Benedict Cumberbatch To Play Shakespeare’s Richard III on BBC – despite having one of the busiest schedules of any British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is making space to play one of Shakespeare’s most difficult and iconic roles.
Just days after his Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman was announced as playing exactly the same role in a Trafalgar Studios production of the play in the West End in July this year, Benedict has been named as the title role in the BBC2 production of the play. The production will be part of the BBC’s 2nd series of History Plays and the production is to be directed by Dominic Cooke who has a wealth of experience with Shakespearean productions and who previously directed comedian Lenny Henry in the Royal National Theatre’s 2011 production of The Comedy of Errors.
No dates have been given yet for either the filming or the broadcast of the new BBC production but as we all know Benedict is incredibly busy at the moment and we would not be surprised if the rest of the cast have to fit around what few gaps there are in his diary, Let’s not forget that both he and Martin Freeman have to find plenty of time to film the next few episodes of Sherlock in time for Christmas this year.
Benedict will have some pretty hefty shoes to fill in taking on the role of the hunchback king as previous actors to portray Richard III on stage include Kenneth Branagh, Antony Sher, Al Pacino, Ian McKellen, Alec Guinness and Simon Russell Beale. Of course the most well-known portrayal of the complex character is Laurence Olivier in his 1955 movie version of the play. Although it was not a critical success at the time the film is now widely regarded as Olivier’s finest Shakespearean performance on the big screen.
For anyone not familiar with this Shakespeare play then if the hunchback reference doesn’t tell you enough you will almost certainly have heard the play’s opening line before:
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York”
Before we get the chance to see his interpretation of Richard III we will get to see Benedict in what is already being hailed as a possible big winner at next year’s Oscars. The Imitation Game is a biopic of Alan Turing the Bletchley Park mathematician and code-breaker who is one of the pioneers of modern computing and artificial intelligence.
An image from the movie was released on Christmas Eve last year to mark the posthumous royal pardon of Alan Turing for his homosexuality in 1952, a time when this was still illegal here in the UK. The prosecution has long been suspected to be a major factor in Turing’s death at the age of just 41-years old. His death by cyanide poisoning was judged at a 1954 inquest to be suicide although some have since argued that this was not properly proved at the time.
The Imitation Game, which also stars Keira Knightley, has a US release date scheduled for some time later this year but there has not yet been a UK date confirmed although release dates for other European countries so far cover the months of January and February 2015.