Does ‘Fifth Estate’ Bombing Hurt Benedict Cumberbatch as a Leading Man?

Does 'Fifth Estate' Bombing Hurt Benedict

Busy character actor has five films released in 2013, including two this weekend

With three films already released this year — including two this weekend — Benedict Cumberbatch is being called by some in the press the “actor-of-the-moment,” though he suffered his first box office roadblock this weekend as a leading man, with Disney-DreamWorks’ “The Fifth Estate” grossing a dismal $1.7 million, the worst debut for a wide release this year.

That said, Cumberbatch also scored a stellar showing this weekend with New Regency’s “12 Years a Slave,” in which he stars alongside a powerhouse ensemble including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard. “12 Years a Slave,” which Fox Searchlight is marketing and distributing, averaged more than $50,000 per screen from 19 locations.

What do the weekend’s mixed B.O. results mean for Cumberbatch, who starred earlier this year as the villain in “Star Trek Into Darkness” and has “August: Osage County” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” waiting in the wings?

Ultimately, the busy actor’s rising profile in better-received ensemble films should help his chances as a leading man, “The Fifth Estate” notwithstanding.

To Cumberbatch’s credit, “The Fifth Estate,” in which he plays controversial WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange (“Rush” actor Daniel Bruhl plays co-founder Daniel Berg), received most of its top marks in praise of Cumberbatch’s performance. Variety called the film “cluttered and overly frenetic,” but said Cumberbatch “captures Assange’s slightly otherworldly air, as well as numerous creepier qualities.”

SEE ALSO: Film review: ‘The Fifth Estate’

It’s virtually impossible to believe that Cumberbatch chose to play Assange with aspirations of it making him a leading man. (The real-life Assange was extremely divisive, even among his most avid supporters.) Yet, the chance to lead a cast has its appeal.

In “12 Years a Slave,” which is generating serious awards buzz, particularly for Ejiofor and Nyong’o, Cumberbatch plays a more sympathetic character, a fact that could go a long way in a film full of despicable people.

SEE ALSO: Film review: ’12 Years a Slave’

Fox Searchlight needs to continue working toward making “12 Years” more than just a marginal hit at the box office.

At just 19 engagements, the film grossed a total estimated $960,000 domestically — a solid showing overall boosted by an ‘A’ CinemaScore rating. Moreover, exit polls showed that “12 Years” attracted a wide range of moviegoers in terms of age and ethnicity, according to the distributor, which expands the film to upwards of 125 theaters on Friday.

For Cumberbatch, who the L.A. Times in its review of “Fifth Estate” calls him the “actor-of-the-moment,” the role in that film still puts him front-and-center in a career that so far has been shared with many.

So, to those five people who saw the film this weekend and liked Cumberbatch in it, do him a solid: Tweet.

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  1. Yess says:

    1. Benedict Cumberbatch has exceptional acting skills. He has the charm and the charisma and I will not deny that fact.

    Well, of course he might not suit everybody’s preferences. like how half the world thinks One Direction or Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus is hot and sexy but half of the world thinks they are totally not. While some have a neutral view? Yep. So stop saying ‘I don’t understand why people thinks he’s hot and sexy’. Well everyone has one person they want to incessantly say that sentence to.

    I appreciate his great points like his acting and his charisma, but you people did not have to dig at his little flaws in which he has no control over – his looks, his name, his nationality. It is useless because they are things that are fixed and makes BC who he is. I think it’s perfectly OK.

    2. The subject of the movie. Even if a really good actor portrays the main character, if you did not like what the movie is about then why watch it? I’m pretty sure there are factors that caused this bomb, that are not related to any of the actors or scriptwriting.

    3. Advertising. The movie is out and I initially already planned to watch it when it comes out back in August when I saw sneak previews of it in my local magazine. I wasn’t sure about the Air date then. I watched several movies but I did not see any advertisements or trailers in theaters or my TV station or at bus stops or magazines. There wasn’t much advertising and I did not even know it was showing.

    4. Growing demands that are impossible to fulfill. Are you sure you guys are not to blame for this, or that you have never noticed? Critics are now famed for being overly harsh and critical (because it shows depth to review everything negatively just to show that you can point out something controversial). It’s so difficult to please people nowadays. It’s true that there are terrible films, the lack of effort put into the acting is fairly obvious enough. However the actors took their roles seriously in this film. They were studying their roles and thinking about ways to portray a character. Acting is not a simple job, in which you simply memorize lines and step in front of a camera and voila, you’re famous.

    5. It’s just week one.
    Come on, a release at this time?! I’ve got my A levels to take! I’ve got exams! I’ll go get the DVD. Or watch later, after exams.

