Benedict Cumberbatch on Meryl Streep: ‘She’s astonishing, it’s an absolute trip’


As we discussed yesterday, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman stoked the loonie fires when a new Sherlock Season 3 trailer was released by the BBC. Go here to see. CHEEKBONES. Face! Beauty! Cumbercurls! It was a good day. Today is a good day as well. Today we have a new interview Benedict did with Flicks & Bits to promote August: Osage County. This film isn’t being released until Christmas!!! How am I going to be able to contain myself? Well, it’s not like Cumberbatch is the lead or anything – it’s an ensemble drama and he’s like the eighth or ninth billed actor. Still, after the film premiered at TIFF, everyone was talking about how lovely and sweet he is in the film. He plays a tender loser who plays the piano and he’s quietly in love with someone in his family. Plus, he has Cumbercurls in the movie. So… this is going to be amazing. Anyway, here’s the interview:

Flicks & Bits: Without giving too much away, you play an extremely conflicted and somewhat timid character in ‘August: Osage County’….
Benedict Cumberbatch: Yes, I play “Little” Charles Aiken. He’s a 37 year-old adult who’s pretty put down upon by his mother. “Little” Charles is an adorable, really lost soul who’s trying to find a place in a world that cuts him out. He’s in love with someone who’s very close to him, but it has to remain a secret and it kind of tears him apart. He’s constantly belittled by a destructively loving and protective mother because of a secret surrounding who he really is. He’s a pretty tragic figure but rather a beautiful soul. He’s not particularly supported at home, yet his father is very tolerant and kind towards him. He’s one of those people who hasn’t found his purpose and time’s running out – so his mother despairs. I think that’s where her anguish comes…. and other things, as the plot reveals.

From an acting standpoint, what was it like working with Meryl Streep on and off set for ‘August: Osage County’? Was there something about her that really struck you relating to your craft?
Benedict Cumberbatch: Meryl’s imagination never dries up, even at the end of a 10-hour day she turns in a discovery. She may have a complete U-turn on a thought process or a look or a delivery. It’s so brilliant to watch, and she’s so free…. I think that’s her secret really. She gets to a state through her work and research whereby she’s free. As a relative notice, I had to ask her, “What’s the chicken and egg, horse and cart thing here?” Because I wanted to know her what her process is. She would say, “I don’t know. It changes, does it change for you?” And I went, “Yeah.” And that was a real relief, because it does (laughs). I don’t walk in and impose a working method on people, and I think she’s the same, you know? I think it’s something that’s mightily impressive, to see someone who’s that flexible still and who’s not tied into a particular way of working. It’s beautiful because her way of working incorporates everyone. She’s astonishing. Working with her was very, very inspiring. I know every actor says that that works with her but it’s a trip, an absolute trip. The ensemble that this film has is just extraordinary; to really see everyone be at the top of their game and be inspired from Meryl’s lead was a terrific time for me. It was very special to be a part of.

And how was it working with Chris Cooper, especially given the dynamic you two have in the story?
Benedict Cumberbatch:
What can I say about Chris….. it’s very, very easy to love an actor that has that level of sensitivity who’s playing your father. He’s got no vanity about him and yet he’s completely in character and approachable and incredibly lovable as a human being as well as this character. He’s just wonderful, he’s just so light and delicate with what he does. It was basically a master class, there was master classes going on all around me (laughs). It was a wonderful thing to observe as well as be a part of. I learnt an awful lot.

The film explores the ugly anger, pain and secrets that are eating away at this family. How was it having John Wells on-board as director given that this story is based on a play and is very much character and dialogue led?
Benedict Cumberbatch: John’s a fantastic director. He’s got the time and the patience for everyone and their different working methods. He brings it all together to make a coherent whole out of the piece. He’s the perfect guardian for what’s essentially a play. And what I mean by that is that its not from a screenplay, its from a play, so to have that level of investigation is terrific. And it means that he’s very honed in on character rather than an overriding visual aesthetic – which of course there is, Adriano Goldman is a superb Director of Photography. But you never feel like you’re getting in the way of some technical bit of brilliance, which happens – rightfully so – on other films, because you’re there to serve a different purpose. But because it’s so focused on character and acting and actors it’s great to have someone like John, who really understands that. His grasp of dialogue and the subtleties of it is brilliant.

[From Flicks & Bits]

Ah, so Chris is playing his father. I wondered about that. And I think Margo Martindale plays his mom. You know what I love? I love that Benedict has no qualms about fan-girling Meryl Streep over and over. You can just tell that it’s one of the proudest moments of his career to be in a movie with Meryl. It’s sweet. I want them to make more films together! Meryl and The Batch. They need to do a road trip.

UPDATE: Ah, there’s a video interview too!



Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet, ‘August’ and Twitter.

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74 Responses to “Benedict Cumberbatch on Meryl Streep: ‘She’s astonishing, it’s an absolute trip’”

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  1. Eve says:


    Errr…I mean, T.Fanty’s!

