He has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, so it comes as a surprise to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch still gets star-struck.
The latest incident came during a recent script-reading session. “We had one scene around the table with Meryl Streep and I just couldn’t act. I was in awe of her,” he admits.
The Sherlock actor stars opposite the Oscar-winning actress in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the play August: Osage County, which is being produced by George Clooney.
“I’m only at the beginning of the fame game, so I still get star-struck all the time. Meryl is spellbinding to watch. She really is extraordinary,” he enthuses.
It’s a perfect demonstration of why Cumberbatch remains one of the UK’s most loveable exports.
We meet at London’s City Hall. He’s here to film the next series of Sherlock and was on set until midnight, he admits.
When not playing the detective, the 36-year-old is also currently promoting his role as John Harrison, a villain in JJ Abrams’ sci-fi sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, which sees him joining the cast of the Starship Enterprise including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin.
Harrison, an intergalactic terrorist with unclear motives, is targeted by Captain James Kirk (Pine) and his team after a bombing at one of the Star Fleet offices in London.
Cumberbatch was chosen after director Abrams watched episodes of BBC series Sherlock. He auditioned on his iPhone, filming a clip and sending it over. “It had taken a day to compress this little file so once that had been done, I sat back and waited,” he says.
“Then I got a note back saying JJ’s on holiday, which is fine because he has to have a rest sometime.”
Once the film-maker replied, Cumberbatch admitted it took a while for the news to sink in.
“It was the most thrilling news. I was a huge, huge fan of the first film. It’s just such a rich experience to be in his and the storyteller’s hands on a journey of high emotion, adventure, romance and comedy. I knew it would be a riot so I was well over the moon.”
Cumberbatch, whose career started on the stage, considers it an honour that he was picked to portray a baddie.
“I’m following in the hallowed footsteps of (Jeremy) Irons, (Alan) Rickman and Tom Hiddleston, my great friend in The Avengers. There are a few of us who have done it before, it stretches back as old as time,” he says.
“I think it could have fallen into stereotype though. There’s a grey area. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter but I think you can empathise with his cause, maybe not his means of going about getting his ends. He has a moral core – he just has a method, which is pretty brutal and abhorrent.”
Fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about him stepping into the baddie’s shoes again though. “It’s hugely flattering but you’re not going to see me do a whole raft of villains after this,” says the actor.
It’s more than 13 years since Cumberbatch first appeared on screens with a cameo in ITV drama Heartbeat, but it’s only in the past four years that he’s become a household name.
Still, his rising star status shows no signs of abating, with forthcoming roles in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave and Peter Jackson’s Hobbit sequel The Desolation Of Smaug.