    6. Is this film for children? No. It is a biopic. It’s not something you expect your whole family to watch or even bringing your date to. Especially if you’re in the US. What the heck? Watching a Julian Assange biopic on his psychological adventure and ‘betrayal’ with your girlfriend/boyfriend/children? This is a movie that gives you insight and invokes thought.

    A real flump will be a terribly filmed, book-based (yet disloyal to the book and adding in bits of unneeded, shallow theatrics and essences), out of the world ‘adventure’ film with terrible acting (note the word ‘terrible’).

  2. Helen says:

    “He’s an immersive actor; he’s physical. You have to keep feeding him, trying to keep him stimulated. The engine has to be stoked all the time. The joke is that Hollywood thinks it’s investigating him right now to see what he’s made of. The truth is: He’s investigatingthem.” – Danny Boyle, director of the 2011 National Theatre stage production of Frankenstein (x)

  3. Aly says:

    I don’t think BC gives a rat’s patootie whether or not he becomes a Hollywood leading man. He’s spent most of the last decade + building a career playing roles that interest and challenge him, and he has said that he hopes to continue to do so. He had a career before Hollywood came calling, and will continue to do so. He’s one of the best actors out there, and all the speculation won’t change that.

  4. StoryGirlNY says:

    Both Benedict and Bill Condon are willing to make interesting and risky film choices and explore unorthodox material. It wouldn’t be risky if there was no chance of others not entering in. I saw it and found it cerebral but thought-provoking. It changed my perception of the world and the new information age we live in. Fascinating and terrifying. Not sure people on Twitter line up for that. But thanks, Bene and Bill!

  5. Henry says:

    The movie bombed because no one likes or cares about Asange. The subject matter and the poor directing killed this movie. Cumberbatch is its only redeeming quality.

  6. Erin says:

    I was one of those “five people,” and I loved it. It had me on the edge of my seat. People are just so close-minded to other genres of movies.

  7. JZP says:

    Thank you! Finally, a smart assessment of the actor Benedict Cumberbatch vis a vis The Movie That Bombed.

    As a side note, I bet Cumberbatch alone could have set box office records for this stinker–that is, if he were allowed to LOOK and SOUND like himself instead of…well. Yeah.

  8. Jared Davis says:

    I love me the ‘Batch, but honestly, it was too soon to make this movie. I’m not too interested in a movie whose plot was covered in the news over the past couple years. Also, I had no idea it was already out.

  9. Dan says:

    The film bombed, he is not to blame. But he has himself to blame for picking the worse film to starr in as his first ever leading man role on big screen. Not his fault though, picking the right film to work on is in itself an art. He may be the most popular guy on the Internet, but he’s no Michael Fassbender.

    • Annie Paper says:

      Benedict Cumberbatch is not only the most popular guy on the Internet but he is also a respectable actor in UK. He is regarded as one of the best actor potrayed Sherlock Holmes and got a Lawerence Olivier Award for his performance in “Frankenstein”…well, if you don’t know what an Olivier Award is, other winners included Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen. In fact it’s Americans oversold him into a “Channing Tatum” guy and of course he’s not to blame.

  10. Hank says:

    Now he got two #1 in his title, #1 sexiest man in the world per Empire Magazine and #1 box office bomb per Box Office Mojo. Frankly, he deserves neither.

  11. Patricia Ford says:

    Tell the Cumberman that I, at least have got his back. An avid fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, who is simply wonderful in this film and in everything I have seen him in thus far–no lie–I never lie about art, I’ve seen The Fifth Estate twice at the Toronto Film Festival and twice over the weekend in Baltimore. Benedict did a fantastic job, but he didn’t write it, direct it, score it. The film itself simply was not well done. NOT his fault. Ridiculous to blame him. It was still a joy to watch him perform. What a great artist!

  12. Jo says:

    You forgot to mention Michael Fassbender who’s kind of the lead in 12 years a slave. As far as I’ve heard, Fassbender and Ejiofor are both sensational in 12YAS and are getting all the Oscar buzz.

  13. The Kingslayer says:

    I think it’s more to do with the subject matter.

  14. Ado says:

    He is a fairly good actor, but immensely oversold as the the next hot thing, the next Brad Pitt or something, I mean when you have people saying that this guy is one the sexiest actors around these days something is really wrong. I mean, a normal looking guy, pretty much, but this is not a really handsome or sexy guy.

