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By the time he returned in 2012 for Sherlock's second season,
Cumberbatch was a bona de star. 'When we went back it was odd,
because I felt we'd almost spent more time in the phenomenon of
the reaction to it and being in the audience of it. Because of having
a year-and-a-half break, it was slightly strange,' he says. 'The third
season, for some reason, was a lot easier to slip back into. I think that
was also down to the strength of the writing team and where they're
taking the characters.'
For the role, Cumberbatch originally learnt to play the violin and
there's something quite Sherlock-like about his obsessive nature,
almost to his detriment. At Manchester University, where he studied
drama, the overworked Cumberbatch developed glandular fever.
When he performed at the Royal Court in 2007 in the double bill of
Rhinoceros and The Arsonists, he developed a stomach ulcer. And he
came close to pneumonia while shooting Sherlock, after catching u
from all the damp shoot locations.
Keeping it in the family
Of course, coming from good solid acting stock, his parents could
have warned him. His mother is Wanda Ventham, who played
Cassandra's mother in Only Fools and Horses. Similarly, his father,
Timothy Carlton, is a television stalwart, appearing in Heartbeat,
Midsomer Murders and other perennials. Both have acted with their
son, most recently as Sherlock's parents (his father also appeared
with him in two other acclaimed television dramas, Parade's End
and Stuart: A Life Backwards).
Born in Hammersmith, his parents tried to put him o¡ becoming
an actor, pointing out how up and down the life could be. It's why,
even now, Cumberbatch is no spendthrift. 'I don't live beyond my
means,' he says. 'I enjoy luxury and I enjoy the privilege of it, when I
can a¡ ord it - and I'm in the situation where it's been given to me,
but I'm very conscious of what is wasteful.' What money his parents
WATCHING THE DETECTIVES:
FIVE OTHER GREAT SHERLOCKS
Beginning with the 1939 lm The Hound of the Baskervilles,
Rathbone played the character in 14 movies and a radio series
over just seven years. Arguably the de nitive Holmes, he
never really managed to escape the Baker Street detective
throughout the rest of his career.
JONNY LEE MILLER
Two years after Sherlock, Cumberbatch's Frankenstein co-star
pitched up in another modern-day version of the character in
CBS show Elementary. Here, Holmes is a recovering drug addict
who escapes to Manhattan after rehab for a series of new
ROBERT DOWNEY JR
Just as Cumberbatch arrived as
Sherlock, so did Downey Jr. Hot
o¡ the success of Iron Man, he
teamed up with Guy Ritchie to
bring a hyperactive wit - not
to mention a decent right hook
- to Conan Doyle's character,
in two Victorian-era movies.
The quintessential Holmes for a
generation, Brett played Sherlock
for 10 years and four ITV series,
until he hung up his deerstalker
in 1994. 'Holmes is the hardest
part I've ever played,' he claimed.
'Harder than Hamlet or Macbeth.'
Bored, ageing and opium-addled,
Stephens' turn in Billy Wilder's
marvellous 1970 lm The Private
Life of Sherlock Holmes remains
one of the greatest portrayals of
the character. And the plot, with
its midgets, monks and the Loch
Ness Monster, is bonkers.
Playing the villanous Khan
in Star Trek Into Darkness
Robert Downey Jr