There's a reason Cumberbatch is Hollywood's most wanted man. No matter what role he plays — be it Sherlock, Khan, or a WWI major — the 37-year-old with a mouthful of a name brings a depth and complexity that is thrilling to watch. He kicks off his very busy fall on Oct. 11, starring as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in ''The Fifth Estate,'' so we put together our own dossier on him

By Adam Markovitz and Geoff Boucher
August 02, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

BORN July 19, 1976 // London

ALIASES Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock), Khan (Star Trek Into Darkness), Christopher Tietjens (Parade’s End), Maj. Jamie Stewart (War Horse), Peter Guillam (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Stephen Hawking (Hawking)

BACKGROUND The product of a prominent British family — his grandfather was a submarine officer and his parents are actors Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham — Cumberbatch has acquired a posh-prince image in the U.K. that he finds amusing: ”It comes with doing the period pieces, and class is always swimming around everything in England.”

FIRST MISSION Playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Ferdinand in Love’s Labour’s Lost on stage in London in 2001. ”For me, the first time I got paid to do the thing I love was my big break. And I do mean that. It’s not just some romantic tosh.”

EXCELS AT Bringing to life ”any character defined by intellect,” reports Star Trek Into Darkness producer-co-writer Alex Kurtzman. The proof: the actor’s turns as history’s greatest sleuth, Sherlock, and Trek‘s supergenius Khan. ”I’m very flattered by being thought of as intelligent on screen,” says Cumberbatch. ”But should I ever do a Jeopardy!-type quiz show, I think people would soon see the Swiss-cheese holes in my brain.”

KNOWN ASSOCIATE Tom Hiddleston, who’s also enjoying a career boom. ”He’s a great friend. We met on War Horse and are having some parallel experiences, which makes it extra special.”

OTHER SPECIAL SKILLS He speaks French, some Italian, and a bit of Greek — but it isn’t always pretty. Can gift-wrap like nobody’s business, thanks to his shop-clerk days at a London perfumery. Does a mean impression of Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape (as fans of The Simpsons know).

THREAT LEVEL While shooting Trek he was in such tip-top shape that he could do handstand push-ups. ”That was in peak condition, I must emphasize. I don’t think I could do it now.”

SECRET HQ The Londoner’s favorite place to escape is his vacation home in Greece — though he’d rather not specify where. ”Please don’t think me rude.”

OFF-DUTY INTERESTS Tokyo at night, skydiving, Radiohead. ”Thom Yorke is absolutely inspiring. I can mark points in my life by the band’s music.”

CURRENT ASSIGNMENT Sherlock, season 3. ”The second series was weird. Because it was such a phenomenal success, we were a bit distanced from inhabiting those characters. This season, straight into it, comfortable. It’s great. You’re in for a treat.”

FUTURE MISSIONS Beyond The Fifth Estate, this year he plays the dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Meryl Streep’s nephew in August: Osage County, and a plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave. Next year he’ll star in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, the English math whiz who cracked the Nazis’ Enigma code. ”Why so many smart fellows? Um, I don’t know. I can’t think of an answer that won’t make me seem like an imbecile.”