I meet Benedict Cumberbatch the afternoon after an awkward appearance on Letterman, where he was promoting his part as John Harrison, an intergalactic terrorist, in J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s a summery spring day in New York, and we’re on the patio of his room at the Bowery Hotel. Cumberbatch—his dead-white complexion shaded by a newsboy cap—is “chuffed” by his posh digs; it’s his first starring role in a blockbuster, and he’s not used to this level of star treatment—well, from everyone except David Letterman, who has not, apparently, been following the actor’s rise as avidly as the actor’s Internet fan club, the Cumberbitches. Not only did Cumberbatch have to follow an animal act, but Letterman, who began by referring to Star Trek as Star Wars, asked his guest—a veteran of twenty movies, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse—if he was new to major motion pictures. (The actor, being the polite, Harrow-educated Brit that he is, jumped in to save his host: “This major? Yes!”) I tell Cumberbatch that, given Letterman’s cluelessness, I was surprised there weren’t the usual efforts to wring a laugh from his name.