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I am by no means one of those women who call themselves “Cumberbitches.” But I’d love him to cumber my batch.


Photo by Karim Sadli from the NYT magazine.

The recent NYT profile on Ben Cumberbatch (“The Case of the Accidental Superstar“) did not escape my notice. It begins: In the peculiar-looking, former cross-dressing Shakespearean actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Hollywood has found an unlikely leading man.

Unlikely. Accidental. Peculiar-looking. I’m at a loss to understand why these adjectives are routinely applied to Mr. Cumberbatch and his career. The first time I beheld him was the initial airing of Sherlock, and I immediately said to myself, “This is a Man of Unusual Beauty, Intelligence and Charm.” Unusual, yes. But peculiar?

It is almost as though any hint of elegance or intelligence in the physiognomy relegates a male actor to “peculiar” territory in the minds of Hollywood casting agents. Not knowing what to do with him, they start handing him villain roles. No, he does not look like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, or Matthew McConaughey, the gods be thanked. He looks like my cat Sammy.


Oh, what fools these mortals be!

Perhaps the problem is that the Hollywood types (not to mention American journalists) haven’t figured out the real category to which he belongs. John Gielgud. Alec Guinness. John Hurt. Ian McKellen. I don’t recall hearing them described as “peculiar-looking.” But I wouldn’t put it past a Hollywood director.

*Arthur Conan Doyle “The Valley of Fear” (1915)