To be a jerk, or not to be a jerk, that is the question actor Benedict Cumberbatch presented to his fans over the weekend as he pleaded with them to refrain from filming his latest stage performance in a production of Hamlet.
The movie star, evidently fed up with people pointing smartphones and other gadgets at him while he tries to act, addressed audience members outside the Barbican theater in London following Saturday night’s show, saying he spotted “cameras and red lights” whenever he took to the stage.
In the good-natured but serious appeal, he said there was “nothing less supportive” than seeing a “big red light” from a camera whenever he looked out into the audience. He even called it “mortifying.”
Fans of the movie star have been clamoring to get tickets for the show, which began a 12-week run last Wednesday. A hundred thousand advance tickets sold in just a few minutes, making it the fastest-selling theater production in U.K. history. Such is the demand that some tickets have reportedly been selling on eBay for as much as £1,500 ($2,300) each.
In a video of his after-show address posted on YouTube, Cumberbatch said camera lights in the audience during Saturday’s performance were “blindingly obvious,” citing one in the third row that he’d found particularly annoying.
The Sherlock actor went so far as to warn that anyone whipping out their phones for a sneaky snap or bit of video will from this week be kicked out of the auditorium.
Suggesting that some smartphone users spend way too much time experiencing an unfolding event through their smartphone display rather than enjoying the moment sans technology, Cumberbatch said, “I can’t give you what I want to give you which is a live performance that you’ll remember, hopefully, in your minds and brains whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, rather than on your phones.”
In a bid to spread the message to other ticket holders coming to the show over the next couple of months, Cumberbatch, who doesn’t use social media, told his fans he’d love them to “tweet, blog, and hashtag the shit out of this one for me.”
“This isn’t me blaming you, this is just me asking you to just ripple it out there, in the brilliant beautiful way that you do with your funny electronic things,” the 39-year-old actor said.
Phones and other gadgets have been upsetting stage actors for years now. Cumberbatch has so far managed to hold it together during his latest stage outing in the legendary Shakespeare play, opting to plough on rather than face down any irritating audience member messing with their device.
However, other actors, Kevin Spacey among them, have dealt with the issue there and then. Performing the part of 19th-century pioneering civil rights lawyer Clarence Darrow on the opening night of a one-man show in London last year, a handset started going off during an important courtroom scene.
“If you don’t answer that, I will,” Spacey snapped at the phone’s owner, while remaining in character. His perfect response reportedly garnered an enthusiastic round of applause from the sympathetic audience.