  15. Lisa H says:

    Now I feel terrible! As a proud Cumberb**ch, I was going to go opening night but I got sick. I’m not terribly interested in this subject matter at all, but I’d pay to watch Benedict read the dictionary. I REALLY wanted to see 12 Years a Slave, but of course it isn’t in my market. Not Benedict’s fault; he is a brilliant actor and I am looking forward to seeing him in many more movies!! I honestly blame the subject matter.

  16. Amazing. I don’t know ANY of these people. Apparently there’s no errol flynns here.

    • says:

      You really need to compare this film with another where he is the full lead. The others are ensemble pieces where he is not really even the characters where the story revolves. In addition, I don’t think Americans were going to go out in droves to see a film that is about a man who set out to embarrass the USA anyway.

  17. I’m going to see TFE this week just for Benedict’s performance. He is an exceptional actor with incredible versatility. Not interested in actual TFE topic and I believe that is the main reason it bombed in addition to the poor reviews.

  18. b says:

    It has nothing to do with the liberal media. Conservatives hate that piece of crap Assange as well.

  19. juandos says:

    Well I won’t be able to watch Sherlock which is very good BTW without thinking about this miserable pig of a movie…

  20. Devon says:

    The fact that his name is BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH hurts his chances of being a leading man. Doesn’t anyone remember when actors with embarrassing real names changed their names?

    • DD says:

      Really? “Benedict Cumberbatch” is somehow weirder than “Zach Galifianakis”? And because his name is odd, somehow that means he shouldn’t be able to work? That makes total sense.

    • says:

      I’d say the opposite. And we’re taking digs at his name now? Oh great. Nice to see how this comment section has gone completely downhill.

      • Susan says:

        THANK YOU, I was just thinking the same thing! His name is not embarrassing, it’s distinctive. And he has the talent to overcome any name, even if it was embarrassing.

  21. Trisha ball says:

    I thot it was pretty brave to be a real life person who can easily be vilified or hailed a hero. I don’t think anyone cares about one movie making or breaking Benedict Cumberbatchs chance to be a leading man. It’s one movie. Why not just sit back and enjoy the ride of all of his acting projects. It is a delight to see him in many things and stretching himself in characters that you feel passionate about. My favorite Cumberbatch character is James in Third Star. Whatever he does, he does a great job getting an opinion from us the public. Quite frankly, I admire the actors who take the chances. Life isn’t about playing it safe……I’m glad he doesn’t either…..he still has time to grow….lets just keep watching ….

  22. Lilacs says:

    I’ve been saying since I first saw Cumberbatch in Frankenstein that he is not an actor to appeal to U.S. audiences as a leading man. There’s something so off-putting about the man.

    • Janey says:

      I think you’ll find that most critics said BC was the better in both parts – but anyway he is a friend of Johnny’s and the remarks he made were a joke in an article taken out of context. He is a brilliant actor who plays the part as required without worrying whether he looks good or not. His career has won him rave reviews in television, radio, theatre and film. Other actors appear to be extremely fond of him.

    • marmeladexxx says:

      He was pure brilliance in Frankenstein? He got an Olivier award for it. You are probably mistaking the actor for the character which is really funny. Bless you.

      • Lilacs says:

        He shared the lead roles and the Olivier award with Jonny Lee Miller. Miller was considered far more inventive as the Creature and even brought more depth to the role of Victor. Miller’s work has long been admired in America. I’m a Miller fan – and I dislike some quotes attributed in the press to Cumberbatch.

      • Susan says:

        He disappears into every character he plays, and has more genuine intelligence and charisma than the majority of actors out there (and I’m American); he’s just getting warmed up, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

  23. Tony Copelin says:

    It means he made a movie on a subject that people are tired of hearing about and don’t want to be preached to in the theater. It means he also made another movie that people have an interest in seeing. 12 years a Slave looks like it is a great story with great reviews. People want to go to be entertained,not subjected to a history review.

    • Susan says:

      I agree with that to an extent, except I think 12 Years a Slave is going to be a brutal history lesson.

    • Jay Sholin says:

      I agree completely. The last thing movie audiences want is to be preached to. I get enough preaching when I go to church. Over all movies to day suck big time. They are either remakes or sequels. Most are big budget bombs and floperoos. They concentrate on special effects instead of story and character development. Many films today are just so much liberal propaganda. And when a movie comes out based on a true story, the truth is usually left out by the writer or director. It just isn’t worth going to the movies anymore especially when ticket prices are so high and the concession stand prices are three times more than regular prices.

