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The charming codebreaker
Published 18/08/14

ACTOR Benedict Cumberbatch visited patients at the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed while making a new film.

The Sherlock star plays the lead role in The Imitation Game, which tells the story of how British mathematician Alan Turing helped crack the Enigma code during the Second World War.

The film, which also stars Keira Knightley and Charles Dance, will be released in November.

The hospice served as the iconic Bletchley Park, the secret code-breaking centre where Turing and his colleagues deciphered German messages.

Healthcare assistant Linda Miller introduced Cumberbatch to patients in between shoots.

She said: “It was lovely seeing Benedict chat to the patients. He said he felt humbled being in such a caring place.

“Afterwards patients chatted about the experience for ages and relatives said they were looking forward to seeing the film as it would remind them of the time their loved one was at Nettlebed, even if they were no longer with us.”

Staff nurse Sue Hollands, who was on duty when Cumberbatch and Allen Leech, who plays suspected Soviet spy John Cairncross, visited, said: “There was a real buzz about the place as patients and staff felt quite excited about the filming. The actors took their time to talk to patients and were not starry at all — they were genuinely interested in the patients and took a lot of time to chat to them and the staff on the ward.

“Benedict Cumberbatch was an absolute sweetheart.”

Dance, who plays codebreaker Alastair Denniston, chatted to patients in day therapy and met day therapy manager Lynn Brookes and healthcare assistant Caroline Dixon.

Pam Chatfield, palliative care servies manager. said: “The staff and patients enjoyed having the filming going on and although there was some disruption to our routine it was, for the most part, welcome.

“The income generated from the hospice being used as a film set helps us to care for patients and their families and loved ones.”

Filming at Joyce Grove, a Jacobean-style manor built for merchant banker Robert Fleming in the 1900s, took place over two weeks in September. The great hall, Fleming Room and former library as well as the grounds were all used in scenes.

The film crew built a wooden hut on site to resemble one of the famous huts at Bletchley Park where the codebreakers worked.

Moira Logie, regional fund- raiser for Sue Ryder, said: “It’s a British story about Bletchley Park known to a lot of patients who are in their seventies and eighties.

“A lot of patients came down to watch and they adored it. It was wonderful — you’d hang out of the window and could see Benedict Cumberbatch marching up and down.

“The cast and crew were very sensitive to the fact we’re a hospice and always very accommodating.”

Shelley Hoffmire, 55, from Oxford, saw filming taking place while attending a fund-raising sale in the grounds of the hospice, where the crew bought clothes for use as costumes in the film.

She returned a few days later to see some more and watched Cumberbatch in a scene at the main gates.

She said: “Joyce Grove is a perfect location because it’s relatively quiet and private during the week and the home and grounds are lovely.

“All the film crew brought were people dressed in costumes and old trucks. Otherwise they had a perfect Forties location for what seemed like very little effort.”

Turing killed himself in 1954, two years after being prosecuted for gross indecency after he fell foul of the anti-gay laws of the time. The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop his codebreaking work.

He received a posthumous royal pardon in December last year when the Government said he had undoubtedly shortened the war and saved thousands of lives.

Benedict Cumberbatch visits patients while filming at Nettlebed hospice

Published 18/08/14

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