With The Imitation Game premièring at the Toronto International Film Festival, Benedict Cumberbatch has been talking to The Daily Beast. And as he’s playing a gay character, the interview touches on his experiences of witnessing homophobia when he was at school, how the US needs a gay president and the fact he things gay cure therapies are ‘horrifying’.
He’s not impressed either by how the character he plays in The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, was sidelined largely because of sexuality, despite the fact the made one of the most important steps towards ending World War II by devising a way to crack the Enigma Code, as well as laying the groundwork for modern computers. “He’s not as prominent as he should be. That’s the tragedy isn’t it, really?” Cumberbatch says.
As for gay cure therapies, he thinks, “There are courses and doctors and meds handed out to ‘cure’ people of their homosexuality, and it’s shocking that it still goes on. It’s also shocking that any time there’s any kind of hardship, the minorities are immediately scapegoated—and that includes homosexuals in Russia, the Golden Dawn in Greece. The Golden Dawn came out of a financial crisis and people wanted answers, and the minute you start stirring up nationalistic feelings, minorities are the first people to get it because they’re the easiest to scapegoat. It’s terrifying.”
While talking about the homophobia still present in the US, Cumberbatch adds, “You need to have a female president next, and then after that, a gay president. That’s the full journey from Obama’s legacy onwards.”
As for witnessing homophobia firsthand, he relates a tale from his schooldays, saying, “In an all-male boarding school, in the olden days, it was seen as being something that ‘just happened’ since there were no girls, so you had a bit of an experience. But there was incredible homophobia at my school, to the point where two boys who were caught doing something were literally chased down the street.
“I was 18. Two boys who were just discovered in bed together doing something, and it was shocking. I was just finishing an essay in the school dining hall at breakfast, and I looked out the window and heard a commotion, a pair of feet scampering by, and then a horde just charging after shouting, ‘Wankers! Faggots!’ and I thought, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ I asked these kids coming back from the house who were breathless from the hunt, ‘What are you doing, you insane idiots? What the fuck?'”