Marvel's Benedict Cumberbatch Admits His Zoolander 2 Character "Backfired"

Benedict Cumberbatch has become a household name for playing characters such as Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes, but the actor's filmography has spanned a number of additional movies and television shows. Among them is Zoolander 2, the 2016 sequel which saw Cumberbatch portraying a nonbinary fashion model named All. The role was met with controversy in the time surrounding Zoolander 2's release, both for the problematic stereotypes around the character, and for the fact that the role was being played by a cisgender man. In a recent interview with Variety's "Actors on Actors" series, Cumberbatch addressed the controversy, and admitted that he would not play the role today.

"There was a lot of contention around the role, understandably now," Cumberbatch told actress Penelope Cruz. "And I think in this era, my role would never be performed by anybody other than a trans actor. 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. But it was lovely to meet you in that brief moment and to work with Ben [Stiller] and Owen [Wilson]."

Back in 2016, LGBTQ+ activists called for Zoolander 2 to be boycotted, with an online petition, which garnered over 25,000 signatures, referring to Cumberbatch's character as "over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals" and "the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority."

"Cumberbatch's character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals," the petition stated. "This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority. If the producers wanted to provide social commentary on the presence of trans/androgyne individuals in the fashion industry, they could have approached models like Andreja Pejic to be in the film. By hiring a cis actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large."

Zoolander 2 also starred Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Kyle Mooney, Milla Jovovich, Christine Taylor, Justin Theroux, Nathan Lee Graham, Billy Zane, Jon Daly, and Sting.

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