One of the interesting parts of writing a book is having input on the cover. In my case, MX Publishing and I select and buy a photograph that can be used as part of the cover design. For a couple of days early in the writing process, I looked at every public photograph of Benedict Cumberbatch I could find. The one I favoured—that was affordable—came from the BFI London Film Festival in 2014, when The Imitation Game was selected as the opening film.
The original photo included an umbrella, a must-have accessory on the red carpet that rainy night. Benedict Cumberbatch looked so pleased as the photographer took this shot. The lights highlighted his face, illustrating that he and his work were in the spotlight. He also was looking to the viewer’s right. On a cover, that symbolises looking ahead or toward the future, and the emphasis of this book is his career now and in the future because of his body of work. I chose this photograph because of his expression, the lighting, and the direction he faced.
I also chose this occasion because he starred in the festival’s opening film—an especially prestigious occasion—and because he earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as Alan Turing. The photo therefore references both London and Hollywood—a perfect combination for this book. Although in October 2014, when the film festival featured The Imitation Game, the actor could not know that he would be nominated for an Oscar, in retrospect, the photo shows his pleasure at his and the film’s recognition, not because of the nominations he would receive for that role. In this photo, Benedict Cumberbatch is on the cusp of major Hollywood recognition, but he is savouring the moment in his native London.
Of course, the design was not complete with the selection of a photograph. The wonderful Jules Coomber, who designed the previous two amazing covers of the Cumberbatch performance biographies, added the backdrop of a London cityscape and part of the Hollywood sign (and removed the umbrella) to further illustrate Benedict Cumberbatch’s career aspirations and successes in both London and Hollywood.
This is the third book I have written about Benedict Cumberbatch, and it can be read as the latest update on his career and stardom supplementing the previous books or as a standalone volume. By now, some people may be wondering what else I could possibly have to write about this actor. Because he has been so prolific in multiple media—radio, television, film, theatre—there is always something new to critique.
In Benedict Cumberbatch: London and Hollywood, I summarized the actor’s previous performances, so that new readers can get the full perspective on the Cumberbatch back catalogue. However, I also encountered new sources that provide more details about the actor’s preparation or behind-the-scenes issues that cropped up during, for example, the run of Frankenstein. Even in sections about performances that may be familiar to readers of the previous two books, there is a new focus on how each performance has attributed to his success or how it reflects his London or Hollywood stardom.
More important, the majority of the book analyses Benedict Cumberbatch’s more recent performances in Hamlet, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, The Imitation Game(which was not in general release at the time the previous book was published), “The Abominable Bride” special episode of Sherlock, and, of course, Doctor Strange. Some works receive a whole chapter, but all receive many pages of discussion.
Stardom involves more than acting. The book also looks at Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch production company, his changing public persona, his philanthropy, and his interactions with fandom. In short, Benedict Cumberbatch: London and Hollywood looks at the development of a new international star and the resulting changes to his public persona and career, as well as the new opportunities now afforded him.
I am pleased with the cover and contents of this book, and I hope readers will enjoy the critiques and commentary about this most talented actor.