Benedict Cumberbatch Set to Play Pete Seeger in Bob Dylan Biopic

Benedict Cumberbatch will portray Pete Seeger in the upcoming Bob Dylan biopic, A Complete Unknown, which is set for release in 2024 or early 2025.

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Directed by James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted, Cop Land, Wolverine), A Complete Unknown centers around Dylan’s life and groundbreaking impact on music, starting from his performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, when he transitioned from his acoustic folk to electric guitar for the first time. The iconic moment was previously depicted in Todd Haynes’ 2007 Dylan film I’m Not There.

“It’s such an amazing time in American culture,” said Mangold, who also directed the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which hits theaters in June 2023. “The story of a young, 19-year-old Bob Dylan coming to New York with like two dollars in his pocket and becoming a worldwide sensation within three years—first being embraced into the family of folk music in New York and then, of course, kind of outrunning them at a certain point as his star rises so beyond belief. It’s such an interesting true story and about such an interesting moment in the American scene.”

In the film, Seeger, who was an early supporter of Dylan’s and helped him land his eponymous debut with Columbia, played a crucial role in the singer and songwriter’s life and career. Seeger also invited Dylan to perform at the Newport Folk Festival.

Along with Cumberbatch, Timothée Chalamet was previously cast to play Dylan and will be doing his own singing, instead of having Dylan’s vocals dubbed throughout the film.

“This movie is so sincere, it’s so joyous,” said Chalamet in 2022. “I hate to say it, but the dream as an artist is to throw whatever the fuck you want at the wall. And I guess what I’m realizing is that one’s personal life, one’s adult life, can be quite boring, and the artist’s life can still be extraordinary.”

Monica Barbaro (Top Gun: Maverick) has also been tapped to play Joan Baez, while Elle Fanning will portray Sylvie Russo, a fictionalized love interest of Dylan’s in the 1960s. The character of Russo may be a pseudonym for Suze Rotolo, whom Dylan actually dated for several years during this period, and appears on the cover of his 1963 album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Co-produced by Mangold, who wrote the film with Jay Cocks, A Complete Unknown will start production in New York City in the summer of 2023. Dylan is also an executive producer of the film.

Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix

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