Cumberbatch joined the MCU as Doctor Strange in 2016 and has since starred in two Avengers movies, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and his character's sequel movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The Sorcerer Supreme has become a core part of the superhero team over the years, often using his knowledge of the mystic arts to solve the MCU's magical and multiversal problems.
Standing out as a performer in such highly publicized films is a challenge for any actor and Cumberbatch has given a peek behind the curtain at his acting process in a Marvel movie.
Benedict Cumberbatch's Problem With Avengers Movies
In a profile for The Talks, Benedict Cumberbatch expanded on his experiences with acting in the MCU.
Cumberbatch revealed that he was glad he experienced fame "late in [his] career" and said practices like meditation help him to stay "present" amongst the chaos of Hollywood:
"[Meditation is] very helpful for that. You know, I am glad I had that experience before I began my career, and also that I came to fame late in my career, comparatively. It definitely helps to rebalance and reboot and go, 'Oh, that’s where you’re at, that’s what’s dragging you away, how to find your center again. Being in the present and in the moment is in the heart of what we do as actors.' Amongst the smokes and mirrors of it all, it is about being present."
Cumberbatch continued by saying that Hollywood isn't some "acting gym" and that it's particularly difficult to get an emotional scene "absolutely nailed" in the Avengers movies due to the story constraints:
"It’s all smoke and mirrors! It’s not some sort of acting gym where you’re stripping off layers of self to reveal a layer of truth all the time. You are working to do some of that but in the heartbeat of making a massive film like The Avengers, for example, it can be tough getting that one moment of emotion absolutely nailed in five minutes because that’s all the time they have because of the other, bigger things around it."
According to the Doctor Strange star, Avengers movies aren't "a massive development of character" and instead involve a focus on "how to service story":
"Well, precision is one thing. In this instance, it’s not a massive development of the character, it’s about how to service the story at the same time as balancing the integrity of a now much-loved part of the Marvel cinematic universe."
The actor also praised his Marvel co-stars, in particular Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr., who he said "really know what they are playing":
"So, I learn on every job. I would like to think I learn. I learn by watching other people. It was wonderful to watch Robert. It is wonderful to watch him, and to watch people who really know what they are playing inside out."
Cumberbatch added that he thought the reach of a series like Sherlock was bigger than that of the MCU "because it's television" and "more people have seen it".
"Well, as far as this being a bigger pond than Sherlock… I don’t think it is. I think Sherlock for me has had a bigger reach than something like Doctor Strange because it’s television; it’s more democratic, more people have seen it. The reach that program has had is extraordinary. It was a sort of stink bomb that I knew was going to go the minute I said yes to doing the role. But I didn’t know just how big it would be — it surprised all of us who made it."
The actor ended the interview by saying he isn't interested in "going up and up and up" and prefers an "unrestricted flow of movement" in his career:
"But you know, I don’t think, like, “It’s getting bigger and more exposing.” I am not really interested in going up and up and up. I don’t think there is much further to go anyway; I like an unrestricted flow of movement — up or down — as far as career goes."
Marvel Movies Are a Challenge For Actors
As the MCU continues to grow it's been an interesting challenge for the franchise to continually try and top what's come before.
As Cumberbatch pointed out, this brings an interesting creative challenge for actors who must not only bring depth to their characters but also help to convey important story information around larger concepts like the Multiverse or Variants.
It's a challenge that isn't going away any time soon as Phases 5 and 6 of the MCU approach. The last phase in the Multiverse Saga will bring two more Avengers movies to the screen with The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars.
The line-up for the superhero movies hasn't been revealed yet, but should Cumberbatch be involved he'll be one of the veteran actors this time around. Hopefully, his past experience in such films will help to make the process easier for the new Avengers team members, in a similar way that Robert Downey Jr's mentorship aided him.