  2. alison8761 says:

    why not post the video of the interview?

    he looks so purty

  3. Miss B. says:

    Aww look at him with the wee baba ;_;

  4. Maureen says:

    He used tons of words to say nothing at all about Meryl. Really. Look at what he’s saying. It’s a whole lot of not much. Reading it honestly reminded me of listening to a Kabalist explain what Kaballah is. They’ll talk on and on and on about “technology” but soon you realize they’re explaining nothing at all. That’s how I felt reading Ben talk about Meryl. I suppose he also gets tired of answering the same question about her (and apparently doesn’t get asked about anyone else in this cast). I look forward to the day when interviewers are asking younger actors what it was like working with Benedict Cumberbatch.

    EDIT: I stand corrected! They did ask him about Chris Cooper! I hadn’t read that far.

    Also, isn’t MERYL playing his mom?

    • Sloane W!yatt says:

      Poor you. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of having never been subjected to a Kabalist religious spiel. If it’s anything like any other spiritual spiel, you must be the Queen of Patience to have listened to that adherent drone on and on!

      *BTW, it’s ‘As a relative novice’, not ‘notice’.

    • ag-UK says:

      NO Meryl isn’t his mom his mom is played by Margo Martindale. I don’t know if this will be on my list love him but all the “acting” might work my nerves.

    • LadySlippers says:

      @Maureen: I think this is the interview we’ve seen all the quotes come from. And I honestly think he says a lot.

      • Maureen says:

        I think he uses a lot of adjectives. Yes. I just don’t think he’s said anything of real substance about her ACTING, which is what he’s asked about. I don’t know. I suppose I’m being too harsh? I just think I’m really tired of every actor alive being asked about her and just basically saying the same adjectives. Put it this way: if I were a drama/acting student, I wouldn’t have learned anything from Ben’s comments about Meryl. His comments about Chris Cooper, on the other hand, are significant. I really get what Ben’s saying there.

      • LadySlippers says:

        @Maureen: I still disagree as to me (perhaps not to you) being told she is free and creative in each take — even after 10 hours helped explain Meryl better than a bland ‘she’s fantastic’ ever does. But the ‘free’ comment and how he phrased it painted a very good picture of her acting style.

      • @Maureen
        Went looking for adjectives in this bit & found relatively few, so am not sure what your objections are. In the text referring to Streep BC describes the working model of a master actor: ever imaginative; never too tired for a new discovery, whether thought process, look or delivery; arrive at a state through work & research to become truly free so that flexible reactive change is possible without being tied to any particular way of working (i.e. method). Imho that is pretty detailed. And it is this enormous freedom & flexibility that makes Streep the master actor she is.

  5. Abby says:

    I cannot wait to see this movie :D

    Btw here’s the link to Meryl Streep’s interview for AOC where she mentions Cumby @ 3:05

  6. Lindy79 says:

    That baby picture, any excuse to use that baby picture!

    Really looking forward to this, not just for him, the entire cast is great.

  7. T.Fanty says:

    Is it weird that of all of these pictures, the bike ones are doing the most for me?

  8. bns says:

    Meryl is overrated. Jessica Lange is the best actress of that generation.

  9. LadySlippers says:

    You should have posted the photo booth still w/ J Lewis. BC has one ‘come hither’ shot that’ll make you swoon. *fans face*

  10. TheOriginalWaffle says:

    Notice how Cumberbatch always compliments people in specific and new ways? He doesn’t use vapid generalities but instead shows us that he learns from every experience.

  11. Abby says:

    OMG guys he is coming on Kimmel’s show on December 4th squeeeeelsss. Martin is also coming on 3rd to promote the Hobbit movie.

    I hope Kimmel shows him the video he did where he asked general American audience what is a cumberbatch??

    That was back in 2012 when no one knew him lol and the answers were funny. Kimmel was the first American host to mention Cumby even though it was to mock his name.

  12. Allison says:

    What is the female version of a “yank bank”? Because that’s where this video is going once I get over how unfathomably beautiful he is in it. All Cumberbatch interviews need to take place in a forest while he’s continuously rubbing the back of his head.

  13. Tish says:

    He’s sixth billed because of his surname. It’s great though that his name is on the poster and it’s the most prominent because it’s too long. Haha.

    He was in NYC for A:OC press junkets. There’ll be lots of BC goodies come December as he is promoting The Hobbit as well.

  14. icerose says:

    Nice interview and I like the sound of his character in Osaga County.It sounds like something a bit different from his usual roles. The reviews have been mixed but big family dramas are usually fun to watch. I rewatched Tinker Taylor this week and I it’s one of my favourite Benny roles with quite a nice range of emotions. Mind you the actor who really made me sit up and watch was Tom Hardy I liked his damaged hard man with a heart.

  15. Katie says:

    I was surprised when he was cast as Little Charles; this is a huge departure for him. Think Martin from Cabin Pressure but more emotional and less confident, if you can. Excellent play!

    • Maggie says:

      He auditioned for the part on his iPhone, again, but this time I think he held it himself as his face was apparently very close to the camera and you could see a fridge in the background. They had had a few good auditions but decided on Benedict just on the strength of this audition.

      I am looking forward to seeing him in quite a different role.

      Could anyone be less confident than Martin? LOL