An exciting new rumor for movie buffs and music fans came out this weekend: Benedict Cumberbatch may be playing Pete Seeger in a movie going into production soon. Film critic Jeff Sneider first shared the news on The Hot Mic podcast on Thursday, but it remains unconfirmed. Still, Sneider and podcast host John Rocha agreed that there were plenty of reasons this story might be reliable.
Cumberbatch is rumored to be in consideration for the role of Seeger in an upcoming biopic of legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was first announced in early 2020 that filmmaker James Mangold would direct the movie, and that Timothée Chalamet would play Dylan. Since then, news on the project has been scarce, but Sneider said that he had heard a few reports that Christian Bale might play the role of Seeger. He now says that those plans seem to have changed, and that Cumberbatch is the more prominent contender.
Sneider noted that Mangold and Bale have a strong working relationship, so it makes sense that they'd work together on a project like this. At the same time, he felt that Cumberbatch "looks way more like Pete Seeger" than Bale. To illustrate the point, He showed an image on the live stream of Cumberbatch holding a guitar side-by-side with an image of Seeger doing the same.
Rocha also pointed out that Cumberbatch has played guitar before in other movies – notably Power of the Dog. He also compared this casting rumor to Tom Hiddleston's role as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, suggesting that it's not unheard of for a British actor to play an American music icon.
When it was first announced, this Bob Dylan biopic had the working title Going Electric, but later reports say it was changed. Some refer to it instead as A Complete Unknown, but no title has been confirmed yet. If this project does move forward, it will have to wait for some blockbusters to be finished. According to a report by Variety, Mangold has had to set it aside to work on Indiana Jones 5, while Chalamet has been hard at work filming Dune: Part Two.
RUMOR via @LineAbove's THE HOT MIC podcast: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH is now being eyed to play PETE SEEGER in James Mangold's Bob Dylan movie starring Timothée Chalamet. Christian Bale had previously been eyed for the role.— Jeff Sneider (@TheInSneider) January 19, 2023
Chalamet discussed the prospect of playing Dylan with Variety in November, saying: "I haven't stopped preparing, which has been one of the greatest gifts for me. It's been a wonderful experience getting to dive into that world, whether we get to make it or not. But without giving anything away – because I don't want to beat anyone to the punch, and obviously, things have to come together officially – the winds that are blowing are blowing in a very positive direction."
Dylan, currently 81 years old, is one of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century. He began to make a name for himself in the burgeoning folk music scene in New York City in 1961, and at the time he named Pete Seeger as one of his biggest inspirations. However, the working title Going Electric implies that the movie might focus on Dylan's controversial switch from folk music to rock and roll a few years later, which earned him criticism from folk fans. Seeger gave interviews for Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary about Dylan, No Direction Home. Seeger passed away in 2014.
Dylan described his own life in the 2004 autobiography Chronicles: Volume One. There are many other biographies of him available, as well as other documentaries. It's unclear if and when Mangold's biopic of the singer might go into production.