Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed for ‘Hamlet’ on the London stage… in 2015


By now you know that I will literally write about anything having to do with Benedict Cumberbatch, regardless of how small or unimportant the story is. While it might seem like I’m doing that here… this is something I actually care about. Benedict has the face, voice and talent to play the great Shakespearean characters. Personally, I think Benedict should play Iago in Othello. He is absolutely perfect for it. But Benedict is an actor and all actors really want a go at Hamlet, for some reason. There were many rumors last year that Benedict was trying to get a London production of Hamlet off the ground, hopefully for this year. But it’s looking like that won’t happen… at least not this year.

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has firmly committed to playing Shakespeare’s ‘sweet prince’ now that a home has been found for his Hamlet. I can reveal that the play about the troubled Dane will begin performances in August next year at London’s Barbican Theatre.

It had been hoped that Cumberbatch’s Hamlet would run this year, but we’ll have to wait — mainly because of a paucity of appropriate venues, but also thanks to the packed schedules of Cumberbatch and Hamlet’s director Lyndsey Turner. The show will be the centrepiece of the Barbican’s 2015 season.

When approached on the matter, Hamlet producer Sonia Friedman said: ‘I can confirm that we are in final negotiations with the Barbican,’ but she declined to comment further.

However, others associated with the production told me Cumberbatch was better able to clear a big chunk of time in 2015 — he has agreed to commit to a 12-week run in the Barbican, and at least six weeks of preparation and rehearsal time.

Cumberbatch will also meet periodically with director Turner to work out how to approach the Bard’s landmark drama, which is seen as a test of an actor’s stage ability. The 1,166-seat Barbican Theatre is big enough to house Cumberbatch’s growing fan-base, which has exploded since the success of Sherlock on BBC TV and the star’s appearances in blockbuster movies such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, August: Osage County and the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave.

He last appeared on stage at the National Theatre in Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle. Cumberbatch has a major movie coming out in the Autumn called The Imitation Game, which is expected to figure in the next awards season. He portrays the World War II code-breaking mastermind Alan Turing, while Keira Knightley portrays one of his Bletchley Park colleagues.

[From The Mail] confirms the news. Cumberbitches will get to see Hambatch next year for 12 weeks. Benedict turns 39 years old in July 2015… is that too old to play Hamlet? I think it is. When I think of the Danish prince, I do think of him as a young man, early to mid-20s. And you can tell from his wishy-washy actions too – he just ponces around, whining and complaining for four acts (Hamlet is such a hipster) before everything goes crazy in Act V. But… I will give Benedict some credit. He’s always been able to “play younger.” Maybe it will work. And given his sex-wrapped-in-honey-dipped-in-Scotch voice, it will be nice to hear him perform all of those wordy monologues. Unf. Still, I would rather see him as Iago.

Photos courtesy of Getty, Fame/Flynet.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

150 Responses to “Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed for ‘Hamlet’ on the London stage… in 2015”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Reece says:

    You aren’t as caste by age in theatre as in film so he’s fine playing Hamlet. I need to somehow start saving some money. I would LOVE to see this.

  2. Kali says:

    Brace yourself, London, I am going to be ALL UP in you next year 😃 (I promise I’ll be gentle). Cumberbatch doing Shakespeare for my (only a few weeks late) 30th? Yes please.

  3. Abby says:

    I am happy it’s in 2015, I can hopefully save some money for a trip to London and watch him live. The pic of Fassy and Cumby makes me cackle as each has their mouth open simultaneously in pics. Bad timing

    Btw not to scare anyone but this is something I read, does anyone wanna tell me how accurate this site is??? Like come on Cumby cannot be with Taylor Swift or unless it’s some other actor they are hinting at

  4. betsy says:

    David Tennant played it aged 37 & 38. Michael Sheen played it well into his 40′s. John Simm was also around 40. Jude Law was also late 30′s.

  5. Dani2 says:

    I’m indifferent to Cumberbatch but I can totally see him slaying this role!

  6. GeeMoney says:

    I was really hoping he would do Hamlet in the fall, since I was going to be traveling to London around that time. Oh well. *hangs head in sadness*

  7. Buckwild says:

    I think he would make a great Macbeth! Macbeth in 2016?!

  8. Make mine a double says:

    Ohh goody. I’ll be back in London by then. Wonder if the tickets will sell out as quickly as TH and Coriolanus. I know it’s a much bigger theatre and a longer run but…

    • Froop says:

      Nope, there are over 100,000 seats available during a 12 week run at the Barbican. I think lots of the Donmar tickets were sold to members before the general public so there were only a small amount sold to the public. Lots of tickets were given to press people and freebie tickets to actor friends too which is a big chunk of audience when you only have 250 seats.

  9. Dani says:

    I think Cumby would do better as Lago also. Hamlet is so up Hiddles alley, like I can just picture him moping about and whining on stage. That said, how much would my husband mind if I jetsetted to London for a week next year?

  10. Janeite says:

    Glad to know that this is finally going to happen after hearing about it for a while now but with no actual confirmation. And even though it’s not until 2015, it will give Cumby fans something to look forward to.