  24. JK1193 says:

    Ignorance from American audiences and the government shutdown hurt the release. I heard a lot of good things about it following its Toronto screening and assumed it would do decent business, but the shutdown I’m positive had a major part to play. And if people are saying that the failure of this film and their displeasure with the Khan secret in Into Darkness (which from what I’ve seen is the main reason why the fans hate it so much despite rave reviews and giant box office) will hurt Cumberbatch’s reputation as an actor, that’s pretty shameful.

    • DB says:

      Sooo why would the shutdown effect this movie but none of the others?

      • Sam says:

        Because so many people weren’t payed for over two weeks and won’t be payed for two more weeks. It hurt a lot of people. People had to worry about food over movies unfortunately. I had to save up for two weeks to go see the movie. I liked it. I didn’t find it preachy to either side. Benedict is a really great actor. He is amazing in most of the things he’s done. I think his performance in this movie was truly great. Just because the entire movie wasn’t outstanding doesn’t take away from his performance.

  25. Michael says:

    Benedict is a fine actor, but he is not, and never will be a leading man in Hollywood. He’s strictly a character actor. He doesn’t open films, but he can certainly fill out a great cast.

    • marmeladexxx says:

      Nonsense. He is an obvious leading man. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on screen. He is sexy, an alpha male and always the best actor in every movie he’s in. People didn’t like Estate because of the subject, not because Cumberbatch wasn’t a leading man. Have you seen Sherlock? The moment the first episode was aired a new leading man was born.

      • Helen says:

        I agree, He has great charisma. I’m not part of any fan league of his, but I am a fan of his acting. I can’t take my eyes off him when he’s on screen. A true talent and he has the most striking face (in a good way).

      • Julie says:

        “Sexy, alpha male”?! What on earth are you smoking? Seriously, can I have some?

        Cumberbatches problem right now may be his Tumblr Army of fan girls. They are few but loud enough that he and his team start to think he can be a leading man, when really he needs to be building cred as a reliable character player. He needs to be modelling Phillip Seymour Hoffmans career arc.

        This film may have been awful but a better leading man could have put more butts in seats. A wide release that grosses that little reflects on the leads popularity, period. Jennifer Aniston pulls 10 times more even though her material is usually awful. So tune out your tumblr ladies Cumby, stop overeaching and play the long game. You may even be able to carry a film or 2 in a decade, again refer to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

      • cynic says:

        BC is about as unsexy as they come, fangirl drooling notwithstanding. You ladies need to venture outside your echo chamber and look at some real Hollywood hunks.

      • Susan says:

        You are spot-on! He’s amazing, and what I love is that he cares far more about the work than about his status as a movie star. I saw The Fifth Estate, it was good, but he was definitely the best thing about it; I doubt he’s wringing his hands today, worrying about his “leading man” bankability. He’s getting attention for being GOOD.

  26. One film doesn’t ruin the career of an actor like Cumberbatch, especially if the fault isn’t in his performance (it isn’t). This is a niche film. Somehow the studio and producers lost their way on what they were making. That said, I won’t be surprised if it does quite well later on in the home-release market.

  27. I don’t think The Fifth Estate will hurt Cumberbatch’s image as a leading man one bit. The movie might be a turkey, but even a turkey can get a bit of a positive image with the lead.

  28. V.M.L. says:

    Benedict just doesn’t look like Julian Assange AT ALL!

  29. another hairy kardashian sister says:

    the subject matter and the overall film killed it not Benedict. he’s the only good thing about it. The budget was way too high for a subject that never really caught the general publics imagination. Nobody knows or cares about Assange.

  30. Celia Peri says:

    Benedict was terrific & the main reason to see the movie. I thought he was way better than the material he had to work with. I guess he liked the script , so he did it. That’s what an actor should do. It very USA to try & dang a career based on ‘take’ from one weekend. How crass.

  31. ohgoodgrief621 says:

    I saw The Fifth Estate the day it opened at the first matinee. There were four of us in the theater. The film’s failure to succeed is it’s subject matter, not the opinion of reviewers. American audiences aren’t known for how well we embrace smart, thought provoking films. The Fifth Estate suffers from a total lack of blood, guts, nudity, and sophomoric humor. Cumberbatch does an incredible job of portraying a complicated figure who impacted world events and changed the way we think about digital information, in a film that presents the viewer with wide ranging questions to consider.
    Questions? Like on a test? American audiences don’t want to think anymore than is required.

