Benedict Cumberbatch Recalls Defending a Gay Classmate

"Are you sick in the head?" he remembered asking the bullies.

October 15, 2014, 1:07 PM
PHOTO: Benedict Cumberbatch is pictured on Oct. 8, 2014 in London, England.
Benedict Cumberbatch is pictured on Oct. 8, 2014 in London, England.
Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

— -- In the film, "The Imitation Game," Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a famed mathematician who was prosecuted for being gay.

The persecution of gay people has long been something that Cumberbatch has tried to combat, beginning when he was a student at boarding school where there was "a really low tolerance for homosexuality."

In one instance, he recalled watching four boys -- whom he described as "a Sikh, a Jordanian prince, an Indian, and a Nigerian" -- chasing a boy who had recently been outed.

"I said, 'Stop, stop, stop, stop,' because they all just came charging down the corridor, and I said, 'What just happened?' and they told me, 'It’s disgusting, isn't it?' And I went, 'No, your behavior is f****** disgusting. How would you feel if you were chased because you have a turban, or you were chased because of the color of your skin, or you were chased because of your religion? It’s about being an individual. You can’t tolerate that? Are you sick in the head?'" he told Out magazine. "And they were like, 'What? No. Why, are you gay?' And I said, 'No, but I can clearly see that you’re bullies. You’re just nasty human beings.'"

Cumberbatch, 38, said that Hollywood isn't always the most welcoming of gay actors, either. In many cases, he said, coming out creates a "huge obstacle" for stars who want to be leading men.

"We all know actors who are [gay] who don’t want to talk about it or bring it up, or who deny it. I don’t really know what they do to deal with it," he said. "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."

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