Britain's Oscar-tipped Benedict Cumberbatch toasts tragic codebreaker Alan Turing

British actors Keira Knightley (right) and Benedict Cumberbatch brave the weather as they pose for pictures during the BFI London Film Festival's premiere of 'The Imitation Game at the Odeon Leicester Square in central London on Oct 8, 2014. -- PHOTO
British actors Keira Knightley (right) and Benedict Cumberbatch brave the weather as they pose for pictures during the BFI London Film Festival's premiere of 'The Imitation Game at the Odeon Leicester Square in central London on Oct 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

LONDON (AFP) - British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, tipped for an Oscar for his performance as mathematician Alan Turing, said on Wednesday he hopes the film will be a worthy tribute to the wartime codebreaker persecuted for being gay.

The Sherlock Holmes star spoke at the European premiere of The Imitation Game, one of several biographical films to dominate the programme of the 58th London Film Festival.

Turing was a computer scientist ahead of his time and the film coincides with the 60th anniversary of his death.

He was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 when it was a crime in Britain, despite the fact that he had played a crucial role in deciphering German codes that experts say accelerated the fall of Adolf Hitler.

Forced to undergo chemical castration, Turing killed himself at the age of 41. He was officially pardoned only last year by Queen Elizabeth II, six decades after his tragic death.

"I really want his story to be known as broadly as possible," Cumberbatch said at the screening.

"I hope it will be a launching point for more interest and understanding and a proper celebration for Alan Turing."

Cumberbatch shrugged off talk that he could land the Oscar for best actor in the film, which won the people's choice award at the Toronto Film Festival and also stars British actress Keira Knightley.

Knightley plays code-breaker Joan Clarke at the Bletchley Park decryption centre, where the German "Enigma" code was cracked, shortening the war by two years and saving 14 million lives, according to the film.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star said that women still struggle with the same issues as Clarke, hired because she could crack codes faster than Turing but who struggled to be taken seriously.

"What she was fighting for was a place at the table and equal pay, and I think that those are still the two main things that feminists today are fighting for, and there's still inequality," Knightley said.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum said he felt the story resonated with his life.

"I just moved to Hollywood and I was an outsider in Hollywood. To me this is a movie about outsiders, about those who are different, who think outside the norm. There was something about that story that really struck me," Tyldum said.

True-life stories pepper the festival's programme, including the first film of cinema newcomer, US star comedian and presenter of The Daily Show Jon Stewart with Rosewater.

The film tells the true story of the detention of the Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, played by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

Meanwhile, the later years of one of Britain's most celebrated artists are the subject of Mr Turner, directed by Mike Leigh and starring Timothy Spall, who won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

Bennet Miller's Foxcatcher is also based on a true 1980s story of a rich billionaire played by Steve Carell who takes two wrestler brothers under his wing (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo).

Wild, by Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee tells the story of Cheryl Strayed, who walked 1,700km through the US wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail, to overcome the death of her mother, a difficult divorce and a history of drug addiction.

Strayed is played by Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon in the epic film, adapted from a bestselling book.

One biopic premiering at the film bonanza is Festival Of Youth, inspired by the memoirs of British author Vera Brittain about her life during World War I.

A determined and intelligent woman, the young Brittain fled to escape her conservative parents by winning a scholarship to Oxford University.

She fell deeply in love, but all was changed with the outbreak of World War I and her companion's departure to the front lines.

Brittain gave up her studies to become a volunteer nurse and faced the horrors of war.

Another war film, Fury starring US actor Brad Pitt, will close the festival on Oct 19.

Shot in Britain, the feature follows the adventures of five soldiers fighting in a tank called Fury during the final days of World War II.

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