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Benedict's boldly going to Hollywood, with the help of a broccoli diet

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Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Getty

Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Getty

Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Getty

HE has worked with some of Hollywood's biggest names, so it's 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 said.

It's a perfect demonstration of why Cumberbatch remains one of the most loveable actors today.

He's open and frank, his twinkly blue eyes hinting at his wicked sense of humour.

When not playing Sherlock, 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.

 

Squash

Cumberbatch was chosen after director Abrams watched episodes of BBC series Sherlock, in which the actor plays a modern version of the famous detective.

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.

"I got an email and I didn't pick up on the signals. The email said, 'Do you want to come and play?' and I thought, 'What – squash or tennis or some kind of racquet-based activity?' Then the penny slowly dropped.

"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 over the moon."

Cumberbatch has only compliments for Abrams, whom he describes as "ridiculously talented".

"He's fantastic. I love him to bits," he says, adding: "Anything he turns his hand to, he seems to conquer and master. And he's ridiculously charming and smart too."

Cumberbatch, whose career started on the stage, considers it an honour that he was picked as a baddie.

"I'm following in the hallowed footsteps of (Jeremy) Irons, (Alan) Rickman and Tom Hiddleston, my great friend in The Avengers.

 

Chicken

"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."

Throwing himself into the action is a far cry from the period parts Cumberbatch normally plays, and he relished every moment of it.

"I loved all that. The amount of live action JJ lets us do and wants us to do is part of the visual thrill."

For the physically demanding role, Cumberbatch had to go on a strict exercise routine and change his diet.

"That was the hardest thing in all honesty because it meant an awful lot of eating and a lot of working out in a very short space of time," he explains.

"For two weeks I was eating chicken, potatoes and broccoli. And protein shakes.

"There was one stage where I ate about 4,000 calories a day and it's horrible. Now I know how girls feel. Diets are horrible," he says.

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, with roles in BBC shows Sherlock and Parade's End, and films like Steven Spielberg's War Horse and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Adjusting to his fame has taken some time, and he insists he doesn't understand why he's a heart-throb.

"I'm still processing this strange misperception. I enjoy being considered handsome, even though I think it's hysterical. And I always try to avoid going on the internet.

"My 10-year-old self would have been pretty chuffed.

"He wouldn't have quite believed it. And he still doesn't," he admits.

Star Trek Into Darkness is released in cinemas today


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