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Lions Roar : May 2016
still point is a very, very hard place to find, especially among the usual kind of pulped sheep pushed around by the blinking flashing world of modern technology.” His Buddhist training, he reflects, was particularly important in coming to grips with the career-defining role of Sherlock. “Sherlock Holmes is an interesting character,” he explains. “He’s someone who has to push a lot aside. He has ways of shut- ting out white noise, like scraping away badly at a violin. One of these is he’s rude to people, telling them to shut up all the time. “I think there’s a real parallel—as an actor, you have to be able to shut out distractions. I’ve had some pretty knockout moments, like the press night of a play called The City by Mar- tin Crimp. A phone rang in the audience for about five minutes. That took a lot of concentration!” CUMBERBATCH IS A JOY to talk to: animated, articulate, adopting a range of voices when telling an anecdote. “This is a conversation fueled by coffee,” he half apologizes at one point, when he’s been talking nonstop for ten minutes. “I’m trying to pack a lot in—I don’t speak like this all the time, because I have a relationship with other people that wouldn’t last!” But there’s a deeper reason why, although he takes his craft seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously; why he remains famously one of the nicest and most unaffected of major stars. It was the Tibetan monks who taught him that you don’t have to be boring to be serious about your profession or your spirit- uality: that humour is an intrinsic and necessary part of life. “They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous peo- ple,” Cumberbatch recalls with a smile. “Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no previous teachers seem to have done. With twelve monks in a room, with an age range of about eight to forty, that’s quite important. The reward– punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could possibly ever teach them.” And what was that, exactly, I ask? “They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humour you need to live a full spiritual life.” A specific example is not long in coming. “There was a time when these two dogs were all over each other, screwing in the backyard, and all of this laughter. ‘Sir, sir, quick, come, sir, sir, quick!’ These two dogs were stuck together like a pushmi-pul- lyu [the two-headed animal in Dr. Doolittle]. The monks were on the floor laughing. It was so funny. They were like, ‘Kodak moment, sir, Kodak moment!’ Brilliant!” He chuckles to himself, reliving the moment, and his enthu- siasm is infectious. In fact, there’s only one point in our con- versation when the laughter stops. That’s when he is reliving a harrowing experience when he confronted the imminence of his own violent death. It’s an experience that left him more spiritually minded—and eager to seize life with both hands. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WAS FILMING a BBC mini- series called To the Ends of the Earth in South Africa in 2005 when he and his friends were carjacked by six armed gunmen. His hands were bound, and he was forced into the car’s trunk and driven on bumpy tracks off the main road. When the car stopped, he was dragged out and ordered to kneel in the dirt alongside his friends, with a duvet covering Bringing the “Master of the Mystic Arts” to life: Cumberbatch will star in Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange this November. PHOTOBYMICHAELMULLER/©2015MVLFFLLC.TM&©2015MARVEL.ALLRIGHTSRESERVED LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 55