Not so very long ago, Benedict Cumberbatch was best known for his moniker, which is endlessly fun to say and hard to squash onto a marquee.
But by last year the 38-year-old Englishman had become a global sensation: starring in four major movies (12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Fifth Estate), voicing the dragon Smaug in the Hobbit films and becoming a geek icon thanks to his title turn in the British TV series Sherlock.
Now, he’s garnering Oscar buzz for his role as a mathematician-war hero in The Imitation Game.
But what the self-effacing Londoner never saw coming was the whole sex-symbol-whose-fans-call-themselves-Cumberbitches thing.
In China they call him “Curly,” and in Japan they wait by the thousands for a glimpse of him at the airport.
“It’s surreal,” he says of his newfound fame.
“But I want to be doing this in 30 years. This is just a moment. Hopefully not the moment.”
PEOPLE caught the ‘Batch in New York City to decipher why he melts hearts worldwide (maybe it’s those glacial blue eyes).