I kind of get where you’re coming from, but this is a common misconception when it comes to Benedict, some other INFJs, or people with well-developed Fe.
Be warned, this is probably going to be pretty long!
First and foremost, Benedict does not always relish in the attention he recieves.
He’s actually quite a private guy outside of public appearances and really enjoys when he gets to be anonymous, like he said in this interview while he was in NYC last year. Sure, you can say this about many celebrities, but with him it deserves to be mentioned.
You see, as that interview says Benedict’s been working as an actor for over ten years, and only recently stepped out into the spotlight thanks to Sherlock. I’ve heard people blame his management for not exposing him enough, but the truth is that it was his own choice.
This can be seen in quite a few of his old interviews, namely this one: ”Despite the high-profile roles and Oscar-nominated movies, this actor prefers to remain ‘off the radar”…. ‘I’m lucky, I escape the radar - I can take the tube without too many weird looks, apart from one or two people who are clearly wondering whether I was at their cousin’s wedding,’ grins Benedict.”
And you think he always looks 100% comfortable with everyone looking at him? I don’t. At all.
He gets nervous a lot. He’s a not really a good public speaker, and many times he needs direction and rehearsal in order to feel okay with himself. He also tends to do a lot better with friends and/or co-stars around, or in high energy settings where the scene is cool and casual. This is why he seemed so outgoing at Graham Norton, Alan Carr’s show, or even the PBS Q&A last year. Remember how terrified he was just walking down the runway for Spencer Hart? Or how about the time when he accepted the South Bank Sky Arts award for Parade’s End, clammed up, and let Tom Stoppard take over the speech? People who went to the Chetlenham Literacy festival in October can also testify that he had the whole audience do breathing exercises with him at the beginning so he could calm his nerves.
Ever wondered why he rambles so much at red carpet events? Nervous energy. Trust me, it’s not always because he’s so excited about the attention he’s getting. I tend to talk a lot when I’m nervous too. Back in 2008 when he did the Other Boleyn Girl, he said this about those events: “It’s really thrilling being on the red carpet, although completely nerve-racking. I’m not particularly good in large crowds. All those bright lights can feel a bit daunting.”
I can still see this happening with him, when he stands for those silly photoshoots they do. So many times, you can see him do an obviously fake smile (or just looking expressionless) and he may appear comfortable but something is off about his stiff posture and in his mind he’s probably going ‘What do I do now? Can I get out of here?’
At parties (at least the ones where he looks like he’s enjoying himself and it’s not just a networking shindig) he’s with friends who he’s obviously comfortable with. In the photos I’ve seen he’s usually with a small group of people at a time and not necessarily the center of attention. I know he likes to dance, but that’s mainly because he’s hyperactive as fuck. That’s got to be said, because he certainly has more energy than “normal” introverts in those situations. I don’t think it’s because he’s extroverted, but because he obviously has ADHD. This is also why he’s always working. The man cannot sit still! Even when he’s on holiday, he’s still doing something. I could fill an entire entry on why I think this but that’ll have to be saved for another time.*
Second: His ambitious behavior.
I’m not denying how ambitious he is. Good lord, he’s one of the most driven people in showbiz right now! But who says you need to be an extrovert in order to have the drive to be a successful performer?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Benedict is not an actor because he wanted to be famous. He’s an actor because he enjoys doing it. He really really loves his job, and it is clear that he want’s to be successful so he is able to have the freedom to do whatever he wants with his work. People have said to me that they believe Benedict wants fame and attention because he cited Brad Pitt and George Clooney as an inspiration. I read the article they were talking about, and this is the quote they drew the conclusion from:
"I’m interested in just playing the game a little bit, because it gives you a lot more choice. It gives you power and if you become indispensable to that machine it gives you a greater variety, which is what I always wanted. My career’s always been about longevity – I’ve never wanted to be an adolescent flash in the pan. Brad Pitt, Clooney — they’re in a really privileged position where they are the men who get film screen net [a share of box office receipts], and there are about five people in the world who can do that. They’re great people to emulate as a business model.”
It’s easy to say that he wants to be like them because they’re total Hollywood a-listers and uber famous, but the key words here are as a business model. Pitt has a production company. Clooney directs his own films. Both of them have been around for years and years, and the only thing that would stop them from acting at this point in time is if they choose to retire. In order to get clout in the film industry, and have longevity and freedom that they do, you have to be super-successful, have a box office draw, have awards under your belt, etc. He’s a smart man, so he knows this.
As for outside the UK? I’ve seen him mention he wanted Sherlock to be popular outside the UK, but not really himself. But it’s only natural for someone to be proud of their work and want everyone around the world to be able to see it.
Thirdly, and this brings me back to MBTI: Benedict is a Fe user.
