Cumberbatch dazzled in 'saucy' role
Benedict Cumberbatch's former drama teacher has told how he spotted the star's talent when he auditioned for the role of a "saucy French maid" as a teenager - and insisted his expensive education has hindered rather than helped his career.
The Imitation Game actor, 38, has been shortlisted for an Academy Award for his role as mathematician and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing in the movie.
Martin Tyrell, Benedict's drama teacher at public school Harrow, told Radio Times magazine: "Even as a 13-year-old, he was obviously an outstanding actor - a combination of intuition and intellect.
"It's probably once in a lifetime that you find a boy actor as magnificent as this.
"I remember him auditioning very early on for the part of a saucy French maid in a farce. It was a small part, involving a feather duster for about 10 minutes, but even then in rehearsal he was strikingly mature.
"He took direction, immediately understood the comic requirements of the part and was very, very funny. You wonder where on earth the understanding comes from."
Eddie Redmayne, Dominic West, Damian Lewis and Tom Hiddleston are among the privately educated British actors who are enjoying big success in Hollywood.
Veteran actress Julie Walters, The Walking Dead star David Morrissey and Call The Midwife star Stephen McGann have complained about the dearth of young actors emerging from poorer backgrounds.
But Martin told the magazine: "Going to a major independent school is of no importance or value or help at all.
"I don't think anyone ever bought an education at Harrow in order for their son to become an actor."
He added: "I feel that they are being limited (from playing certain parts) by critics and audiences as a result of what their parents did for them at the age of 13. And that seems to me very unfair."
Martin added of Benedict: "He was also a tremendous artist, he painted some magnificent portraits. In fact, I think the artist side of him impressed some people even more than his acting."