  11. Granger says:

    I love that the Barbican Theatre is basically right around the corner from St Bart’s Hospital. :-)

  12. betsy says:

    Benedict’s got a great director. Lyndsey Turner who directed Chimerica

  13. Kelly says:

    Now if only theatre ticket prices weren’t so darn expensive these days…

  14. Leah says:

    Well every actor worth their salt should get a chance to play Hamlet so good for Ben! He would do a wonderful job.

  15. Lemon says:

    Selfishly, I just hope this doesn’t delay the next season of Sherlock too much!

    • Felice says:

      I was thinking that today. This is going by the assumption that TIG will be nominated and he has something planned this fall after Z.

    • Kelly says:

      You know what, I thought the exact same thing.
      And I hate to say it, but it probably will. I’m sure Benny’s priority is Hamlet at this point in his life. Which sucks for us.
      Also Gatiss already mentioned the show won’t be back on till 2016 probably…

      Bloody Shakespeare….

      • 'p'enny says:

        i thought Sherlock would be every two years, so that would make it Christmas 2015 or if you like New Years Day 2016. In which case they could film it Summer 2015 and we can all be happy. Yeah! bring it on now.

        And, are people press jumping the gun with TIG, just because some American distributor on a fecking 20 min preview, thinks its the bees knees doesn’t mean it is an Oscar potential. Way too early.

        And, the filming of ‘z’ this summer is still dependent on funding – another jumping the gun? It wouldn’t be the first time an actor has been led up a garden path, only to be let down. Fingers crossed and all that… but it seems still to be flaky. I hope for Benedict’s sake it comes off, but i feel he is being messed about.

      • Abby says:

        Penny the funding for Z is clear as Anapurna pictures and Plan B are producing it together. The Plan B producers even mentioned it being their next project after winning the Oscar.

        As for TIG, I agree that ppl need to shut it with all the Oscar talk. Harvey buying it doesn’t mean confirmed nomination. He couldn’t get one for Idris Elba this year so we should not get our hopes up only to be disappointed later.

    • pru says:

      Honestly, I think I’m ok with a S4 delay. It may take me another year to cleanse my palette of S3.

  16. ZsaZsa says:

    I hope they manage it so all the die-hard fans don’t nab up all the tickets like they did with Coriolanus

  17. Etheldreda says:

    I do think pushing 40 IS too old to play Hamlet, but then I think most Hamlets are too old. Cumberbatch might get away with it because imho he looks quite young for his age, and the same could be said for David Tennant. The thing about Hamlet is that, even though there are several indications in the play that the Prince of Denmark is very young – perhaps only in his teens – every Serious Actor wants to play Hamlet on the stage and often they don’t get a chance to do so until they’re considerably older. So I’ve kind of resigned myself to ‘old’ Hamlets, though having an actor in his 40s – like Michael Sheen – take on the role was probably stretching it a bit, brilliant though he is.

  18. Shiv says:

    I really hope the kray kray fans – you know the ones who run through convent garden after him – ruin it for the rest of us or genuine Shakespeare fans! It is still the theeeeatre after all, not a bloody concert. The venue sits over 1,000 people so if it’s on 12 weeks I don’t think getting tickets will be too much of an issue. Cant wait!!

    Re: Turing – I wish people would stop with the oscar/ nomination chat – I would hate to see a ‘set up for a fall’ scenario…

    Oh, completely unrelated! The geek glasses are real, not just a statement!!!! Yaaaay.

  19. Katie says:

    He’ll do an excellent job of it.

    Wonder why he can’t until August of 2015. His schedule’s part of the problem, but just Sherlock and the LCOZ don’t account for around 12 months’ of time and that’s excluding prep.

  20. Liberty says:

    Apropos of nearly nothing, except vaguely comment number 20, Benedict singing happy birthday to a fan:

  21. Lilacflowers says:

    Will there ever be a 39 year old Ophelia? Until somebody casts a middle-aged woman in that role, they shouldn’t be casting middle-aged men as Hamlet. Yes, I realize that it is all about “acting” and a really good 39 year old actor should be able to play a troubled college student, but I have trouble with anyone over the age of 28 playing Hamlet. I would have loved to have seen Ben Whishaw’s version. When I was very young, I saw Mark Rylance’s Hamlet (he played him as bipolar in the manic state) and it was a truly incredible theater experience. Since every actor seems to want to play Hamlet, perhaps there should be a never-ending production somewhere with actors rotating into the part, with every actor getting to be Hamlet for a three week run? But again, why do actors who are well past Hamlet’s age get to play Hamlet while Ophelia is almost always age-appropriate to the text?

    • LadySlippers says:

      Because the world revolves around men.

    • Katie says:


      I agree re: Ophelia’s age being flexible. Maybe we’ll get that in this play.

      However, the specific issue with Hamlet is that it’s considered a rite of passage for male actors but getting it staged when you’re younger is incredibly difficult, even if you dream of doing it. Whishaw’s early play and educational background makes him one of the rare exceptions, same goes for Ryland. They were proven enough at 23 and 28 via years of professional stagework behind them to secure a willing director and producer.

