Benedict Cumberbatch on Richard III: Shakespeare took ‘huge dramatic license’


Benedict Cumberbatch did not attend last night’s Jameson Empire Awards, unfortunately. I was looking forward to seeing some big-name people there, but it ended up being kind of a non-event. It’s also surprising given that Benedict seems to have developed a love for the spotlight, and he’s desperate to make appearances, anywhere and at any time. Oh, well.

Last week, Benedict helped honor Richard III at his big funeral/re-burial. Cumby read a poem by Britain’s poet laureate and he wore a nice scarf and all was well with the world. The Batch later spoke to the Daily Express about what it meant to him to be a part of the service and to play Richard III in the upcoming The War of the Roses (The Hollow Crown). Some highlights:

The funeral: “Having just played his very different Shakespearean characterisation I was intrigued to see what the real historical event would be like and to be a part of this extraordinary moment of remembrance. Then what really sealed the deal was this beautiful poem. It’s an extraordinary moment to be witnessing a monarch who has been found after hundreds of years in a car park being reinterred in a cathedral hundreds of yards away. It is a very special thing to witness, let alone be asked to perform at.”

Historians finding Richard’s remains: “As it unfolded you realised the discovery was real, the drama was unheard of in a documentary like that. It wasn’t a high profile programme but it became so because of what they discovered. There was a glorious romanticism about that.”

The real Richard & the princes in the tower: “I’ve no qualms in viewing both entities of the man in completely different categories. The fictionalised Shakespearean version of him, while based on some truths, has taken huge dramatic licence. I don’t come down on one side. Both need to co-exist. It has brought up a debate about how history can be re-imagined and retold and how something so important to us of old can suddenly have new life. Those are positives we should concentrate on. We’ve got an extraordinary play about power and about an adolescent outsider being turned into a despotic ruler but it is called a tragedy. He realises by the end of the play the error of his ways. That is extraordinary dramatic art but the real Richard story is becoming equally dramatic so I think both have a place in our culture and one should not cancel the other out.”

[From The Express]

I fear I’m going to have to delve deeper into English history before covering Benedict’s promotional tour for The War of the Roses. I mean, I know some of it, but I’m really coming away from this discussion feeling like I don’t know enough about English history. I was always more of an American Revolution history-buff. And World War II history buff. But this? Er, I need to learn more.



Photos courtesy Newsnight on the BBC, WENN.

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97 Responses to “Benedict Cumberbatch on Richard III: Shakespeare took ‘huge dramatic license’”

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  1. Lilacflowers says:

    Finally! It has been like HOURS since we’ve had a Benedict thread!

    • Sixer says:

      Yes. But people on all 19 (or was it 20?) continents demand them.

      Anyway. The Wars of the Roses are cool. I say so, and I don’t need no other continents.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        Wholeheartedly agree about The Wars of the Roses. And our winter of discontent may finally be coming to an end here as the sun is shining brightly and the temperatures will finally rise today to seasonal norms. It did snow yesterday.

      • Sixer says:

        Hooray! Sunny here today, also.

        Martin Freeman did a party political broadcast (our version of your political ads) for the Labour Party. Much joking on the lunchtime Daily Politics show about how they must have had to work quite hard to find an actor with young-old appeal who wasn’t an ex-public schoolboy. Guess Benny and Tommy won’t have chance to display their fabby liberal credentials any time soon. Snigger.

        What else, even tangentially Benny-related? Can’t think of a thing!

      • 'P'enny says:

        #f#’kthetories I love Amanda Abbington.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        If there is a will, I have faith, Benedict will find a way, because it is always all about him. Tommy is busy playing actor and hosting Dragon school reunions with Hugh Laurie and Tom Hollander right now. He’ll be back in the fall.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        And it just got sunnier because there is a Bloke thread!

      • icerose says:

        They are interesting but his take on Shakespeare’s bias was not exactly world shattering news but i guess it beats 36 cousins of separation.

      • icerose says:

        Freeman came over well-glad to see him get up an be counted

    • seesittellsit says:

      OMG I thought I wasn’t going to be able to digest my breakfast!

