Friday, May 17, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch's Interview with David Letterman: A Study in Awkwardness

It is a never a good sign when your TV host can't even pronounce your name properly.

At the end the Jack Hannah segment on the Late Show with David Letterman that aired last week, David Letterman was on track to introduce the next guest who would appear at the end of the show.

"We'll right back with Benedict Cumber...(long befuddled pause)...batch."

Definitely not a good sign.

Meeting a reporter from Vulture (one of weekly magazine New York's online blog) the next afternoon after the show aired, Cumberbatch had this to say she expressed surprise that "there weren’t the usual efforts to wring a laugh from his name...given Letterman’s cluelessness" about who Cumberbatch was.

“Well, since he couldn’t even say it,” says the actor. “At one point, before I came on, he announced me as ‘Benedict Cumber… ,’ and his voice sort of trailed off. My friends said, ‘What the fuck was that? It was like his batteries ran out.’ But that’s the sort of thing that’s been happening here, where I’m not as well known,” he continues. “It’s strange to be 36 and still explaining the weirdness of my name.”

Things promptly went downhill when Cumberbatch finally appeared on the show and the questions began.

Letterman's first question: "Are you fairly new to making major motion pictures?"

What? He is asking Cumberbatch, who has acted in the Bafta and Academy-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Steven Spielberg's War Horse, and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy this question?

Credit to Cumberbatch, who replied with aplomb: "This major? Yes. Very very new to making this major film picture type thing. No, I mean I was in War Horse, which was quite a big film, but with not as big a role so I am very very excited."

Letterman then goes on to say that he doesn't know how old Cumberbatch is, to which Cumberbatch replied that he is still a kid at heart. At this point, I am beginning to lose hope that the interview won't go further south. How can you not even know your interviewee's age? Second bloody rule of journalism, the first being the ability to spell and pronounce your interviewee's name right, is to get your interviewee's age right. Letterman failed on both counts obviously.

Letterman then went on to ask Cumberbatch about his first memories of auditioning, to which Cumberbatch gave a humorous account of how he auditioned for the role of James Bond for a computer game, how he "started to throw myself around the room and dive over sofas and do lots of kind of PPK poses."

These two questions together sound rather condescending; something akin to "Oh Star Trek Into Darkness is your first big break, isn't it? And how was it like auditioning before you got your first big break?"

Moving on. Next, Letterman wanted Cumberbatch to tell him what was going on with those "Otters Who Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch" tumblr images.

Wow. That shtick is old. Old old. Couldn't Letterman's team of researchers have come up with something more recent or up-to-date?...

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