When Robert Downey Jr was in town over the weekend to promote Avengers: Infinity War, besides the media conference and public appearances at a Make-a-Wish affair and a red carpet fan event, he didn’t do any interviews (at least that was what we were told). He left the yakking-to-the-press duties to his fellow tour-mates, co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Doctor Strange) and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nebula), director Joe Russo and executive producer Trinh Tran. When 8 DAYS — and 16 other reporters from across Asia — met Cumberbatch (who was paired with Gillan), it was shortly after the press con on Sunday. Because the press had only seen 30 minutes of Infinity War (what the Falcon, right?), it limited the range of questions we could ask. (On top of that, an embargo was imposed, so we couldn’t even mentioned what was in the preview reel in this story and even if we did, the talents weren't very forthcoming in their replies.) As such, the line of questioning was all over the place (it’s 2018, people are still quizzing the Batch about Sherlock Holmes), making it tough to piece together a coherent narrative. Still, we did our best with the cards we were dealt. This is what we got from Cumberbatch in the 20 minutes we spent with him (Karen, we’ll tell your side of the story in the next round)…
He had a blast making Avengers: Infinity War.
“Every day, really,” Cumberbatch said. Working on Infinity War was a double whammy: “As a fan, you get to go around, ‘Oh my God, you got all these characters I’ve enjoyed watching and then, my God, look at the actors, who are equally iconic playing them. Yeah, it’s a really fun set [but] it’s hard work.”
He’s nothing like Doctor Strange. Or his other famous alter-ego, Sherlock Holmes.
“I am quite removed from the characters I play. I am drawn to [playing the] peripheral outsider, complicated characters occupying grey territories, who are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of both. I don’t over-relate to either of them. They stay at work. Although my mum has said that when I play Sherlock, I get a little impatient.”
He’s terrified of improvising.
“[Directors Joe and Anthony Russo] can be very generous with [what you can do] with your character and that can be terrifying to me because I’m script-bound, I’m English that way.” It was even more intimidating when he had to share several scenes with Robert Downey Jr. “You always get something fresh from him. It’s brilliant. He keeps you on your toe.”
He’d love to get his hands on the Time Stone, if it were real.
“I’m only really familiar with the Time stone [because that’s the one linked to Doctor Strange]. There are certain moments in life you’d just want to stretch out and fast forward a bit. [But] my power of choice won’t be time-[manipulating]. It’d be the [ability to create portals]. It’ll make these press tours easier. Skip home and see the family. That would be really nice.”
He didn’t take any props home.
When filming on Infinity War wrapped, the actors were given a set of Infinity Stone bracelets by the directors. But apart from that, Cumberbatch didn’t keep any other mementoes. “The Eye of Agamotto always comes off me and is put away in a box. It isn’t entrusted to me. Not even the Sling Ring. I don’t [take anything home]. My house is full of things as it is.”
He enjoyed his stay in Singapore.
“I’ve got a friend who lives here whom I caught up with,” he said. He also managed to squeeze in visits to Little India and Chinatown, and “had some food near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum”. Because Cumberbatch is vegan, he ate mainly vegetarian food. “[But] there was one dumpling I had, this doesn’t taste like vegetables…”
He loves ginger tea.
When Cumberbatch learnt that one of the journos had sore throat, he had his assistant (?) pour her a cup of ginger tea — from his own thermos flask. “You need some of my ginger tea,” he said. “Let’s share beverage. [It’s as] good as my promise. It’s good for inflammation and bad throat.” Sweeet.
Avengers: Infinity War opens Apr 25.
Press con photos: Kelvin Chia