    • A.Key says:

      Hahahaha, A+

  2. cailin_dana says:

    He’s booked for the Adobe Summit in London on 29th and 30th April.

    • Lilacflowers says:

      Isn’t that a tech thing?

      • 'P'enny says:

        he’d book himself into a parcel brown-paper exhibition if he could

      • Felice says:

        He could be talking about Turing or Assange. Better not bring up advertising because his team sucks at that.

      • j says:

        or his experiences as a performer using technology. they have performers, musicians and sports figures every year. Redford was there last year i think.

        id love to get paid to go there, abobe’s pretty awesome as far as conferences go

    • jammypants says:

      He needs to go away.

      • MtnRunner says:

        He doesn’t know how to disappear from the spotlight.

      • An says:

        Not really a “spotlight” sort of event.

        He doesn’t know how to not work in some form.

      • jammypants says:

        I’m in the industry that Adobe targets and this annoys me. It costs a lot of money to go to these things. He’s an ACTOR and to me, not relevant to my industry. Why would I listen to an actor talk about tech when I know more than him about it? He gets paid to do it too. I’m offended and he still needs to go away.

      • An says:

        It’s to add variety to avoid dry programming, like most conferences do and Adobe has done for years. *shrugs*

      • MtnRunner says:

        Boredom and bank are the likely motivators.

      • question says:

        @jammypants +1000

        @An – how much du you know about programming, when you think its just dry and everything programmers need is an ACTOR to enlighten them?

    • bread says:

      What? There wasn’t some seminar on the opening of envelopes he could attend?

  3. PunkyMomma says:

    So are we on baby watch? It’s soon, isn’t it?

    • Green Girl says:

      I would think so! But he keeps booking himself for random appearances throughout spring, so I don’t think I can guess any more. Of course, babies arrive when they want to.

  4. Betti says:

    Of course Shakespeare took massive dramatic license – he was the Tudor PR machine, used to legitimise and strengthen their claim to the throne. Bendy, please stop stating the obvious trying to make yourself look like a clever clogs.

    Re: The War of the Roses. Hollywood couldn’t have made half of that up and i love that period of history.

    Fun fact – it was called the War of the Roses as both houses had a rose as its sigil. House Lancaster was red and House York was white.

    • 'P'enny says:

      I wouldn’t call it a fun fact, LOL. a lot of people died and the remnants are still around today. You should see the blood spilt during lancashire and yorkshire cricket matches. 🙂

      oh and the Tudor Rose, is red and white together and we had peace -kind of, for a bit.

      • LAK says:

        I rather enjoyed the 2 year ribbing the mayors of York and Leicester engaged in after the discovery of the body.

        I was on the tube months ago (as you do) and saw a poster ad for Leicester university where they’d drawn a medieval cartoon character in battle armour (clearly using a fabio type as the inspiration) with the Boar emblem of Richard in the background and a caption that read,’ Come to Leicester University, you never know what you’ll find!’

        I chuckled entire train journey.

      • Betti says:

        LOL – yes i hadn’t quite realised that the old rivalries were still around today but i guess it’s like how the scots and english like to rib each other.

    • Sixer says:

      Yes, and the Roses weren’t really significant while the wars were actually being fought. In fact, the red rose wasn’t really used as a symbol for Lancaster until after the wars were over and the Tudors were establishing their dynasty. The final battle, Bosworth, was fought between the red dragon of Henry and the white boar of Richard.

      Much of the modern rivalry is just that – modern. The lands held and influence wielded in which areas of England weren’t that related to the cities of the duchies of the two houses.

    • j says:

      lol a lot of people don’t know much about shakespeare’s motivations or anything about tudor influence lbr now

      ia with him up there actually. i get people wanting historical accuracy, but shakespeare’s stuff is just dramatic plays nowadays. its weird to see people calling for ‘corrections’ to his plays. at that point, they just become…biographies 🙂

    • seesittellsit says:

      Red roses and white roses . . . And you’re totes right, Betti, Shakespeare wrote his histories, especially the Henriad, with an ear cocked to who was on the throne. Henry V was mostly a military thug but you’d think he was a recently minted saint and the soul of righteousness watching “Henry V”. Ah but those speeches . . . poor RIII did get something of a raw deal at the Bard’s hands . . . but we’ll forgive him for that “Now is the winter of our discontent. . . ” bit won’t we?

