Over the years, the greatest mark of extreme method acting in Hollywood has come to be seen as an actor willing to lose a drastic amount of weight for a role. Christian Bale did it for The Machinist, Joaquin Phoenix did it for Joker, and now Benedict Cumberbatch has lost over twenty pounds in preparation for playing the lead role in The Courier. In a recent interview, Cumberbatch admitted the process of shedding the required pounds was far from pleasant.
“I lost about a stone and a half (21 lbs), and it was through the usual methods of dieting, but also some extreme exercise. I was very fit. It was all done in a healthy way. It wasn’t about atrophy or lethargy, it was very much about trying to shred everything to shrink wrap my body mass around muscle. But when you do start to feel slightly kind of, I can’t remember what the word is when you… it’s horrible, but it’s basically a description for self digestion, you also have to strip away muscle. And that’s a very nasty thing to be doing.”
Based on true events, The Courier sees Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead role of English businessman Greville Wynne at the height of the Cold War. Feeling restless after years of well-maintained but middling contentment, Greville decides to take the MI6 and CIA up on their offer to have him play a point of contact with Soviet government official Oleg Penkovsky, who wishes to supply information to the West.
What starts out as an exciting adventure for Grevilla soon turns into something more sinister, as he feels compelled to dive deeper down the rabbit hole by volunteering to take on greater responsibilities. This results in over two years worth of dangerous business trips between London and Moscow, over the course of which he forms a personal bond with Oleg.
Unfortunately, luck finally runs out for Greville when he is captured by Soviet authorities and spends many days in lockup before getting released. It was for this portion of the story that Cumberbatch was required to lose weight in order to look convincingly emaciated. According to the actor, the weight loss regimen helped him better understand this difficult portion of Greville’s life.
“You get very disoriented, you feel dehydrated, you feel hungry all the time. You feel emotionally and physically very vulnerable, all of which plays very helpfully into a character that must have endured this for months, if not years.”
The reviews for The Courier so far have been quite positive, with critics praising the cast and the writing, although the basic premise of the film is seen to be all too similar to many other Cold War spy dramas. Cumberbatch in particular has come in for praise for playing the role of a quiet businessman turned unexpected international spy and then a prisoner.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, and Angus Wright, The Courier opens Friday, March 19 in theaters nationwide. This news arrives from CinemaBlend.