      In the cases of Cumberbatch, Tennant and the older Hamlets previously mentioned, there was likely no opportunity to do Hamlet until they were older no matter how much they wanted to try. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Ophelia has that significance–it’s Cleopatra (who dominates the play) or Lady Macbeth as the rite of passage for women.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        I think if an actor is part of a theatrical company, it is easier to get the role at the appropriate age. I saw a version of Hamlet last year, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the British theater group that brought it to Boston or the young (early 20s) actor who played the part, but he was fabulous). The bigger star productions do, as you say require funding and name recognition, which most don’t have until they’re past the age. Although Jude Law is a puzzlement – he was a known quantity while he was in his 20s but didn’t do Hamlet until he was pushing 40. And, he is NOT aging well.

    • Liberty says:

      In 1885, Sarah Bernhardt played Ophelia at age 41. In 1899. at age 54, she played Hamlet.

      Per Women in the Age of Shakespeare, by Theresa D. Kemp

    • M.A.F. says:

      Ben Whishaw played Hamlet?! I would love to see that.

    • Katie says:

      Eh, my long winded point above is that we get old Hamlets because the actors playing him usually make the play happen to begin with. It’s not open casting for Hamlet in these ‘rite of passage’ cases; the actor either seeks out a director to stage it or is specifically targeted by a director to do it. So, if Cumberbatch didn’t want to do Hamlet, this Hamlet wouldn’t be happening at all.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        True, Katie, and Hamlet is an ego project and there really is no similar female role in the theatrical canon. Every actress breathing doesn’t want to play Hedda Gabler or Antigone, but all the guys want to do Hamlet. As I said elsewhere on this thread, Hamlet should just be a never-ending production somewhere, like Cats, and actors should be able to cycle through the part in two week bits so they all get to be Hamlet at some point.

    • Sixer says:

      I’d be inclined to draw together what Lilac and Katie said and suggest that it says a great deal that it’s only the boys who get to initiate their own productions and thus become 30-something Romeos and 40-something Hamlets.

      @Lilac – it is a shame Rylance is such a tinhatter (if it’s not de trop to bring up authorship) because he is something else as an actor. Have you seen his portrait by Spencer Murphy who did the weepy Hiddles Coriolanus? Look at the eyes!

    • icerose says:

      I would have loved to have seen both Whishaws Hamlet and Mark Rylences. I have been told that there isa recording of Ben’s Hamlet which if you go up to London you can sit and watch it in private. I just cannot remember who holds it.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        Rylance’s Hamlet was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The production here (American Repertory Theater at Harvard) was set it in the 1930s with everybody wearing military uniforms as if it were a fascist state. And Rylance played Hamlet as bi-polar in the manic state. He was mesmerizing and frightening and exhausting (as those in the manic state can be) and unforgettable. I have never seen anyone else approach the character that way.

    • Katie says:


      It’s definitely an ego project, although I can’t blame them for doing it to be in line with peers. Not sure what happened with Jude Law either, lol.

      I am oddly pleased BC is going with a woman director. All the other Hamlets mentioned here so far had men leading the production, so maybe Lyndsey Turner will bring something new to it.

  22. wamfient says:

    Everyone who’s actually read the play knows Hamlet is 30. I guess this is why I come to celebitchy for celebrity gossip, not insightful Shakespeare commentary…

    • Katie says:

      @ wamfient

      You’re correct, I forgot that’s in Act 5…

    • Sixer says:

      Actually, one of the regulars here is a professor specialising in Shakespeare. Jus’ sayin’.

      And Hamlet’s age is a topic of textual debate. Ironically enough, partly surrounding the accommodation of an older actor.

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      40 is the new 30 anyway!!

      I don’t think Hamlet (or any character) needs to be played by an actor of the exact same age provided the essence of the character is not lost by it. I mean, Hamlet has been played by women in the past as well, so it doesn’t have to be letter perfect to the written version. Variety is the spice of life and I’m sure Shakespeare would probably enjoy the way his works have been interpreted in so many different ways.

    • isis says:

      Hamlet, like a number of Shakespeare plays, has unclear (or double) timelines. You can make the argument that Hamlet is late teens/early 20s or you could argue that he’s 30. Late 30s is certainly older than Hamlet textually is, but I’m fine with seeing great actors in their 30s and 40s play the role. Simon Russel Beale did Hamlet at 50 (with an Ophelia who seemed to be in her 40s and was amazing. I did see Ben Whishaw, and while there is something to be said for more experienced actors handling that language (I’d love to see him play the role now), he was great and there was a lot that clicked into place with a younger actor.

      Also, the all-female Julius Caesar was amazing. There’s definitely a bias towards favoring all male productions as more “historically accurate” and denigrating all-female productions.

  23. Sunny says:

    I love Cumby and I love Shakespeare but this so is not my jam. I think he is a tremendous actor but I don’t really see him as being able to tap into Hamlet’s wishy washy, petulant vibe. I would much rather see someone like Ben Whishaw in this sort of role and Cumby in a different Shakespeare vehicle like Iago in Othello, of Edmund in Lear.

    I do like that Benedict is returning to stage work though and I wish the production huge success.