As Sherlock’s Future Remains Unclear, Benedict Cumberbatch Swipes at Martin Freeman

Trouble on Baker Street?
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By Colin Hutton/BBC/Hartswood Filmas/Everett Collection.

This might be the most politely worded mini-feud in history. The Masterpiece adaptation of Sherlock is currently on ice; so far, no solid plans have been made for a fifth chapter after its leaked fourth season finale aired, hitting a series low. But in the meantime, Benedict Cumberbatch, the series’s Sherlock Holmes, has taken a swipe at co-star Martin Freeman, who plays his character’s longtime sidekick, John Watson—calling complaints from Freeman about the show’s fan fervor “pathetic.”

In a March interview with The Telegraph Freeman said that being on Sherlock “is a mini-Beatles thing,” in terms of how its fans interact with the franchise—and not in a good way: “People’s expectations, some of it’s not fun any more.” Interactions with viewers, he continued, are “not a thing to be enjoyed; it’s a thing of: ‘You better fucking do this, otherwise you’re a cunt.’ That’s not fun any more.”

Apparently, his co-star feels differently. In his own recent interview with the same publication, Cumberbatch disagreed with Freeman—but perhaps more strikingly, he gave his on-screen partner what appears to be a pretty harsh rebuke. “I didn’t engage with it that much,” he said of the fan phenomenon Freeman described. “I’m very grateful for the support, but that’s about it.”

To Cumberbatch—who, along with Freeman, became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Sherlock propelled him to bigger stardom—“it’s pretty pathetic” if overly enthusiastic fans are ”all it takes to let you not want to take a grip of your reality,” he continued. “What, because of expectations? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily agree with that. There is a level of it [where] I understand what he means. There’s a level of obsession where [the franchise] becomes theirs even though we’re the ones making it. But I just don’t feel affected by that in the same way, I have to say.”

Freeman has long bristled at the idea of super-stardom, even in the context of Sherlock. As the actor told Entertainment Weekly in 2014, “The trajectory of [Cumberbatch’s rise due to Sherlock] is very extreme. It’s deserved in his case, because he’s really good. But to that extent? No thanks. I like to be a moving target. I’ve got enough madness in my life without it being there all the time.”

If Sherlock ever does come back for a fifth season, it looks like its two central stars might have some tensions of their own to sort out. Then again, this little tiff has none of the grand theatrics of, say, the Fast and Furious feud that erupted last year—or the long-simmering tension that underpinned Kim Cattrall vs. Sarah Jessica Parker. Surely, for the good of London, they’d be able to let bygones be bygones if the call to duty ever comes again.