Magazine article Screen International

Benedict Cumberbatch, the Imitation Game

Magazine article Screen International

Benedict Cumberbatch, the Imitation Game

Article excerpt

Benedict Cumberbatch reveals how he broke down with emotion during his last day playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Elbert Wyche reports

After spending a year in development purgatory at Warner Bros, The Imitation Game was put into turnaround in mid-2012. It was almost immediately picked up by Teddy Schwarzman's New York-based Black Bear Pictures. The script then made its way into the hands of Benedict Cumberbatch, while the UK actor was filming the role of Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Cumberbatch knew he wanted to take the lead role as Alan Turing after reading the first scene. "I thought it was a witty, uncompromising way to introduce a man who I was already fascinated by and wanted to know more about," he says. "After finishing the script, I thought, 'Not only do I want to do this film, I have to.'"

The Imitation Game centres on the real-life story of UK mathematician Turing, who played a central role in cracking Germany's Enigma code while working at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England, during the Second World War. In 1952, Turing was charged with indecency for committing homosexual acts and was chemically castrated in lieu of prison time. He committed suicide in 1954.

Surprising research

The little Cumberbatch knew of Turing came from watching a play called Breaking The Code. As he began his research, he was taken aback by the lack of appreciation the man has received for his formidable accomplishments. "Why isn't he on the cover of history books and science books, among other things? He should be up there with Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. He should be on our banknotes in England. I thought his lack of recognition was part of the tragedy of the man's story," Cumberbatch says.

In researching the role, Cumberbatch read Turing's biography to get a sense of who he was in his personal life, his demeanour and even his physicality. There is no video or audio recording of Turing, though Cumberbatch was able to meet with his nieces to hear first-hand accounts of what he was like.

"They both remembered him being incredibly convivial; treating them as adults," Cumberbatch explains. "As I was rehearsing, I tried out different voices to them, but it was difficult; they sort of said, 'We'll know it when we hear it.' It was a bit of a gamble."

To achieve the physicality of the role, Cumberbatch began running and adjusted his diet in order to appear "more gaunt", as Turing was. …

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