Benedict Cumberbatch says playing a non-binary character in Zoolander 2 ‘backfired’

‘Sherlock’ actor said the role would now be played by a trans actor

Sam Moore
Friday 28 January 2022 19:00
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Zoolander 2 - Trailer

Benedict Cumberbatch has said it “backfired” when he played a non-binary character in Zoolander 2.

Speaking with Penelope Cruz, who also starred in the movie, for Variety, the Doctor Strange actor addressed the backlash to his casting.

He said: “There was a lot of contention around the role, understandably now. And I think in this era, my role would never be performed by anybody other than a trans actor.”

Cumberbatch added: “But I remember at the time not thinking of it necessarily in that regard, and it being more about two dinosaurs, two heteronormative clichés not understanding this new diverse world. But it backfired a little bit.”

He finished by adding that he enjoyed working with the cast: “But it was lovely to meet you in that brief moment and to work with Ben and Owen.”

Cumberbatch’s casting, as well as the film, were criticised by LGBT activists for its jokes about trans people and for not using a trans actor to play a trans character.

A petition that circulated at the time and reached over 25,000 signatures said: “By hiring a cis actor to play a nonbinary individual in a clearly negative way, they film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large.”

Cumberbatch can currently be seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home where he reprises his role as Doctor Strange. He also appears in acclaimed Netflix drama, The Power of the Dog.

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