  32. TJ says:

    It’s not a great movie, but if it had a disappointing opening weekend in only 15 or 20 cities, no one would be talking about it. A film like this should have never been opened wide and it should have never been marketed like a popcorn thriller. It was simply never going to appeal to the masses. Its disappointing box office opening is not only due to the quality of the film, but also the subject matter and the way it was marketed and handled. At any rate, it’s not bad enough to be a real black mark on an otherwise respectable career. I have yet to see a bad review of Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance (other than from Julian Assange, who probably hadn’t even seen the movie before he decided to malign it). That wig was regrettable, though. Audiences need to see more of him being handsome and sympathetic, if he’s to be a leading man. So, it’s a good thing “12 Years A Slave” and “August: Osage County” are following “The Fifth Estate” so closely.

  33. MichaelZ says:

    “leading man??” Huh? Physical resemblance got him the “lead” in this dud. Nothing more, nothing less. He never was and never will be a true leading man. Great character actor is a distinct possibility, but not leading man.

    • another hairy kardashian sister says:

      he’s was voted worlds sexiest actor in Empire mags recent global poll. That implies great leading man potential coz these are hardcore movie fans. It just needs a good subject matter and a role that shows his looks and talents off in a great light. As Assange he looks awful and the character has all the sex appeal of roadkill. But any leading man actor you could mention has had massive flops at the box office.

      • Michael says:

        Empire is a British mag. What they think of as sexy has nothing to do with American mainstream taste.

    • Angela says:

      Physical resemblance? He doesn’t look anything like Assange. His face/entire head is a different shape, his eyes are a different shape, as well as his mouth and teeth. He wore contacts to change his eye color, a wig to change his hair, fake upper teeth to change his mouth. The makeup/hair crew made him look him Assange.

      • The Kingslayer says:

        Eh their tastes aren’t exactly that vastly different, and besides the poll was conducted online not through their magazine.

    • ohgoodgrief621 says:

      Look again. He doesn’t resemble Julian Assange at all. They did what they could to make him recognizable with Assange’s iconic hair and through wardrobe. Any other “resemblance” is called acting. Cumberbatch is a tremendous actor. Give him the right vehicles, he’ll “lead”.

    • Christir says:

      I beg to differ. Benedict can and should be a leading man. Great acting aside, he is extremely attractive and his voice makes me melt.

  34. Rose says:

    Not at all. I believe the subject matter, and not Benedict are to blame. I wasn’t planning to see this in the theater, because I find Assange to be an unpleasant person. I’m just not interested.

  35. DD says:

    I’d wager that those of us in the CumberCollective would very much like to see him in a romantic lead, rather than as a creepy computer hacker. THAT we’d pay big bucks to see.

    • Christie says:

      Watch Parade’s End for leading man material. And yes, smart is SEXY,

    • says:

      noooo! Nooo that is NOT what we want to see. We want INTERESTING characters, and Assange was a great role and challenge! (and also, maybe I’m weird for thinking Assange wasn’t portrayed as creepily as everyone keeps saying…). I really liked the film!

  36. evelyn says:

    I don’t see why one stinker of a movie that Benedict Cumberbatch makes should affect his career. He is a fabulous actor. There are some top-notch actors that have made movies they wouldn’t even care to talk about. So,no I don’t think this will hurt his career.

  37. johnnydee says:

    How do you leave out Michael Fassbender in your mentions of “12 Years A Slave”?

    • Having seen 12 Years a Slave I’m disgusted that Cumberfans among reporters are trying to spin the movie’s success as something that has to do with BC’s miniscule role. First Entertainment Weekly dared to call the movie BC’s vehicle (as if he’s the main star), and now Variety is trying to credit Slave’s performance to BC. Well, let me educate jaded fandboys and fangirls, both professionals and tumblr ones, about what he really does in this movie. He has about 5 rather unmemorable scenes. Most memorable thing that happens on his character’s turf doesn’t even have him in it. It’s something that happens to Paul Dano and then what happens after that. Pretty much Ejioror has to stretch his acting and actual muscles (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). BC is definitely NOT among stand outs nor is his role important and big. Fassbender is definitely a standout, has tons to do acting-wise and actually is given more in the way of showing range and character development than Ejiofor himself. So all this talk that BC is singled out by critics (lol, wut? Maybe couple of fanboys but not general consensus, c’mon!) as some fnas are now making up and that he’s the reason for the movie’s good opening in limited release is biased nonsense. There.

      • Sam says:

        I haven’t been able to see 12 Years A Slave yet, but I haven’t seen any one say anything about Benedict. I am very aware that his part is small. I think everyone who likes Benedict are just happy to see him in such a great film. I don’t like that Everyone is saying that it’s all Micheal Fassbender. I’m much more interested in Ejiofor. It’s just nice to Benedict be a good character in a movie where there are a lot of not bad, evil I suppose is the closest word I can think of, Characters.

    • chris says:

      agreed, Fassbender even has a bigger role than Benedict.

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