Cumberbatch takes unsung WWII hero to Toronto in 'Imitation Game'

Mon Sep 8, 2014 2:45pm EDT
 
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By Mary Milliken

TORONTO (Reuters) - The code-breaking machine that may have cut World War II by two years and saved millions of lives was invented by British mathematician Alan Turing, a prickly genius and unlikely war hero unknown to most of the world.

That might be because his work to crack Germany's Enigma code remained classified for decades. But also, Turing met a tragic end following the war, taking his own life at 41 after he was convicted for being homosexual and sentenced to chemical castration.

The star power of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch and his new film "The Imitation Game" could bring Turing's triumph and tragedy to a broad audience beyond Britain, where Queen Elizabeth recently pardoned the man who inspired the modern computer with his "Turing machine."

"The Imitation Game" is one of the most anticipated films at the Toronto Film Festival, where it will screen on Tuesday, and has earned praise and early awards buzz after distributor The Weinstein Co. gave a sneak peek at the Telluride Film Festival.

Cumberbatch, one of the most sought-after actors in film and television, gave an immediate "yes" to playing Turing.

"There is a huge burden, an onus of responsibility," Cumberbatch told Reuters on Sunday. "This was an extraordinary man and sadly, bizarrely not that well known a man of his achievements."

His Turing is terribly awkward and annoying, and when forced by the British government to work with a team of code-breakers, the lone genius is dismissive. When he doesn't get the backing for his machine, he sends a letter to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who grants him his wishes.

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Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game. REUTERS/TIFF