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Benedict Cumberbatch

Ask nicely and I’ll make you a horseshoe

Benedict Cumberbatch and his wife, Sophie, at the Oscars in 2015. Christopher Polk/Getty Images

In Jane Campion’s “mind-blowing” western The Power of the Dog, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a sadistic Montana ranch owner, Phil Burbank. And he didn’t break character during the whole 12-week shoot, says Johnny Davis in Esquire. “I gave myself nicotine poisoning three times,” he says. When you smoke filterless rollies a lot, “it genuinely is horrible”. He didn’t wash for six days at a time: “I wanted that layer of stink on me.” Campion introduced him to her crew. “You’ll meet Benedict at the end,” she told them. “Benedict’s really nice. Phil is Phil.”

The 45-year-old can now pull off riding, roping, ironmongery, hide-treating, hay-stacking, whistling, whittling, banjo-playing and, “if you ask nicely”, making a shoe for your horse. Acting “saves me a few night classes”, says Cumberbatch. “If I can get away with a new skill and call it work, lucky me.” We’re about to see a lot of him, says Rebecca Keegan in The Hollywood Reporter. He’s back as neurosurgeon turned magician Doctor Strange in two Marvel films, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and plays the title role in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, due out in the UK on New Year’s Day. And that’s not to mention The Courier and The Mauritanian, both released earlier this year.

Off screen, he’s a sweetie. On the red carpet with his wife, Sophie, he can be seen whispering in her ear: “Are you OK?” He guards against the “passionate curiosity” of a fan base who call themselves “Cumberbitches”. When he lived in north London, he was one street across from Shirlock Road, a fact Sherlock fans found “disproportionately amusing”. “Lots of people used to come and pose there, in costume. I’d be, like, ‘I think I’d better go the other way. Before they see me’.”