We love him because he is hot and because, although he is straight, he is not narrow, and he has no problem playing gay. Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch CBE was born on this day in 1967. Versatile and always intriguing, he works in films and theatre, he has received so many accolades, including three BAFTA Awards, an Emmy Award, four Golden Globes, and a Laurence Olivier Award, plus two other Oscar nominations.
This writer thinks the strident argument that only gay actors should play gay roles is a bunch of hooey. I have appeared in over 150 full stage productions and over a dozen films and television series, and in over a 50-year career, I have only played a gay character once explicitly, and maybe five times subliminally; that means if only straight actors can take straight roles, I would not have enjoyed a career.
Cumberbatch is sensitive to the issue of casting, but it seems unfair to be critical of a performer of his caliber who is such a strong ally. Cumberbatch:
“People are being beheaded in countries right now because of their sexual orientation. It’s terrifying. It’s medieval — a beheading! I’d take up arms against someone who was telling me I had to believe in what they believed or they would kill me. I would fight them. I would fight them to the death.”
“We all know actors who are gay who don’t want to talk about it or bring it up, or who deny it. I don’t really know what they do to deal with it. Human rights movements and sexual and gay rights movements have made huge social progress, without a doubt, but there’s a lot more work to be done.”
He has been open about his own same-sex experiences, telling Graham Norton:
“There was experimentation at school, it had never occurred to me as, ‘Oh, this is that.’ It was just boys and their penises, the same way with girls and vaginas and boobs. It wasn’t out of desire.”
Cumberbatch played gay hero Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014), bringing him an Oscar nomination and a SAG Award, and he was a gay character in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), and as gay spy Guy Burgess in the stage play The Turning Point (2009). Plus, he hinted that his Sherlock Holmes on the BBC series Sherlock might be gay (remember when Andrew Scott‘s Morarity and Sherlock almost kiss?).
Cumberbatch plays a sexually repressed cowboy in the 1920s, when being gay was widely stigmatized and in most places, criminalized, in The Power Of The Dog (2021), and when the controversy about his casting arose, he said that he was attracted to the role because the character had a lot of “hidden” traits, writing:
“I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.”
I think we need to embrace actors such as Cumberbatch. Here’s a look at 10 of his performances where he plays gay, straight, and deliciously sexually ambiguous characters that I think prove my point: