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Benedict Cumberbatch Opens Up On Controversy Of Playing Non-Binary Character

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Benedict Cumberbatch Opens Up On Controversy Of Playing Non-Binary Character

Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the controversy around playing a non-binary character almost six years after taking the role.

The actor commented on his past performance in a conversation with fellow Zoolander 2 star Penelope Cruz, though she is better known for plenty of other films including her recent movie Parallel Mothers which is earning rave reviews.

The stars were speaking to each other as part of Variety's 'Actors on Actors' series and reminiscing about their brief crossing of paths in Rome during the filming of Zoolander 2.

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Benedict Cumberbatch (Alamy)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Alamy)

During the conversation, Cumberbatch said that despite enjoying working with Cruz, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson on the movie he now thinks his playing a non-binary character 'backfired a bit' and didn't land with audiences the way he had hoped.

'There was a lot of contention around All, understandably now', he said. 'And I think in this era, my role would never be performed by anybody other than a trans actor.'

'But I remember at the time not thinking of it necessarily in that regard, and it being more about two dinosaurs, two heteronormative clichés not understanding this new diverse world.'

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Benedict Cumberbatch in Zoolander 2 (Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection)
Benedict Cumberbatch in Zoolander 2 (Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection)

In the film, Stiller and Wilson's characters struggle to work out whether All is a man or a woman and asks them whether they have a 'hot dog or a bun'.

While Cumberbatch said that Stiller's Derek Zoolander and Wilson's Hansel were meant to be the butt of the joke for not keeping up with the times, particularly as transgender and non-binary models had made a rise in the fashion world between the first Zoolander movie and its sequel, to many audiences it came off as insulting.

It caused controversy at the time among LGBTQ+ activists who accused the film of transphobia and called Cumberbatch's portrayal an 'over-the-top, cartoonish mockery' of transgender and non-binary individuals, as per The Guardian.

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Others described the film as 'the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority', and in the years since there have been growing calls for transgender and non-binary roles to go to trans and non-binary actors instead of being handed to an established big name star.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open 8pm–midnight Mondays and Fridays and is run by trans volunteers 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Film & TV, Celebrity, Film and TV, LGBTQ

Joe Harker
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