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Benedict Cumberbatch recounts witnessing boarding-school homophobia

Benedict Cumberbatch recounts witnessing boarding-school homophobia

Emmy-award winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch has talked at length about homophobia in the US and UK in an interview with The Daily Beast ahead of the premiere of his latest film, The Imitation Game, in which he plays the part of gay code-breaker Alan Turing.

Turing was an English math genius who not only helped to crack Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, but is credited with being integral in the development of the world’s first computer.

However, his achievements went unrecognized for many years, after he was arrested and prosecuted for ‘indecency’ with another man in 1952. Two years later, he committed suicide at the age of 41, and was all but airbrushed out of history until a groundbreaking biography of his life was published in the 1980s.

Cumberbatch, 38, says that he stills feels angry at the way Turing was treated by the British establishment, and the fact that the Queen only granted a pardon for Turing’s prosecution in late 2013, labeling the delay, ‘pretty disgusting.’

Responding to a comment about the US remaining fairly homophobic, the actor said that, having elected its first African-American President, ‘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.’

The Sherlock-star also said that he had witnessed homophobia himself when at Harrow boarding school in England.

‘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?”… Who cares that they’re gay? You have to coexist.’

Following his prosecution for indecency, Turing was offered the option of prison or hormone treatment to curb his sexual feelings. He opted for the hormones – a decision that many believe contributed to his suicidal depression and angst.

This episode of his life is depicted in the film, and Cumberbatch said that he was outraged that people still think they can ‘cure’ homosexuality.

‘It’s still going on in North America with the Christian far right! There are courses and doctors and meds handed out to “cure” people of their homosexuality, and it’s shocking that it still goes on.’

Besides playing Sherlock Holmes on TV, Cumberbatch has been seen on the big screen playing Julian Assage in The Fifth Estate, as well as roles in 12 Years a Slave, The Hobbit and as the villain Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

The Imitation Game will receive its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this evening (9 September), with further screenings at the festival tomorrow and Thursday.