    • chelsea says:

      Shakespeare didn’t take massive dramatic license, his source did. Holinshed’s History of England was the official history, and he used it for all his historical plays. It really is nonsense to call him a “Tudor PR machine”. History had already been scrubbed clean (as in Holinshed’s account) by the time Shakespeare came on the scene.

      • Faith says:

        Actually he did take dramatic license, his sources weren’t accurate to begin with,
        but the biggest dramatic license he took was of Queen Margaret(who in previous plays he blames the war of the roses on) who was dead when Richard III was set. He only brought her back to tie up Richard III which was a sequel to Henry VI part 1,2,3. You have to keep in mind that the war of the roses ended around 80 years before shakespeare was born. Also Richard III the play is set within one year and depicts what really happened in 9 years. There is loads of artistic licence! Shakespeare as a man is really interesting you can mark his life through his plays. But its a case of yes his sources weren’t accurate but also knew it would help him in the long run if he played to the tudor court as well as making an interesting play.

  5. LAK says:

    I wish I knew more about American History.

    • seesittellsit says:

      ROTF – a shocking number of American stopped on the street can’t give you the approximate dates of the Civil War , . .

      • A.Key says:

        Eh, so what. History isn’t about memorizing dates, it’s about learning something from previous mistakes.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        Or of the Revolutionary War either

      • 'P'enny says:

        Biggest mistake the American’s ever made was the Revolution :-p

      • 'P'enny says:

        It’s amazing how many people you stop in the UK ask them about the English Civil War and they go, eh?

      • MtnRunner says:

        It’s not the Civil War, it’s The War of Northern Aggression!

        I’m with Kaiser. I’m a huge American Revolution buff and acquired a love of WWII history from my dad and bro — not just the aspects that Americans were involved in. I really enjoy reading historical books and historical fiction concerning England and other European nations during that time. Foyle’s War is probably my favorite BBC series — tho’ I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of other good ones out there.

      • Sixer says:

        In the UK, we’re still calling the Revolutionary War differently: the American War of Independence.

      • MtnRunner says:

        Sixer, we call it that too and drunk-dial England on July 4th, for sh*ts and giggles.

        So, what’s a good book to read on Dick 3? I feel like I need to get a better grasp of the history before I watch HC.

      • LAK says:

        Wrong placed post.

      • MtnRunner says:

        Me too… wrong place.

      • justme says:

        Hi MtnRunner — a good biography of Richard III is by Charles Ross “Richard III”, part of the Yale English Monarchs series.

        It is a well-balanced book by a genuine scholar.

      • MtnRunner says:

        justme – thanks! I’ll check that out.

      • justme says:

        @MtnRunner – another more recent one is Michael Hicks, Richard III (2001)

    • Sixer says:

      Here, LAK, is a cool thing I found out about American history only the other day, in a conversation on a foodies board about why Americans eat hardly any lamb in comparison to many other countries. After a big long discussion about American paranoia about fatty meat, the landscape and environment, and all sorts of other things, someone piped up, “No, it was the Sheep Wars”.

      It’s fascinating!

      • LAK says:

        The sheep wars??!!!???….love it!! 🙂

        That is amazing AND fascinating.

        This is why I don’t know American history. It seems to be a bunch of dry facts and figures, and not enough eccentricities.

        I’m never going to forget this little factoid now, so thank you very much. Can’t wait to show off to him indoors.

        By the same token, I now know No 29 president of America was Warren G Harding courtesy of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ reading out his smutty letters to his mistress.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        They don’t teach us about the Sheep Wars. They put business in a bad light.

      • Sixer says:

        LAK: Now you know why the golden arches don’t serve a nice lamb kebab!

        If I come across any more (lamb) nuggets of historical information during my voyages d’internet, I’ll shout out!

