Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch & The Adventure of the Winner's Circle

For the second time in the 2014 Formula One racing season, Benedict Cumberbatch conducted the post-race podium interviews with the Top 3 finishers, this time at the the conclusion of the Monaco Grand Prix. Tension between the top 2, Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, had been discussed by those in the media over the weekend, which means, of course, that F1 fans were well aware of it. So, if it's your job to interview these drivers moments after a controversial race, how do you prepare? What do you ask?

If you're Cumberbatch, you do this:

Approachable, non-combative, unassuming - and certainly aware of the adrenaline rush each driver was experiencing (for differing reasons).

There's a transcript of the interview here, which also includes questions asked during the press conference held later. Those inquiries dug a little bit deeper into the working relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton:

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello sport) A question for Nico and Lewis. We have seen that there is a pretty tense situation between the two of you and we also heard comments from Lauda saying you did not want to talk and apologise. Are you going to have a pizza together, a dinner, to sort the problems, talk about it and try to get the situation back to normal?
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Lewis, it seems pretty clear to us that you feel aggrieved with the events that occurred yesterday in qualifying. Is this it now for you? Is it gloves off in your battle with Nico? And secondly, do you feel that you are getting full and fair support from the team?

as well as these two questions - asked consecutively:

Q: (Christian Hoenicke - Der Tagesspiegel) Nico, do you think it was fair what Lewis said about you not being hungry as him because you were growing with boats and jets and all that stuff?
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Assocation) Nico, you may give the same answer to this question then, because there were some comments from yourself in one of the German newspapers or certainly a few of the German newspapers and you can correct me if I’m wrong, if the English translation was not correct, but you remarked that when Lewis goes through a difficult period that he can crack. Do you think that that’s what happened this weekend, that maybe Lewis did crack under the press yesterday in qualifying, and Lewis, any comment on that yourself? Do feel you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t crack, that you can hold it together in these kind of circumstances? 

It isn't as though Benedict didn't ask relevant questions, but his was a different tone and intent than the other reporters who cover Formula One regularly.  Some race fans have been less than enthusiastic about the guest appearances, while Benedict's fans take offense to the criticism. It is fair to say this experience takes Benedict out of his comfort zone. F1 fans may like him on Sherlock and appreciate that he doesn't act like a celebrity when interviewing, but, still. . .

...the question they're all asking is: "Why is HE doing this?"

Well, after completing his first post-race interviews at the Malaysia Grand Prix, Benedict spoke with BBC Sport reporters David Coulthard and Suzi Perry about the experience, and he mentioned how the opportunity came about:

(We'll just take a moment to point out the transition from Benedict asking the questions to his answering them. I believe he has the ability to take a "yes or no" question and turn the answer into a monologue. I know. I know. "Bless him.")

Benedict said Formula One chief and self-made billionaire Bernie Ecclestone personally asked him to do the podium interviews. Would you decline an invitation like that? I wouldn't. (I would especially want to accept the offer before Ecclestone became too distracted by a bribery trial in Germany - or Justin Bieber.

So, as far as the general public knows, Cumberbatch was just accepting an invitation to an adventure of sorts, taking another risk as he is usually keen to do. However. . .

Tumblr and Twitter were a bit busy today with one particular post about Benedict.

What was he doing?

Oh, just looking around...

Where was he?

At a museum... Stuttgart, Germany (just thought he'd pop 'round after Monaco - as one does).

Which museum?

The Porsche Museum (when you want to unwind properly after a Formula One race,  you go look at cars that haven't moved in ages, right?)

This is the same actor who went to the London Zoo to study reptiles before doing the motion-capture and voiceover work as Smaug in The Hobbit. The fellow who researches source material religiously and communicates with the person he's portraying (Stephen Hawking & Julian Assange) whenever possible?

Yeah. That guy.

So, get your deerstalkers on. The game is on, don't you think? Benedict Cumberbatch is NOT known for being frivolous with his attention - or his time.  Experience and education shaped this talented man's perspective - and sharpened his focus.

I do believe he is interested in motor sports and enjoys the adrenaline rush that comes from racing: Jaguar ad campaigns, a Top Gear appearance and a profile in British Airways High Life have shown us just that.

I just happen to think there's something more - and perhaps we'll get a glimpse as it rushes around the next corner.

I certainly hope so.

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