Blog| 31 May 2011 | Congratulations, dear Watson

The cat is out of the bag. The actor is named. The latest recruit to the Jackson troops is the superb Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock Holmes to Bilbo's Watson. Martin Freeman let it slip when he picked up his BAFTA.

Martin told me he was "chuffed" about the prize. So was the entire crew back here in Wellington; and about Benedict. Now, what can he be playing in The Hobbit?

Philippa Boyens showed me a snippet of his screen-test, played in close-up into the camera. It was electrifying, vocally and facially. Yes, what can he be playing?

I worked with Timothy Cumberbatch in a Shaw double-bill in 1966. Perhaps he thought his surname might be a hindrance, because his stage-name was/is Timothy Carlton — a dextrous light comedian with charm and long legs. (Not as long as those of Sian Phillips who was en travestie in the same play, Man of Destiny.)

More recently, in Asylum, I worked with Mrs Cumberbatch, Wanda Ventham, one of UK television's most popular stars. Now I get to work with the son — or do I? Depends, of course, what he's playing.

The sleuths are the third double-act in The Hobbit.

The current Sydney Theatre Company production of Uncle Vanya, couples Galadriel and Elrond as Yelena and Astrov. I wish I could see them at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC in August. But then they will both miss The Syndicate.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's King Lear came to Wellington in 2007, when I introduced Sylvester McCoy to one of his Dr. Who fans, Peter Jackson. Now Lear and his Fool are a couple of wizards.

— Ian McKellen, Wellington, 31 May 2011


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