Handsome Brit Benedict Cumberbatch, 37, does not appreciate the b-word.
That's why he frowns when it's mentioned that some of his legion of female fans refer to themselves as "Cumberbitches."
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"They're Cumber-collectors. The bitches thing just wasn't feminist," says Cumberbatch on a sunny fall day in Toronto where he sits for an interview in his hotel suite.
There are many Cumber-collectors who love him these days. Cumberbatch stars in a slew of hot fall movies, including 12 Years a Slave where he plays a plantation owner and the new film The Fifth Estate where he plays a riveting Julian Assange in a thriller based on the real life WikiLeaks scandal.
That's not all. You can also see him in the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, opening December 13 and the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts family drama August: Osage County. (You can also check him out as a wicked Khan on the DVD Star Trek Into Darkness.)
"You can't plan a year like this. You truly want to pinch yourself," says the sleek actor with the ski slope cheekbones who arrives in a sleek grey suit. Everything about him is perfect, but he proves to be a bit more of a jokester than one might imagine.
When he slides his chair backwards and it makes "that noise," he grabs the my tape recorder and says loudly, "For the record, that was the chair and not my bowels."
YourTango: Let's start with your life these days. Everyone wants to know about you. Women scream your name.
Benedict Cumberbatch: It really is a bit surreal. You can't possibly plan a year like the one I've had for myself. I'm just trying to enjoy it. I get a huge kick out of what I'm being asked to do.
YourTango: It seems like you do everything on-screen. What can't you do in real life?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I can't tap dance like Fred Astaire. I can't sword fight like Errol Flynn. While I'm young enough to acquire skills to fool people in the moment, I would love to keep doing projects that keep me learning.
YourTango: What was the draw of a movie about the WikiLeaks founder?
Benedict Cumberbatch: You realize the depth and importance of this story. The journey was discovering a balanced, three-dimensional portrait of the man and I do think the film is balanced. I never wanted to get into a slogging match of if he was a good man or not.
YourTango: Did you worry about the controversy of this story?
Benedict Cumberbatch: Look. It's not secret that this is a controversial story, but I'm really happy with the reactions, which is that we presented a well-rounded story. I'm full of admiration for what Assange founded. Forget the controversy. A man like this is essential and the world is a better place. WikiLeaks' founding principle was to expose information. I think the public has a right to know. The real ongoing debate is where does privacy step in. Who gets to know what and when? That's the debate and I think it has to be judged on a case by case basis.
YourTango: How did you morph into Assange's well known look?
Benedict Cumberbatch: He has softer features and I'm a bit angular. I have a longer face; he has a rounder face. The hard thing was the contact lenses. His eyes are blue and mine are greener and mine change whatever light I'm in.
YourTango: Tell us about your role as slave owner William Ford in 12 Years a Slave.
Benedict Cumberbatch: He's a conflicted man. He believes that he's being nice to his slaves, but he's still keeping them as slaves.
YourTango: What was it like to act opposite Meryl Streep in August: Osage Country?
Benedict Cumberbatch: Meryl was extraordinary. The hardest thing with her is to actually act. You just want to sit and watch her. You want to be in the audience.
YourTango: Doesn't the play August: Osage County have special meaning for you?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I took my mum to see it at the National Theater and I remember standing at the end during a well-deserved standing ovation. To be asked to be in the film version was just a thrill.
YourTango: What was it like to play iconic Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I love that (director) J.J. Abrams throws a lot at an audience and they're complex ideas. They're beautifully drawn relationships and character arcs in the middle of all this spectacle. For me, it was the perfect way to have an experience in a big film. But I did go in knowing there are a lot of really vociferous critics when it comes to something like Star Trek but I wanted to take it on.
YourTango: You grew up in London where your parents are actors (Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham). Did you act as a child?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I did. It was a control measure for me. Like a lot of kids, I had too much energy. I would show off and be unruly. Acting was a method of making me take responsibility. I remember a teacher making me stand in front of the class and then saying, 'There's your audience. What are you going to do about that?' It made me focus and gave me a creative outlet.
YourTango: Did you ever think of quitting acting?
Benedict Cumberbatch: There were only six months early on after college where I thought, 'Is this going to happen?' I just wanted all the challenges to be thrown at me. I guess you can't complain about a six-month stall. Otherwise, it's been very gradual. It has taken a bit of time to get here.
YourTango: Didn't you pay your parents back with the proceeds of your first acting job?
Benedict Cumberbatch: My parents loaned me the money to go to drama school and I paid them back with my first paycheck. That made me extremely proud.
YourTango: Did you always plan on becoming an actor?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I wanted to act, but I knew it's a very precarious profession. There are so many blessings that are involved in being employed. It's a talent rich workforce and an appalling percentage of people who are out of work.
YourTango: Can we ask one question about your personal life?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I don't talk about it. I think that it's important to keep something for yourself.
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