never really on the agenda given that Cumberbatch’s interviewer was fellow Sherlock co-star Louise Brealey, who plays pathologist Molly Hooper.
Although Brealey apologised for her lack of experience in instigating conversation in front of audiences near to 2,000 people, it was refreshing to see someone who could add to the discussion on a professional and personal level. On occasion the audience would sigh with compassion when the relationship between Sherlock and Molly was referred to.
Benedict Cumberbatch had an idea of how Sherlock Holmes could be portrayed early on in his life. His parents, both actors themselves, were friends with none other than Jeremy Brett. Widely regarded as one of the best actors ever to play Holmes, Brett’s interpretation of the character was one that Cumberbatch admired. He said Brett was a “hawk-like, cold, yet majestic Sherlock Holmes”.
Cumberbatch confirmed he had read some of the original stories by Conan Doyle and continued by saying that he made an intricate observation of Holmes’ characteristics. In order to portray the detective successfully one has to “make the ordinary extraordinary”, he said.
Before the floor was opened up to questions from the audience, Cumberbatch was asked which of the characters he most resembled in real life. He replied, “I’m a Watson, I’m much more of a follower”. Martin Freeman, who plays Holmes’ ever loyal friend Dr John Watson, is a quicker thinker according to Cumberbatch. “Martin’s got far more intuitive brilliance and intelligence than I have,” he added.
The interview was the second fastest event to sell out at this year’s literature festival, narrowly succeeded by literary sensation J K Rowling. The world famous author of the Harry Potter series had joked earlier in the evening saying that she was simply, “the warm-up act” for Benedict Cumberbatch, testament indeed to the success of this talented British actor.