TORONTO – Get ready to hear a lot about Benedict Cumberbatch on the Oscar trail this season, as his performance as legendary computer science pioneer Alan Turing in Morten Tyldum's “The Imitation Game” joined an increasingly crowded Best Actor race when the film premiered in Telluride over the Labor Day weekend, and caught yet another stride with audiences at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
The specificity of the performance is what will continue to draw raves, and likely awards consideration, right down to the cadence of the man's speech. But how to draw such specificity when your subject is someone so enigmatic and when actual audio or visual recorded documentation is elusive?
“We all wanted to honor the integrity of who he apparently was, but also realize that we're giving him to an audience that wouldn't have known, and therefore there's an element of a blank canvas,” Cumberbatch says in the video interview above. “I went to quite an extreme in rehearsals, which was almost too much – the stutter. He had a high-pitched voice as well, so the stutter and the anxiety would sort of tone the pitch up. So I played with that.”
One thing so fascinating about Turing, and almost a trope of this particular biopic subgenre, is how prickly he apparently was. Cumberbatch notes, however, that in his studies, he found that Turing was no robot in this regard, that he was “very self-aware” and understood how he came across. Perhaps it was just another element of the isolation that writer Graham Moore told us became an over-arching theme for the entire story.
All of his behavior to me is born out of circumstance,” Cumberbatch says. “He's not someone who was just like that at birth. For example, when he was a child, he was with foster parents. And that's when his stutter began. Even right at the end, the suffering he went through with the estrogen injections, he managed to turn that experience into an understanding of morphogenesis, the study of the mutation of cells. He turned that horrible, horrific stripping of his personality, of his faculty, of his body, into science, into an understanding that he could communicate to other people to help that field of work. He was remarkable in that respect.”
To hear much more from Cumberbatch on his awards-worthy turn in “The Imitation Game” watch the video at the top of this post.
“The Imitation Game” opens in theaters on Nov. 21.