Benedict Cumberbatch suffered nicotine poisoning three times on his new movie.
The 45-year-old English actor plays heavy smoker Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog - a western drama based on Thomas Savage's 1967 novel of the same name - and in order to portray the character authentically, he decided to take on a tobacco habit, with detrimental effects on his health.
Speaking to the new issue of Esquire UK, he said: "I wanted that layer of stink on me. I wanted people in the room to know what I smelt like. It was hard, though. It wasn't just in rehearsals. I was going out to eat and meet friends of Jane [Campion – the film's writer and director] and stuff.
"[Smoking] was really hard. Filter-less rollies [roll-ups], just take after take after take. I gave myself nicotine poisoning three times. When you have to smoke a lot, it genuinely is horrible."
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As well as being prepared to light up as part of his method acting approach to playing Montana ranch owner Phil Burbank, Cumberbatch's alter ego is also a banjo player, so the Bafta-Award winning actor took it upon himself to learn the instrument.
He said: "I really wanted to become world-class at the banjo … It's like giving an actor something to eat, like Marlon Brando said. You're constantly taking the nervous energy away. It did mean I was slightly antisocial, but you know, whatever. I don't need to be gossiping around the coffee urn on every shoot. I think my primary motivation is that I just really, really enjoy it. And I like the idea that I might be getting better at it."
Cumberbatch is one of the most in-demand actors around and has become famous all over the globe thanks to his roles as a modern Sherlock Holmes in the BBC TV drama Sherlock and as Dr Stephen Strange in the MCU movies.
He has not played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary detective since 2017, but he is not ruling out reprising the role of Sherlock in the future.
He said: "Oh look, I still say never say never. I really like that character ... it's just, the circumstances need to be right and I think maybe it's too soon now to see it have another life.
"I think, wonderful as it is, it's had its moment for now. But that's not to say it wouldn't have another iteration in the future."
The Winter 2021 issue of Esquire UK - of which Cumberbatch is the cover star, shot by Simon Emmett - is on sale now.