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The Familiar Faces of Benedict Cumberbatch

He’s not a famous name, but with parts in multiple movies (for grownups) he will be soon

The Chameleon

Brit actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes on TV, who grabbed attention in Star Trek Into Darkness last spring and who now has four fall films opening, melts into his many characters. Here, a look at his career so far.

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The Breakthrough

The drama grad gets his first notable role in his home country as the star of 2004’s Hawking, a BBC TV movie about the early life of English physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his struggles with motor neuron disease.

BBC/Photofest

A Move to Movies

Cumberbatch (pictured with actress Juno Temple) makes the transition to feature films in the World War II-era period piece Atonement (2007), in which he appeared as an upper-class rapist.

Everett Collection

The Other Man

In 2008, he is in another period piece as the husband of Henry VIII’s mistress (played by Scarlett Johansson) in the 16th-century romance The Other Boleyn Girl.

Everett Collection

Interesting Icons

In 2010’s Van Gogh: Painted With Words, Cumberbatch earned high praise. But it was his smarter-than-thou hauteur as a Sherlock Holmes who relies on 21st-century tech to solve mysteries in the PBS series Sherlock that earned him legions of new fans on this side of the Atlantic.

Everett Collection

The Major League

In 2011 Cumberbatch is in two Oscar-nominated films. He was Major Stewart (far left) in the military saga War Horse. In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Cumberbatch was Peter Guillam, right-hand man to Gary Oldman’s British superspy George Smiley.

Everett Collection

A Blockbuster Role

Cumberbatch took a giant step into popular fare as villainous Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman, in this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. The New York Times raved that the actor “fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence.”

Paramount Pictures

Award Bait

The actor was Emmy-nominated this year as a British aristocrat torn between his manipulative wife (Rebecca Hall, pictured) and his suffragette mistress (Adelaide Clemens) in the well-received HBO miniseries Parade’s End.

Everett Collection

Compelling Character

A bleached-blond Cumberbatch, now 37, plays a rare contemporary, real-life figure as Julian Assange, founder of the controversial whistleblower website Wikileaks, in The Fifth Estate, one of the four films he appears in this fall.

Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

American History

In 12 Years a Slave, a top candidate for an Oscar nomination, Cumberbatch attempts a Southern accent as a cotton planter and benevolent first owner of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a true-life black freeman, kidnapped and held in bondage before the Civil War.  

Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

Life of a Dragon

That silky, resonant voice is used to full effect as Cumberbatch breathes fiery life into Smaug, the gold-plundering dragon — described by the actor as an “incredibly vainglorious, beautiful, fantastical creature”” — the antagonist in the second of three Hobbit films, opening Dec. 13

Warner Bros.

Unlikely Loser

The actor switches venues to current-day Oklahoma to attend a family funeral in the dark comedy August: Osage County (opening Christmas Day) alongside Meryl Streep’s drug-addicted matriarch as his aunt and Julia Roberts as his strong-willed cousin.

The Weinstein Company

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