How Did Benedict Cumberbatch Lose Weight For “The Courier”?

Benedict Cumberbatch had to cut down pounds for his role in "The Courier."

English actor Benedict Cumberbatch starred in the 2020 historical spy film, “The Courier.” The English actor played the role of Greville Wynne, a businessman recruited by the MI6 due to his frequent travel to Eastern Europe.

The movie, which is directed by Dominic Cooke, is based on a true story of the businessman. He became a message conduit with a Russian spy source Oleg Penkovsky (played by Merab Ninidze) in the 1960s. Benedict had to do a lot of preparations for his role, including losing weight.

Many celebrities are willing to take extreme measures just to portray their role well. For the 45-year-old actor, he had to undergo a major body transformation for “The Courier.” Reportedly, he shed a lot of pounds to reflect the character of Greville Wynne.

In an interview with CinemaBlend, Benedict shared how challenging the process was for him. He needed to lose weight, and the whole experience wasn’t easy. Everything became more difficult when he had to return to his normal shape for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

“I lost about a stone and a half (21 pounds), and it was through the usual methods of dieting, but also some extreme exercise. I was very fit,” Benedict said.

The actor made it clear that it was done in a “healthy way” and wasn’t about “atrophy or lethargy.” It was more of “trying to shred everything to shrink wrap his body mass around the muscle.” However, he eventually began feeling differently about the process, describing it as a “self-digestion.”

“And that’s a very nasty thing to be doing. And you get very disoriented, you feel dehydrated, you feel hungry all the time. You feel emotionally and physically very vulnerable, all of which plays very helpfully into a character that must have endured this for months, if not years,” the actor continued.

Benedict Cumberbatch shared what inspired him to go on a weight loss journey for "The Courier."

Benedict also discussed the inspiration why he decided to lose weight for the movie. It wasn’t about self-improvement; his transformation was actually a tribute to the man he was playing. Greville Vynne served as a courier to transport top-secret information to London from Soviet agent Oleg Penkovsky.

The businessman found himself in captivity after being outed as a spy. The actor elaborated on the process, noting that he wanted to lose weight to show what his character had gone through at the height of the Cold War. He wanted it to make a realistic representation as much as possible.

“It was imperative to me. … You look at those photographs, and you think it may only be four scenes of a film, but I have no choice but to honor the truth of what he endured for a far, far longer period of his life,” Benedict explained.

The actor wanted to accurately portray Greville Vynne’s deteriorating health during his time in prison, where he starved for 18 months. So, even though he already had a fit and toned body, he still embarked on a weight loss journey. He was able to shed pounds within three months.

“The Courier” showed the efforts of an ordinary individual who was put in a dire situation amidst the Cold War. The film didn’t only present an espionage tale, but it also delivered a story of a man who’s willing to risk his life in the service of others.

Benedict Cumberbatch's extreme methods to achieve weight loss for the spy movie.

Benedict managed to cut down pounds for three months, which meant he had to go through an extreme diet and strict workout regime to achieve his goal. Speaking to Fox News while promoting “The Courier,” the actor revealed they stopped filming for three months to give him time to lose weight.

As for how he did it in a short period, he said that he did it with “lots of cold water, swimming and exercise, and healthy foods.” He also admitted that he felt physical vulnerability and mental stability. His preparation gave him a clue of what his character must’ve “suffered for months or years.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Benedict added that he felt it was a huge responsibility to portray a real person in a film. It was very important for him to properly represent a character that people had either forgotten or never heard of. The actor further said it is vital for history that shaped the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“This is an extraordinary character (Greville Vynne), a humble man from a very humble beginning, an ordinary man, an everyman hero who has to do something quite extraordinary and not only for his country and his family,” he continued.

Benedict Cumberbatch's exercise routine and diet plan for "Doctor Strange."

Benedict’s portrayal in “The Courier” was impressive, but the actor was popularly known as Doctor Strange. His capabilities and physique make him one of the favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s been doing workouts and following a specific diet to keep his body in shape.

The actor does high-intensity exercises while preparing for “Doctor Strange.” The routine helped him build endurance for his fight scenes. He practices pull-ups, press-ups, and dips in the gym. He can do “press-ups with feet up against the wall and pushing down while lowering his head toward the floor.”

Aside from going to extremes, Benedict also loves doing yoga and meditation. In one of his interviews, he revealed that he prefers to do these two activities rather than drink alcohol regularly. He’s been living a healthy life and is “happy with near-so-sobriety.”

In addition to exercise and yoga, Benedict followed strength training. It was a combination of “simple, weight-bearing exercises that use free weights, machines or your body’s own resistance.” The workout can be done solo and incorporated with weights training and cardio.

When it comes to what he eats, the actor keeps his diet plan simple. He often consumes fruits and vegetables. The foods he usually enjoys include bananas, nuts, and hummus. He was a vegan and followed a 5:2 format of intermittent fasting, which is eating for five days and fasts for two.

Benedict has been cautious with what he eats. He had a very strict diet before the production of “Doctor Strange” began and followed the plan throughout filming. The actor also clarified that his diet didn’t comprise anything gross, and he eats a plant-based diet instead.

“I would say that I’m vegan, but not everything I wear is [vegan],” he said.

Benedict’s diet plan was different when he started training for the Marvel movie in 2016. Reportedly, he increased his calorie intake and drinks protein shakes while doing all his required exercises. In addition, he spent hours working out with a personal trainer.

The actor created the “Shakespeare diet,” as well. Filming for “Doctor Strange” and performing in “Hamlet” happened simultaneously, so he had to find a way to balance it all. The method was a steady diet and exercise over a long time.

“It was the bedrock of keeping me healthy and sane during that time,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly.

Benedict doesn’t believe in something that can be achieved easily when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. He believes in a steady and slow approach, like eating healthy and following workout routines that fitness experts design for him. He’s also thankful to the people who helped him stay in shape.

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Kars D.

Kars D.

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