Benedict Cumberbatch Casting Secrets, Movie Roles He Turned Down


Benedict Cumberbatch is one busy man. As of press time, the 41-year-old actor has nine movies in his queue — NINE — including Mowgli, The Grinch and a TV movie about Brexit. Not sure if he’ll actually be able to participate in all of them, considering there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, but we’re sure he’ll give it the good ol’ college try. After all, he’s made room before to replace Leonardo DiCaprio as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game AND made room before to replace Guy Pearce as William “Billy” Bulger in Black Mask.

Then again, there are a whole lot of roles that he was this close to portraying… but didn’t. Here are nine such examples:

The Doctor, Doctor Who

Supposedly, Benedict had the chance to audition for the role of the Eleventh Doctor, which Matt Smith so famously played for YEARS. But, rumor has it that he declined the opportunity when actor David Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor, announced that he was stepping down.

“David and I talked about it, but I thought it would have to be radically different,” BC reportedly told The Sun (Den of Geek!). “And anyway I didn’t really like the whole package — being on school lunchboxes.”

Prince Stepan ‘Stiva’ Oblonsky, Anna Karenina

Though you’ll find pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch at the September 2012 London premiere of Anna Karenina, you won’t find him in the flick.

In early 2011, director Joe Wright told The Playlist (via Cinema Blend) that “Kelly Macdonald‘s confirmed, Benedict Cumberbatch is confirmed” and that he was “still waiting on Saoirse [Ronan] and James [McAvoy].”

However, BC’s commitment to the WWI-era British TV miniseries Parade’s End prevented him from taking part in the production. So, actor Matthew Macfadyen stepped in and played Prince Stepan ‘Stiva’ Oblonsky.

FYI, neither Saoirse nor James could commit to Anna Karenina either.

Maximillian Clarke, The Dark Side of the Earth

Unlike all the others on this list, Benedict actually shot some footage for this film. Sadly, it doesn’t sound like we’ll ever get to see the actor as paranoid hypochondriac Maximillian Clarke in The Dark Side of the Earth. It’s been years since production started on the potential fantasy/adventure movie and it didn’t get enough money from investors to make a full-length feature.

George Mallory, Everest

Director Doug Liman‘s talked about working on a Mount Everest-centric film since forever; particularly about Everest climber George Mallory. The flick was supposed to be aptly titled Everest (or The Summit, depending on the year it was discussed). And, according to the director himself, Tom Hardy was the man tapped to play the climber.

But, according to Deadline (via IndieWire), “with a March 2014 start date eyed, scheduling didn’t work out” for Tom, so Benedict Cumberbatch was in the mix to take over the role.

Everest has yet to happen.

Thomas Sharpe, Crimson Peak

Before Tom Hiddleston took on the part of Thomas Sharpe in the 2015 horror film Crimson Peak, Benedict was attached to the gig. The reason Benedict quit? Still relatively unknown. “[It was] between me and Guillermo [del Toro, the director], to be honest,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of the decision. “It was amicable, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Sith Lord, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Many believed that Benedict left Crimson Peak to work on Star Wars: Episode VII. But, when questioned about it by The Hollywood Reporter, he played it coy. “I don’t know. Who knows, who knows? Nothing is known of that,” he claimed. “I worked with J.J. [Abrams]. Obviously, he knows. Everyone who wants to be part of that film, they know about.”

Benedict actually attended the London premiere of the film on December 17, 2015… but he denied any and all involvement. “I am not the voice of the Star Wars trailer, nor am I the hooded character with the rather cool new lightsaber,” he said on the red carpet at the 2014 Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Unknown Cameo, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Absolutely Fabulous was a popular British sitcom in the ’90s, starring Jennifer Saunders & Joanna Lumley. So, when a 2016 film edition of the series went into production, Benedict was considered for a cameo.

“Our director, is trying to lock down the casting of cameo roles between takes and sometimes I have to sit with her in a nice chair, eating a delicious Brie baguette, and throwing out names like ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’,” Joanna told The Telegraph. “Although Benedict Cumberbatch, it turns out, is busy for the next five and a half years. What is it with actors? We are offering tiny, tiny, tiny roles that will take up minuscule amounts of time and it’s, ‘Oh no, sorry, I’m busy doing films,’ or, ‘So sorry, I am going ’round the world with all my actor friends for the next two years,’ or a simple, ‘I’m dead’.”

The comedy was able to snag Benedict’s mom, Wanda Ventham, for a cameo, though, so that’s something.

Sergeant Sterling, The Yellow Birds

A war drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Will Poulter sounds awesome! And we had the chance at one when 2017’s The Yellow Birds was originally cast. Unfortunately, both of them had to drop out after the project was delayed. Never fear, though, ’cause Jack Huston and Alden Ehrenreich stepped in to take their places, respectively.

Percy Fawcett, The Lost City of Z

First, Brad Pitt was cast in the part of Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z. Then, Benedict Cumberbatch. Alas, Charlie Hunnam scored the part.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Benny was commited to his role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, which prevented him from participating in the biographical drama.

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