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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

  • Benedict Cumberbatch
    Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images

    The Chameleon

    Brit actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes on TV, stars in this year's critically acclaimed thriller, The Imitation Game. Throughout his career, he melts into his many characters. Here, a look at his career so far.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in Hawking, 2004. (BBC/Photofest)

    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Juno Temple in Atonement, 2007. (Mary Evans/Universal/Everett Collection)
    Everett Collection

    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in The Other Boleyn Girl.
    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock. (BBC/Everett Collection)
    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Touchstone Pictures/Focus Features/Everett Collection)
    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch at UK premier of Star Trek: Into Darkness. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
    Paramount Pictures

    A Blockbuster Role

    Cumberbatch took a giant step into popular fare as villainous Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman, in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness. The New York Times raved that the actor “fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence.”

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall in Parade's End. (Nick Briggs/HBO/Everett Collection)
    Everett Collection

    Award Bait

    The actor was Emmy-nominated in 2013 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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl in The Fifth Estate (Moviestore Collection/Alamy)
    Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

    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 2013's The Fifth Estate.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (Pictorial Press/Alamy)
    Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

    American History

    In Steve McQueen's 2013 "Best Picture" Oscar-winning film, 12 Years a Slave, 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.  

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
    Warner Bros.

    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.

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in August: Osage County (Courtesy The Weinstein Company)
    The Weinstein Company

    Unlikely Loser

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

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
    The Weinstein Company

    The Math Genius

    In the 2014 thriller The Imitation Game, he portrays Alan Turing, the computing pioneer who was key to cracking the Germans' Enigma code in World War II. Though Turing’s breakthrough likely turned the war in the Allies' favor, his own government prosecuted him for his sexual orientation in 1952.

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