        Lilac: we tend to get the Romans, the Tudors, and WWII in schools. But we do take a topic (my local school does medicine) and look at the history of it throughout the ages.

      • MtnRunner says:

        LAK, I found the infighting between the founding fathers trying to forge a republic absolutely fascinating. David McCullough’s book on John Adams was a real eye-opener for me.

        Sixer, leave it to a Brit on CB to enlighten me about the Sheep Wars.

      • LAK says:

        Sixer: Thanks.

        A thought about McD…..isn’t it wierd that people just accept their meat (and chicken) menu without demanding other types of meat? It’s not like KFC where the raison d’tre is in the name. How strange that McD expands to countries that would probably prefer lamb (or some other meaty treat) and insists on beef (and chicken)!!!

        It’s a really remarkable reason.

        MTNRunner: Aha!! There is a TV show on John Adams. Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. Yes I am a hypocrite about this one area of history. If there is a TV/film about Americans, I will watch it, but not go further.

        And your comment about ‘the war of northern aggression’ has myriad films/TV shows running through my head……the shame. 🙁

      • MtnRunner says:

        I hear ya. The Adams movie with Giamatti was good. Just don’t look to Gone With The Wind for your Civil War education. I, in turn, won’t look to Braveheart for my Scottish history lesson!

        I’d love to see a good documentary on Dick 3 since anything having to do with the monarchy tends to make my head spin.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        @LAK, Laura Linney does a nice portrayal of Abigail Adams in that one and stresses her interest in public health matters. The lady was a force. It does jumble quite a bit of history into a very short time frame but they were working within the limitations of a mini-series. Six years passed between the massacre and the signing of the Declaration but it comes off like just a few months.

      • MtnRunner says:

        Forget lamb… what about buffalo?? Bison, baby bison! That’s symbolic of the American West.

      • MtnRunner says:

        LAK – Being from Alaska, I had never heard that term until my friend from Montgomery called it that. She also insisted it was mainly about states rights, not slavery. I lived in Nashville for 8 years so there’s a lot of civil war history, but I found the history of Western expansion and and Louis and Clark’s expeditions much more interesting.

      • TotallyBiased says:

        @LAK –Mickey D’s modifies their menu in various countries. I’ve had red wine in Nice, sushi in Tokyo, and kimchi in Korea. Vaguely remember a gyros-kind of thing as well (which presumably had lamb in it) but can’t quite remember now what country I was in when I et it 🙂 Might have been Switzerland, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense now, does it?

  6. flotsamrose says:

    Um, no sh*t.

  7. Mel M says:

    Love English history and royal European family history. It’s fascinating to see how they were/are all related to each other by various marriages. I could read about it all day.

  8. MtnRunner says:

    Bendy looks tired.

    • Cate says:

      He looks tired and grumpy. Also no light in those eyes. Looks like he’s already the father of a newborn who doesn’t sleep trough the night. Hmmm.

      • alice says:

        Yesm hmmm. When was the last time she was spotted?

      • Cate says:

        LOL, I do realize now that it sounds like I’m suggesting maybe SH gave birth already. Wouldn’t that be hilarious though? I mean, I wouldn’t put it past them, but it’d top all other weirdness…

      • MtnRunner says:

        If so, it would be the most private thing they’ve done so far, now that the Oscar campaign is over.

      • Alice says:

        Yeah, but you’d think he’d look happy tired instead of detached tired. I just get the impression that he’s not a happy man presently.

      • hermi! says:

        She’s been spotted at LL with her nascent bump again. Where’s the enormous one of the Bora Bora pics, no one seems to know.

      • question says:

        Maybe she really gave birth and what we see is the already shrinking bump. Would help to keep the (made up) timeline..

      • hermi! says:

        Having seen the pics of SH tonight, you may be right. She looks even less pregnant than at the BAFTAS. And it would explain BC’s perennially tired face.
        I would also like to know why they scheduled LL on Easter week: timing Bendy, timing!!!!!!!!!

      • question says:

        So this would make it june then….

