The end of 2013 is just around the corner, a time in which journalists make their cases for the celebrity who should be crowned Entertainer of the Year. In the next few weeks, there will be much debate over which actor, musician or media personality dazzled us the most over the past 11 months. Who was the biggest headline maker, the most prolific in their career, the most amusing red carpet schmoozer? Who spawned the most tweets, memes and Facebook posts?
Obvious candidates for this year’s entertainer include Miley Cyrus, who scandalized America with her twerking and wrecking ball nudity; the guys from Norway who wrote the song about the fox; irresistibly candid “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence; the cast of “Breaking Bad,” going out in a blaze of glory in the acclaimed series finale; or Sandra Bullock, who reminded us that blockbuster movies don’t have to be dumb with her remarkable performance in “Gravity.”
I would like to propose a less obvious, but far more compelling choice for Entertainer of the Year: the sublime pair of actors known as Hiddlebatch.
Hiddlebatch is the nickname fondly bestowed by fans upon the dapper British twosome composed of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, who starred in a couple of the highest grossing movies of 2013. Cumberbatch played the purringly menacing Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” which drummed up more than $460 million at the worldwide box office, while Hiddleston reprised his role as preening, bad-to-the-bone brother of everyone’s favorite hammer-wielding god in “Thor: The Dark World.” Marvel’s comic book sequel has so far raked in $620 million in theaters around the globe.
It’s not an exaggeration to credit a good deal of the success of these films to Hiddleston and Cumberbatch. Beefy Australian Chris Hemsworth is fun to ogle in his Thor armor, but Hiddleston acts circles around him as silky smooth wisecracker Loki. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” boasts an excellent cast, but when moviegoers emerged from J.J. Abrams’ sequel, it was Cumberbatch — and his commanding, velvety voiced monologues — they were talking about, not Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk impression. The two actors practically stole the movies out from under their better known co-stars.
Cumberbatch was particularly ubiquitous in 2013 on screens big and small. After amassing a loyal following as star of the BBC series “Sherlock,” he proceeded to carve out a diverse Hollywood resume that included critically praised drama “12 Years a Slave,” controversial Julian Assange biopic “The Fifth Estate” and the star-studded “August: Osage County,” not to mention lending his dulcet vocal cords to the CGI dragon of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
Cumberbatch and Hiddleston may seem unlikely candidates for Entertainer of the Year because of they way they crept up on American audiences. Classically trained in England before cutting their teeth on British television, neither actor arrived in the states with a bang. Through steady and impressive work, they cleverly insinuated themselves into the Hollywood landscape, but it is not their big-screen performances that make them ideal heir apparents to the throne of Entertainer of the Year. Rather, it is the amusing off-camera antics of Hiddlebatch that provided endless entertainment throughout the course of 2013.
Both actors have attracted a considerable horde of female fans — known, respectively, as “Hiddlestoners” and “Cumberbitches” — with their gentlemanly demeanors, which evoke a pleasingly unpretentious, old-fashioned Hollywood glamour. But the allure of Hiddlebatch goes deeper than that. These guys are unabashed showmen: wildly talented, amusing, eager to please, shamelessly hammy but never obnoxious. Whether making a talk show appearance or a cameo on “Sesame Street,” starring in a comedy sketch or performing a reading, Cumberbatch and Hiddleston have become social media mainstays because of their willingness to do anything to make us smile.
In July, Hiddleston was the talk of San Diego Comic-Con when he took the stage during a Marvel panel in full Loki costume, playfully commanding the 6,000-plus geeks assembled in Hall H to kneel in his presence. That was just the beginning of a slew of engaging appearances that quickly went viral. There he was on “Sesame Street,” teaching Cookie Monster the meaning of the phrase “delayed gratification.” He also could be found tap dancing, doing a dead-on impersonation of Owen Wilson, singing “The Bare Necessities” at Disney’s D23 convention and reading Shakespearean sonnets aloud.
Not to be outdone, the polite but playful Cumberbatch literally embraced fans who had flown thousands of miles to see him on “The Graham Norton Show,” did a respectable Chewbacca impression on another visit with the British host and became the subject of a popular otter meme. To cap it all off, he read the lyrics to R. Kelly’s “Genius” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in a hilarious bit that concluded with the dignified “Sherlock” star declaring, “I’ma hit that thing again.”
While American entertainers tend to woo audiences with an approach that feels like a full-on assault, whether it involves good looks, talent, sexuality or cheap gimmicks, the subtle but seductive force known as Hiddlebatch sweetly and politely charmed us into submission.
I’ve never been so entertained.
What about you?