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Benedict Cumberbatch To Play Beatles Manager Brian Epstein In Tom Hanks-Produced Biopic

by Oliver Lyttelton
October 31, 2012 2:20 PM
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There might be unlikelier potential megastars around than Benedict Cumberbatch, but we're not sure we can think of any. The 36-year-old British actor had been slogging away in film and TV roles for a decade, mostly in a series of stuffed-shirt roles. He impressed those who took notice (particularly with stage roles, and with his portrayal of Stephen Hawking for the BBC), but wasn't really considered a leading man. But in 2010, the actor was cast as the titular hero in "Sherlock," a new reinvention of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective hero, and the show was a surprise monster hit.

Ever since, Cumberbatch has started going supernova; amassing a fervent group of fans nicknamed 'the Cumberbitches,' he's impressed in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "Parade's End," and he'll be nearly inescapable in 2013: playing the villain in "Star Trek Into Darkness," being desolated as the titular dragon in "The Hobbit; The Desolation Of Smaug," appearing in Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years A Slave," and forming a key part of the Oscar-baity ensemble of "August: Osage County." And now, soon after talk that he could play Julian Assange, he's getting a lead role of his own, as The Hollywood Reporter announce that Cumberbatch has signed on to play legendary Beatles manager Brian Epstein in a new biopic.

Penned by Todd Graff ("Camp," "Joyful Noise") the film will focus on Epstein himself, a closeted gambling and drug addict who passed away in 1967 of an accidental overdose, rather than telling the story of the Beatles through his eyes. And some impressive talents are assembled behind the scenes; Tom Hanks and partner Gary Goetzmann are producing through their Playtone shingle, while Paul McGuigan, who helmed the likes of "Lucky Number Slevin" before getting a new lease of life with Cumberbatch thanks to directing several episodes of "Sherlock" (he recently signed on to direct the big-budget "Frankenstein" for Fox), will direct.

It sounds like early days yet; financing is still being sought, likely at the American Film Market. And Cumberbatch is committed to a third season of "Sherlock" shooting early next year, so this won't get moving until the middle of 2013 at the earliest. But he's a great choice to play Epstein, and if the film can avoid the usual pitfalls of the rock biopic, we could well see this getting awards attention come the 2015 Oscars.

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  • Tom | November 1, 2012 12:23 AMReply

    Your first sentence is spot-on, Oliver! Anyway, his theatre credits really are impressive. The dude's plays are always sold out not to mention critically-acclaimed. I think that's actually one of his edge among his contemporaries (Fassbender, McAvoy, Hardy) who are mostly focused on films.

  • marymary | October 31, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    Cumberbatch is one of the few complex, compelling male stars around these days, with an absolutely unbeatable ability to tackle a role and turn it into something more than worth watching, with an almost eerie talent for morphing into a character in a way seldom seen these days; megastar is applicable here and his star just keeps rising.

  • Iamlee | October 31, 2012 5:06 PMReply

    Why would someone with his remarkable talent be considered an unlikely megastar? Because he doesn't have the conventional (kind of bland) looks of Clooney?

    Having seen Cumberbatch as Stephen Hawking and William Pitt, if the writing of this movie is well done, I think he can add the complexity and depth to this role that will make it compelling.

    Maybe you should broaden your horizons - unlikely? Ridiculous comment by anyone who seen this guy act.

  • KT | October 31, 2012 3:59 PMReply

    *Sigh*... And the sour dick-riders come out of the woodwork. Cumberbatch is a fine actor and doesn't need anyone to defend his name. "Got some manners"... ? How about people get their priorities straight.

  • holly | October 31, 2012 3:52 PMReply

    He's one of the greatest actors of his generation so get used to writing a lot more about him. What a rude start to your article. Get some manners.

  • Oogle monster | October 31, 2012 5:23 PM

    I spy a Cumberbitch.

  • Betina | October 31, 2012 3:43 PMReply

    Thrilled for Cumberbatch. I hope he's still going to play Assange. There's no finer actor.

  • Vince | October 31, 2012 10:49 PM

    Except for the blond hair he might make a good 007, but with Danny boy doing two more films after SKYFALL BC might be too old.

  • Olly | October 31, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    He's not a surprise at all for a leading man in films. He's amazing so get over it playlist.

  • Caro | November 1, 2012 11:36 AM

    Ben is actually auburn!!

  • Ellen | October 31, 2012 3:09 PMReply

    Sigh...Cumberbatch has been the secret crush and well-loved leading actor by us theatre lovers for years; now the whole world also find this hidden gem. I am thrilled that McGuigan gets the chance as well; it seems to me that the BAFTA (TV) committee has overlooked him several times.

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