Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch: I’m not an overnight success

Recent major roles in Sherlock and Star Trek may make it seem like the actor arrived overnight - but that's really not the case...

His recent rise to fame may seem meteoric but Benedict Cumberbatch is keen to make it clear he’s not an overnight sensation.


“Somebody said to me the other night ‘You’re an overnight success’,” Cumberbatch told US Vogue magazine, “but it didn’t happen overnight.”

The Sherlock star has a point. Like many aspiring British actors his career began with bit-parts in shows like Heartbeat and Silent Witness. Cumberbatch had TV roles in spy drama Spooks and period tale Tipping the Velvet, too, before seriously impressing as Stephen Hawking in a BBC biopic of the physicist.

Earlier film appearances have included parts in The Other Boleyn Girl and as a memorably up-tight University Challenge team captain in Starter for 10.

It’s only in recent years that starring roles in major series like Sherlock and Parade’s End have come along, while his biggest movie part to date – central villain Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness – was only in cinemas this year.

So while Cumberbatch’s career has hardly seen him gain instant fame, it has involved variety – something he says has been important to him since his school days, when he happily switched between muddy rugby fields and the drama studio.

“Everyone was confused” he admits. “‘There’s that chap from the rugby pitch – takes his tackle low and doesn’t complain when he comes out of it badly. And oh, look, there he is wearing a wig and prancing around being Titania, queen of the fairies.’ I covered all bases.”