One of the most well-respected British thespians of his generation, Benedict Cumberbatch may have taken the classic route to acting fame: spouting off Shakespeare at drama school, followed by BBC roles and eventually films, but his type of fame is decidedly 21st century. Cumberbatch is beloved by a very devoted cadre of fans, who line the stranger corners of the internet with all sorts of fan art and memes dedicated to their favorite actor. From Oscar nominated prestige dramas to Marvel superhero tentpole blockbusters, Cumberbatch's range seems limitless; one might even call him a leading man disguised as an eccentric character actor. Born on July 19. 1976 in London to actors Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, Cumberbatch came from literal royalty: his third cousin sixteen times removed was Richard III. While away at boarding school, Cumberbatch became interested in acting. He made his stage debut at the age of 12, playing Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in a school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Before university, Cumberbatch took a gap year to teach English at a Tibetan monastery, which began a lifetime of studying Buddhist philosophy. After earning his masters in Classical Acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Cumberbatch began working on the stage. His breakthrough in the UK came when he was cast as Stephen Hawking in the miniseries "Hawking" (BBC, 2004), soon followed by an acclaimed role in the film "Amazing Grace" (2006). Cumberbatch next earned his first lead role, in the miniseries "The Last Enemy" (BBC, 2008), before landing the part that would make him a cause celebrae on both sides of the pond: Sherlock Holmes. "Sherlock" (BBC/PBS, 2012-) was a thoroughly modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic sleuth: Cumberbatch's Holmes was acerbic and dangerous, and with Martin Freeman's Watson as his foil, Cumberbatch got to delightfully chew the scenery. His performance in the third season netted him an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Speaking of movies, Cumberbatch's next big role was as a lovesick closeted spy hunting down a mole in Tomas Alfredsson's acclaimed take on the John le Careé classic "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (2011). Thanks to his growing online fandom, Cumberbatch soon found himself on the radar of major filmmakers casting big tentpole projects: for Peter Jackson he lended his voice to the villainous dragon Smaug across three films: "The Hobbit; An Unexpected Journey" (2012), "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013), and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014), while also taking on the role of the legendary sci-fi heavy, Khan, for JJ Abrams's "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013). For his turn as Alan Turing, inventor of the modern computer who was tormented by British law for his homosexuality, in the drama "The Imitation Game" (2014), Cumberbatch received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This also lead to Cumberbatch signing an open letter, published in The Guardian on January 31, 2015, asking the British government to pardon all gay and bisexual men who were convicted under the same defunct "indecency" laws as Alan Turing. Cumberbatch was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2015 for his services on behalf of the arts and charity. For his next role, Cumberbatch took on the titular role of "Doctor Strange" (2016) in Marvel's most psychedelic superhero adventure yet. He would reprise the role for "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018) and "Avengers: Endgame" (2019). Cumberbatch earned another Emmy nomination for his lead role in the miniseries "Patrick Melrose" (HBO, 2018), before taking things full circle to the beginning of his career by taking the job of president of LAMDA, his old alma mater. Cumberbatch could next be seen in Sam Mendes' World War I drama "1917" (2019).