Benedict Cumberbatch is a famous actor who is best known for roles in the MCU, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Sherlock” and “The Hobbit”. In terms of his appearance and signature skills, he is arguably best known for his deep voice and unique eyes. Those eyes seem to shift color, with some fans seeing blue, green, or even gold in the actor’s eyes, depending on how he is lit on-screen. Here is what we know about why this beloved actor’s has such distinctive eyes.
Benedict Cumberbatch Has a Condition Called Sectoral Heterochromia
Superfans of this UK actor have long noted that Cumberbatch has distinctive eyes, with the color appearing to change depending on how he is lit. According to the Telegraph, this is because Cumberbatch has sectoral heterochromia. The same report from the Telegraph notes that Cumberbatch is in good company, with fellow actors Keifer Sutherland and Simon Pegg also having heterochromia.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are a variety of ways this condition can present, with some patients having eyes that are two completely different colors, and others presenting with eye color that changes in only parts of the eye. The latter is the case with Cumberbatch, who has partial heterochromia, also referred to as sectoral heterochromia. Both terms can be used to refer to a patient who has only part of one iris that is a different color from the rest of the area.
The AAO also notes that the condition can be congenital, or develop later in life from a variety of causes, including diabetes, medication side effects, or even injury. According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, which is part of the NIH, most cases of heterochromia occur “sporadically” and it is rare for the condition to cause any discomfort that would require treatment. In the United States, July 12 is holiday to celebrate National Different Colored Eyes Day.
Some Fans Think David Bowie Had Heterochromia, But He Had a Different Condition
Unique celebrity eyes are a perennial topic of conversation for fans across all types of media. A recent Reddit post got a lot of attention for re-surfacing an older interview with music icon David Bowie. The post, which blew up on the “Today I Learned” sub-Reddit in early March 2021, points to a video interview with Bowie that clarifies he had an eye condition called anisocoria, which is a bit different from heterochromia.
In that video interview, Bowie states that he got into a fight around the age of 12 or 13 that resulted in an eye injury that caused damage to a muscle that controlled one of his pupils. When one pupil is larger than the other, this is referred to as “anisocoria”. While it made one eye look a bit darker than the other, that was due to a dilated pupil, and not to a shift in iris color.
According to Johns Hopkins, anisocoria can be caused by illness or injury, but it can also be perfectly normal in some people. “Slight differences between the two pupils may be present in up to 20 percent of people,” Johns Hopkins notes. “This is called ‘physiologic anisocoria’ and is normal.”
Cumberbatch Wasn’t the Only ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Cast Member With Heterochromia
Benedict Cumberbatch played the villain Khan in “Star Trek Into Darkness”. That film also featured actress Alice Eve in a supporting role as Dr. Carol Marcus. It turns out that both actors share not only a screen credit on the same flick, but also the same ocular condition. In the interview above with Conan O’Brien, Eve dishes on the time she dated a guy and it took him 9 months to notice her eyes.
Other public figures who are famous for their unique eyes include baseball pitcher Max Sherzer and actor Henry Cavill. Cavill had to hide his signature eyes behind yellow contacts for “The Witcher”. In an interview with the Metro, Cavill noted that the contacts caused him some discomfort on set
“My eyes ended up being scratched,” Cavill told reporters. “It got to the point where I couldn’t really keep my eyes open, my eyes were watering, had to try and wash everything out.”