The playwright and theatre director Sophie Irene Hunter was born on 16th March 1978, in Hammersmith, London, England, and is known not only for being the wife of actor Benedict Cumberbatch, but for her outstanding career and many other achievements.
Sophie was raised by her parents Anna Katharine and Charles Rupert, who later divorced. She has two younger brothers named Patrick and Timothy, as well as two half-siblings named Lily-Rose and Samuel who were born during her father’s second marriage. The former actress and singer hails from a distinguished family: her uncle, Julius Drake, is a renowned pianist, whereas her maternal grandfather, General Sir Michael James Gow, was the Queen’s Aide-de-Camp during the 1980s. One of her ancestors, the politician J.E.B Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone, was also an important politician during the First World War.
After matriculating from St. Paul’s Girls’ School, Sophie studied Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. Upon graduating, she moved to Paris and studied theatre at the L’Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq; two years later, she relocated to New York, where she trained at the Saratoga International Theatre Institute.
One of Sophie’s first big achievements during her theatre career was co-founding the Lacuna Theatre Company, and working as an associate director at Broadhurst Theatre and Royal Court Theatre during the making of the play “Enron”. Currently, the brunette beauty is the artistic director of Boileroom, a theatre company that she co-founded and that won the Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award in 2007 for “The Terrific Electric”. She also has an important role as the dramaturge and collaborating director of marionette and puppetry production for the Phantom Limb Company.
Sophie’s avant-garde style helps her stand out from the rest, as she has brought her unique vision to North America, Europe in general, and the Middle East. Some of her notable works include “Lucretia”, based on the opera “The Rape of Lucretia”, a revival of the Henrik Ibsen play “Ghosts”, and the experimental play “69 South”.
In 2011, Sophie was the creative director of the theatre company Emursive, directing “Don’t Major in Debt Student House” and “The Forgotten”. Two years later, she developed “Loma Lights”. one of the largest public arts programs in New York City.
In 2015, the Londoner collaborated with famous music director Andre Staples for the direction of “Phaedra”, which premiered at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, and received critical acclaim. Two years later, she did narration work at the Aldeburgh Festival.
Career: Music, Film, Television
Collaborating with the songwriter Guy Chambers, in 2005 Sophie released her first album, “The Isis Project,. Six years later, she joined forces with Guy once again for the creation of her EP, “Songs for a Boy”. Despite her projects’ lack of commercial success, Sophie’s musical works were appreciated by her target audience.
Prior to making a name for herself in the theatre circuit, Sophie was known in the entertainment industry as a talented actress. Her first TV roles came in 2004, and were appearances in episodes of “My Life in Film”, “Midsomer Murders”, and other series; in 2005, she played Ophelia in a production of “Hamlet” that premiered at the Al Bustan Festival in Beirut.
Although Sophie has never had recurring or starring roles, that hasn’t stopped her from wowing audiences with her acting skills: other projects over the years include roles in the TV film “The Curse of Steptoe” and “Friends & Crocodiles”. From costume dramas to gritty thrillers, the Oxford graduate has proven herself more than capable at trying out different genres.
In May 2017, it was announced that Sophie would be producing “The End We Start From”, based on the dystopian novel of the same name written by Megan Hunter. Working alongside Sunnymarch, the production company created by her husband and his friend Adam Ackland, Sophie and the rest of the team spared no expense on the survival film, which is said to have a $9 million budget. Although an official release date has yet to be confirmed, in May 2023 it was reported that Signature Entertainment and Republic Pictures had acquired distribution rights in the UK and US respectively.
While studying at Oxford, Sophie embarked on her first known long-term relationship with the sculptor Conrad Shawcross; the couple split in 2010 after dating for several years. A year prior to the split, the actress met her future husband Benedict Cumberbatch on the set of “Burlesque Fairytales”; although they hit it off immediately, it would take years for their friendship to blossom into a romantic relationship.
It remains unclear how long Benedict and Sophie had been dating before their first public appearance at the Men’s Final event of the French Tennis Open, in June 2014. With Benedict wearing an eye-catching fedora and Sophie looking stunning in a floral top, the laidback couple managed to be the center of attention without trying.
benedict cumberbatch and sophie hunter in black & white photographed by greg williams appreciation tweet pic.twitter.com/UifPbHo3wg
— déia (@midnightmarvl) September 26, 2021
Months later, Benedict and Sophie were seen out and about again while leaving Quaglino’s restaurant. In November 2014, fans of the actor and playwright were stunned by their old-fashioned engagement announcement: a newspaper write-up in the births, deaths, and marriages column of The Times which read: “The engagement is announced between Benedict, son of Wanda and Timothy Cumberbatch of London, and Sophie, daughter of Katherine Hunter of Edinburgh and Charles Hunter of London.”
After some fans thought that the write-up was a possible hoax, a spokesperson for Benedict soon confirmed the engagement news, sending fans of the “Sherlock Holmes” star into a frenzy due to the seemingly short-lived nature of his relationship with Sophie. Two weeks after the announcement, Benedict said in an interview: “I wanted to have some control over the message. I don’t Tweet or do social media. It’s too impersonal.”
Sophie and Benedict were married at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Mottistone on Valentine’s Day 2015, with the reception being held at Mottistone Manor: famous guests included actor Tom Hiddlestone and pianist James Rhodes. Sophie was five months pregnant at the time, and in June 2015, the newlyweds welcomed Christopher Carlton into the world, the first of three sons.
Since then, Sophie and Benedict have supported each other countless times. In 2017, Sophie was officially confirmed to have changed her surname to Cumberbatch; two years later, the dashing couple made their MET Gala debut and put on a display of PDA at the Venice Film Festival. Although the husband and wife duo don’t share intimate details of their relationship, their evident bond and the way they uplift each other is a joy to see for their fans.