Eddie & Benedict: The Brit Bromance Oscars Battle
Expect a lot of charming self-deprecation, and flustered thank yous, when the two British actor buddies go head-to-head for Best Actor.
It is floppy fringes at dawn.
Step on their feet, and they will apologize to you.
Gosh, really, crikey, this really is a jolly big surprise.
There is a simply, terribly British bromance at the heart of the Oscars, which can momentarily divert us from the rightful outrage around how ‘white’ they are, and the chitter-chatter around who’s in, who’s out, and who’s consoling Jennifer Aniston.
For there in the Best Actor category stand good buddies Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne. Alongside them are a slew of British nominations—Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike in the Best Actress category, and Keira Knightley for Best Supporting Actress. (Brits overlooked in the nominations were David Oyelowo for Selma, and Timothy Spall and director Mike Leigh for Mr. Turner.) At least fellow Brit Dick Poop, sorry Pope, the cinematographer for Mr. Turner, has been recognized for his work.
So far, in the Brit bromance battle, Redmayne, 32, has the edge, having won the Golden Globe last Sunday night, while both men have secured their Oscar nominations playing that most bankable of Oscar bait—the tortured genius.
In The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch, 38, plays the British Alan Turing, the for-many-years unsung hero of World War II who deciphered the German Enigma code, but who was secretly gay, and convicted for gross indecency with another man after which he was chemically castrated. His death from cyanide poisoning in 1954 was ruled a suicide; but some believe otherwise. In 2013, the Queen gave Turing a posthumous royal pardon.
Redmayne, meanwhile, in The Theory of Everything, plays Stephen Hawking, the British physicist and author (most famously of A Brief History of Time) who suffers from paralyzing motor neuron disease. Both are distinctive performances, with Redmayne’s necessarily the most physically demanding. While The Imitation Game focuses on Turing’s work, The Theory of Everything goes light on astrophysics, in favor of a thorough examination of Hawking’s personal life.
“We haven’t spoken, but we have texted,” Redmayne told Entertainment Weekly about sharing the Oscar news with Cumberbatch. “There was many an exclamation mark being used. We’ve come up together and Ben is a good friend, and such an amazing actor. Benedict is so extraordinary in Imitation Game. It is a genuine honor to be amongst that group of actors.”
The two men share some funny flipsides: Redmayne attended Eton College, a classmate of Prince William; Cumberbatch attended the other top-tier British private school, Harrow. He also played Hawking once, in the 2004 BBC film Hawking.
For his part, Cumberbatch said of his Oscar nomination, “I am knocked for six by this. So excited and honored to receive this recognition. It’s wonderful to be included by the Academy in this exceptional year of performances. To ring my parents who are both actors and tell them that their only son has been nominated for an Oscar is one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Of playing Hawking himself, Cumberbatch told The Daily Beast that Redmayne had texted him from Harrow, when he was filming there, “underneath a chalkboard with my name on it while he was dressed as Stephen Hawking. It was one of the most surreal, hall-of-mirrors experiences I’ve had of the past year.”
In terms of fan-following, Redmayne has joked that he (so far) hasn’t had Cumberbatch’s experience of a dedicated group of hysterical women trailing his every move—this devotion rooted in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock.
Redmayne told The Guardian in 2011 that he and Cumberbatch had done a charity show at London theater, the Old Vic. “There was this group of women outside the theatre who name themselves ‘the Cumberbitches’ and follow him round the world. I have nothing like that. I really wouldn’t know what to do with the situation.”
Redmayne was also determined to make Hawking his own, so resisted watching Cumberbatch’s 2004 BBC drama, or asking Cumberbatch for any advice or guidance in taking on the role.
“Ben’s an old friend and I think he’s staggeringly talented,” Redmayne told The Daily Beast. “We did The Other Boleyn Girl together and played Scarlett Johansson’s husbands. I had to make the choice when I got cast in [The Theory of Everything] whether or not I’d watch it, and I thought, ‘Knowing me, if I watch this I’ll probably steal the best bits,’ so I didn’t.”
Whoever wins the Oscar, do not expect fisticuffs. As Cumberbatch told Hello! magazine: “It’s not rivalry. It’s a friendship. I will be the first person on my feet if Eddie wins any of the prizes he will rightfully be nominated for—I will be front and center, screaming, clapping and delighting in any accolade that is thrown his way. People can try to whip it up between us all they like—Eddie and I will just stand back and laugh at you all.”
But they are also British, and so if one of these friends wins the Oscar, while the camera is on one of the other, smiling and clapping, just know that in his mind or under his breath he will have also said, crisply, “Bastard.”