  9. loli says:

    The boy would do just anything to escape the ”nesting”: now he is scheduled for the Adobe (WTF!) Summit on 30th April… Exactly what an expectant father would do around the due date. Let’s prepare a speech for an Adobe summit…

    • Bea says:

      “At Summit 2015, you’ll learn how to find and maximize every marketing opportunity.” Is he the guest of honour then?

  10. Audrey says:

    @LOLI what?!? Adobe Summit? Talk about what? Is this for real?

    • loli says:

      Lol, yes! It’s in London, so it’s not that he’s going somewhere far away. It’s just that he is willing to do such random stuff in the last weeks or even days…

      • alice says:

        Just more indication, to me at least, that his situation is not something he ever wanted. Avoiding it as much as possible.

      • **sighs** says:

        Alice, right? Even my hubs, who is a fantastic workaholic, was with me as much as humanly possible the few months before I gave birth.

  11. Amanda says:

    it’s so weird, it’s kind of funny. What’s next? Any suggestions? Any car conference and/or science shit going on in London?

  12. Annaliese says:

    Looking at the first photo, I’m struck by the resemblance between BC and some of the classic portraits of Richard (and I don’t mean that icky, cross-eyed wax reconstruction, either). All he needs is a ring or two to fiddle with.

    I guess it’s Cumberbatch’s turn to be accused of being “desperate to make appearances, anywhere and at any time.” He’s an actor; he’s selling himself. He doesn’t have anything else TO sell. Give the man a break….

    And as far as Shakespeare being the company voice for the Tudors: When Shakespeare was writing, there were laws controlling and censoring plays, sermons, and books. Acting companies had to obtain official approval for plays–that is, not just Shakespeare, but ALL acting companies. The Tudors, and the Stuarts after them, wanted to control information and were pretty good about it–if you published something that wasn’t approved you could find yourself on Tyburn Hill being eviscerated for treason.

  13. Linz says:

    (Twitter Sightings) Benedict’s Parents/Sophie (and her Family?) are at Letters Live. Some fans are going nuts cause they saw Sophie’s baby bump.

    Haha @ “Benedict Cumberbatch read “my muse is not a horse” Nick Cave to MTV, Oct 96″

    • loli says:

      Wait, is he reading today already?
      The comet has not yet popped then lol.

    • Toodles45 says:

      Yup, the whole gang was there (including SH’s mom). (BC apparently left the event/was seen on a bicycle??) Oh, and this too:

      Kara Šegedin ‏@KSegedin That awkward moment when a Benedict Cumberbatch fan runs up to give him flowers at Letters Live and he ignores her 😓

      • An says:

        Fan’s lucky she didn’t get tackled by security. It wasn’t that type of event [not that you should ever run at a stranger].

      • j says:

        yeah that was the polite thing to do, not saying we know what happened or anything, hell he could have just been not paying attention but

        last thing you want to do is green light fans running at you as ok behavior.

        heard the event was nice though

      • hermi! says:

        It was just a bunch of flowers… jeez, relax 🙂

      • loli says:

        What’s wrong with giving an artist who’s just performed flowers? Randomly on the street, yes, it would be weird, but podium artists get flowers all the time I thought??

      • J says:

        it’s okay when you don’t rush up on part of the stage/area you’re not supposed to be on, which the fan did when they were all still taking bows. BC wasn’t the main star either so it’s also rude to the other performers there. just surprised like a grown adult would do that tbh

        he apparently didn’t reject them per se, thanked the fan and asked her if she wouldn’t mind giving them to Loo.

      • kay says:

        The flowers, and there was a card too, were for Loo Brealey for her b-day. The fan lady did ask BC something but he declined to do whatever it was she wanted–I think to give them to Loo which was weird but the lady was acting weird. couldn’t hear all that part but she def said they were for loo’s b-day.

  14. Bea says:

    He is a joke.

  15. Amy says:

    Best way to get caught up with that period, the “crime” detective novel, Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. ALL about Richard III. Amazing (and short) book!!

  16. anon121 says:

    OMG! It’s been 3 days without a post! And with LL? Ben being eaten in a mall? (The chocolate version). You OK? Or just in cumber fatigue like a lot of others seem to be going through?

  17. Felice says:

    Seven days.