It happened to be one of those days when I chanced upon a screening for the film, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Based on the international best seller, the film depicted the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a gifted perfume maker, whose life takes a dark turn as he becomes increasingly obsessed with creating the ultimate perfume. The character was eerily portrayed by a young actor, Ben Whishaw. He showed promise and talent in a film so morbid yet rich in scenery. I was drawn to his aura like a moth to a flame.
Now years later, he is set to become the newest Q, the Quartermaster, in the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. He is the youngest Q in the series to date and by far the nerdiest and tech savvy. This is the most exciting news of the year for this Bond enthusiast, and I wait in earnest to see what new gadgets he has in store for Bond to use. It may be limiting to his true talent but nevertheless he is permanently encased in the Bond franchise history.
Born as part of twins in 1980 and raised in Clifton, Bedfordshire, England, he attended Samuel Whitbread Community College where he became involved in theater productions. At the Edinburgh Festival in 1995, his group garnered critical acclaim for their production of If This Is a Man, a story of an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, and Whishaw played the character of Levi. Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he appeared in film shorts and British television until becoming nominated for awards for his portrayal of Hamlet in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 production.
By 2004 he had already acted in two films with the future James Bond, Daniel Craig: Enduring Love and Layer Cake. He won the part of Jean-Baptiste over Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom for the film Perfume. Afterwards, he played Keith Richards in the film Stoned, followed by an appearance among an all-star cast as Arthur in I’m Not There, a film centered on the life of Bob Dylan. With Abbie Cornish he became the poet John Keats in the romantic drama, Bright Star. 2010 had him playing Ariel with Dame Helen Mirren in the Shakespearean fantasy, The Tempest. This year he starred as King Richard in BBC TV’s Cultural Olympiad, The Hollow Crown, a series of plays depicting a history of kings. Later this year he will be back as Freddie Lyon on BBC’s The Hour series with Dominic West.
Before his debut as Q in November of this year, he will be co-starring with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in the science fiction adventure drama, Cloud Atlas, based on a novel of the same name and set to be released in October. Directed by Tom Tykwer, (Perfume) and the Wachowski team (Matrix trilogy), this film hints at being paranormally and visually thrilling if not simply epic. This is the perfect vehicle to showcase Whishaw’s talent before being universally dubbed as “Q.” The film is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012.
From Shakespeare to psychopath to stoner musician to nerdy gadget professor, Ben Whishaw has displayed an enormous propensity for being versatile and skillful at drawing you into his characters. He has a strange, unworldly quality about him, riveting and electrifying. Watching him is an emotional experience at best.
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