GQ – Benedict Cumberbatch on JJ Abrams, Spencer Hart and the best-dressed member of the Enterprise crew

By Oliver Franklin

At Paramount’s rather space-age headquarters in West London, Benedict Cumberbatch appears on an enormous flat-screen. It could be a scene from Star Trek, except for the fact that Cumberbatch is calling from New York rather than an enemy vessel and has ditched the all-black Starfleet uniform for a rather English flat-cap and tweed jacket. Everyone’s favourite Sherlock star, sometime runway model and former GQ Man Of The Year is in the big apple for the New York premiere of Star Trek Into Darkness. With JJ Abrams’ sci-fi spectacular now in cinemas, we took a few minutes to catch up with Cumberbatch via Skype about working with the new king of sci-fi, the best-dressed members of the cast and his love of Spencer Hart…

GQ: What makes JJ Abrams different from other directors? You said recently that he “sculpts 3D pictures on his iPad and beatboxes in his down time”…
Benedict Cumberbatch: His genius. He still has the fervour of a ten-year-old child when it comes to the enjoyment of what we do. It is, as a profession, a ridiculous privilege. But also he makes films that he wants to see, he’s true to his tastes and he bears his responsibilities respectfully but lightly. You can get confidence from him and not worry about what he is worrying about. You can just go to him with your worries – you really need that as an actor. You need to be able quell your anxieties about what you’re doing, and the first point of call is the compactness of thought and temperament that your director provides you with. He’s just off the charts brilliant at that. He does things with massive wedges of humour and the biggest thing at the heart of it all is that he’s incredibly generous with his time and his care.

How was the atmosphere on set?
Wonderful. You kind of feel like you’re in a travelling circus. There’s a complete bleed between cast and crew and he brings incredible people on to inspire you – magicians, surgeons, veterans from the last two wars… just really extraordinary human beings. You learn a lot watching him work, because it’s as much about how he does it as what he does – and what he does, I think, is supreme. But to spend time in his company, that’s almost the biggest thrill of the job really. You come to crave the next scene, the next opportunity for you working together.

The press tour looks like it has been pretty intense. Who are more obsessive, Star Trek fans or Sherlock fans?

That’s going to make me paranoid that I look like it’s been intense! I really haven’t taken much part in this because I’ve been filming the third series of Sherlock. I’m in the middle of shooting the second episode of the third season, as I was during the London premiere. I wrapped on Wednesday night at about 8pm, I got in the car, had five hours sleep, got onto a plane, got off the plane, got in a car, did Letterman, five interviews, the red carpet, after parties, parties – and then all of this again. But the point is it’s been brief but beautiful – and it’s amazing to bring it [to New York]. It was wonderful to receive it in London and the reception it got there was very moving for me, Simon [Pegg] and Alice [Eve]. I took a moment, just breathed, took a look around, and thought “Wow, this is something to remember.” It was the same last night. New York City is crazy and beautiful and really close to my heart, and I’ve always had dear friends here – family, actually, I would say. So going to the premiere in a car with some of them last night and driving past bus stops with my face on them made me smile like an idiot. And the fans have been amazing.

Who do you think is the best-dressed member of the cast?
Without a doubt, it’s got to be Alice Eve and Zoe Saldana. They have the most amount of effort that they have to go through anyway – we’re lazy, us boys, by comparison. But they all cut a dash on the red carpet. We all look at each other with clothes envy and go, “Hey, nice shoes… nice tie… nice jacket, I like the cut on that lapel.” It’s bizarre, because we get on so well, we’re really good friends and we know each other in our down time or in costume on set, so this is a whole new experience for us. I’ve only had two premieres, but we still had a lot of fun checking each other out and what we’re wearing. It’s been great.

What percentage of your wardrobe is Spencer Hart?
I would say a good 85 per cent! You know, he’s Sherlock Holmes’ tailor but it’s not just a nod to that – it is the finest cut on Savile Row. I think [Nick Hart’s] variations are sublimely subtle but daring… they’re just classic staples but he serves them up with fresh twists that aren’t too in-your-face.  There’s nothing gaudy about them, they’re just really crisp – and it just suits me as well, down to the ground.