Cumberbatch, who stars in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, the brilliant Second World War code-breaker who was persecuted by the British authorities for being gay, lamented the horrors faced by gay people in many countries and fiercely declared his determination to stand with them in an interview with Out Magazine.
“People are being beheaded in countries right now because of their beliefs or sexual orientations,” he said. “It’s terrifying. It’s medieval — a beheading! I’d take up arms against someone who was telling me I had to believe in what they believed or they would kill me. I would fight them. I would fight them to the death. And, I believe, the older you get, you have to have an idea of what’s right or wrong. You can’t have unilateral tolerance. You have to have a point where you go, ‘Well, religious fundamentalism is wrong.’”
Despite his status as a wartime hero credited with cracking the German Enigma code at Britain’s Bletchley Park, Turing’s life was destroyed by the period’s anti-homosexuality laws. Police arrested him in 1952 after learning of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. After being found guilty of gross indecency, Turing accepted injections of synthetic oestrogen intended to neutralize his libido. He continued to work part-time for GCHQ, the postwar successor to Bletchley Park, but his mental health is said to have suffered, and he was found dead – of cyanide poisoning – by his cleaner in 1954.
Cumberbatch said The Imitation Game should be read as “a warning that this could very easily happen again” and dismissed the pardon handed posthumously to Turing by the Queen in 2013. “It’s an insult for anybody of authority or standing to sign off on him with their approval and say, ‘Oh, he’s forgiven,’” Cumberbatch explained.
“The only person who should be doing the forgiving is Turing, and he can’t because we killed him. And it makes me really angry. It makes me very angry.”
The actor also said during the interview that homosexuality remains a “huge obstacle” in Hollywood for those hoping to carve out careers as a leading man. “We all know actors who are gay who don’t want to talk about it or bring it up, or who deny it,” he said. “I don’t really know what they do to deal with it. Human rights movements and sexual and gay rights movements have made huge social progress in the last 40 years, without a doubt, but there’s a lot more work to be done.”