Those with extroverted feeling functions (fe) are very people-oriented. I’m an introvert Fe user and I am too. Many introverts with a well-developed Fe like INFJs are mistakenly identified as extroverts.
My brother, who I am convinced is an INTJ, always says to me “why do you talk about people so much? It’s always ‘they did this’ and ‘they did that’”. I force myself to be involved in social situations because I find people so damn interesting, but there’s a time where enough is enough and I have to leave or draw myself inward.
They may be easy to miss, but Benedict is hardly ever seen without his earphones nearby when he isn’t working. He even has them on film sets sometimes.
Sure, they may be used to block out extra noise if you have to concentrate on a script, but any introvert knows that earphones can also be a useful tool to signal to others “don’t bother me, I’m not ready to talk to you right now”. Last summer, a few girls bumped into him at the MOMA in New York City. He was sitting on a bench alone near some paintings, quietly listening to music. When the girls approached him, he seemed somewhat nervous but since they asked politely he allowed them to take a photo with him.
And this was said by a reporter at Glastonbury last month: “Even Sherlock can be clueless at Glasto. Benedict Cumberbatch looked very lost in the early hours of Friday. At one point he dumped his luggage in the mud and pushed his headphones in. Possibly because everyone was going, ‘Isn’t that Sherlock?’”
Yep, sounds like the introvert headphone trick to me.
And then there’s this:
"After the show the actor had showered, danced around to Skeleton Boy by Friendly Fires to “shake off” the interwar years, and dived into the National’s Green Room to have a drink with his friends, but then escaped to the fresh air of a balcony, alone. “I just felt, ‘This is too much.’ I was hot. So I walked away from everyone.”
Hm, hanging out with friends but having to escape to fresh air alone with the excuse that you’re “hot”? I’ve done that at parties quite a few times myself.
*It also should be noted that introverts are not necessarily considered “introverts” because they are shy and uncomfortable in crowds. It’s because they get their energy from within themselves. Whereas extroverts usually need people around to gain energy. For example, if an extrovert needs to recharge they go out to a party or hang out with a group of friends. It’s obviously the opposite for introverts.
In Benedict’s case, he may feel elevated when surrounded by positive emotion because of Fe but I don’t really think he gets his energy from other people. In fact, people feed off of his energy, and are able to elevate their performance because of him, as JJ Abrams stated before.
Like anonymity, Benedict seems to enjoy solitude. It does seem like he needs to be alone to fully recharge. Benedict’s a bookworm and has expressed that one of his main gripes about LA was that there ”wasn’t enough libraries”. He’s talked about spending a lot of time in the library at Harrow too, and an interview mentioned him also spending long hours painting canvasses in an unused squash court when he was there.
Like he says in one of my favorite quotes by him, “I’ve done some crazy stuff in my time, yet I can feel infinitely alive curled up on a sofa reading a book.”
[Not saying that extroverts can’t enjoy reading, but I doubt that they would say that one of the things they didn’t like about LA was it’s lack of libraries. XD]
But all this is just pure speculation. Why not let Benedict himself tell us how he feels?
“I’m not that confident in social situations - just going up to someone in a bar and saying hi is even more difficult for me because they won’t know the real me.”
So if you ask me, Benedict’s not always the confident, charismatic, and charming man he appears to be. Even Simon Pegg (who was mostly joking but what he says still deserves some merit) and Mark Gatiss see this. The most telling example, however, comes from a blog entry written Vaughan Sivell, the producer and director of Third Star. In it, he recounts Benedict’s reaction to watching himself on “Have I Got News For You”:
"I sat and watched him watching himself. He was thrilled that he “got away with it”, that his suit looked nice; that his memory of people laughing at the right times, on and off script, were real. He was edgy throughout and so relieved when it was over. It was strange to see him so effected by it at first– but of course I realised he was having to be himself. Like the great chameleons of the stage and screen, having to decide on a version of himself to go on camera was a risky business for him.
I’m not sure to what extent that was a turning point, but throughout that period I really felt he had to adjust to life as Benedict Cumberbatch in some way – and he found his feet. Whatever personal doubts he had had, that were inaccurate, are far fewer now. Being really appreciated for what he does best has made him happier in his own skin… So he can spend the rest of his life enjoying wearing other peoples.”
…I could have just left you with that quote without all this rambling nonsense. As it shows, Benedict wasn’t always this confident and comfortable. He has had years of working in showbusiness to prepare him for being thrust into the spotlight, and he’s gradually gotten used to it over time.
But don’t forget he’s an actor. A pretty damn good one! He may be a very genuine person, but it’s not that difficult for him to feel one emotion and show another when the need arises. So even now, when he seems to exude confidence and has the appearance of being calm and collected- it might just be smoke and mirrors.
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