It’s always surprising just how funny Benedict Cumberbatch can be in an interview setting. He does like to go a bit “blue,” adding an out of nowhere “motherfucker” to the conversation that you’re certainly not expecting regarding an animated holiday movie about the Grinch. (Cumberbatch also adds if it were up to him, The Grinch would be “rated X” and I think he was only half joking.) This adaptation of the Dr. Seuss favorite explores a bit more of what makes the Grinch the Grinch. And how as an orphaned child, the people of Whoville didn’t seem to care too much about him, so that’s probably not going to have a lasting effect on anyone.
Luckily, this time, Cumberbatch was allowed to talk about the character he was playing, as opposed to the last time I had spoken to him, for Star Trek Into Darkness, where the subject of Kahn was off the table. Cumberbatch humored me as I finally got to ask him a question from my notes on that day I wasn’t allowed to ask at the time. Also, now that the dust has settled on Avengers: Infinity War (literally), Cumberbatch takes us through what it was like for him to watch Doctor Strange and all the other characters flake away into nothing.
And as a bonus, if you happened to be watching Cumberbatch on the Today show last week, you may have noticed that it was a, well, awkward segment. (The short of it, a young boy was brought on who was not interested in all The Grinch gifts he was given and was even less excited about meeting Benedict Cumberbatch.) Well, the good news is there’s a happy ending.
I’ve interviewed you once before. It was for Star Trek Into Darkness. And it was weird because before the interview I was told you couldn’t answer any questions about who you were playing.
I know, yeah.
So I looked at my old notes and it turns out I have been waiting five years to ask you this question.
Like, “Who are you playing?”
Here’s what I had written down, then crossed out: “What was it like playing Khan?”
[Laughs] It was great. It was really great. It was such good fun.
I’ve been waiting five years to ask you that. Thank you.
You got to pop your cherry on it. You’re welcome, any time.
So with The Grinch, do you go to them and go, “Hey, I think I can do a really great Grinch.” Or do they come to you and say, “We want you to be the star of this movie. What do you have in terms of voices?”
Yeah, they came to me, and I was more than happy to oblige. I mean, for me, it was a very unusual ask, for a start, which is immediately intriguing.
That makes sense.
It was out of the ordinary until they said, “Oh, could you do it in your own voice?” And I went, “Oh, right, I have played some other socially awkward, talented, but at times very rude English characters. So now I kind of get why they might want me to do that.” I was really flattered, and then I just pushed back and said, “It has to be in an American accent from my point of view.”
There were too many questions about this character. Why is he green? Why is everyone else sort-of/kind-of not green? And why has he got fur all over him and why haven’t the others? So I don’t think he should be English as well, but I thought just not thematically a bad guy. You know?
It would just be something else that makes him different.
This is the first time I’ve played a lead in an animation. And it’s a lot of work over a very long period of time, so you’ve got to have an actor who is gonna be interested in doing it. Of course, there were sessions which made me a bit Grinchy, because they were just off the back of a holiday. Or they were in the middle of a job at a weekend or something like that, and I’d be Grinchy about the scheduling.
How often are you saying “Grinchy” these days?
Not too much. Though somebody said to me recently, “Don’t be a Grinch.” And I went, “No, motherfucker, I am the Grinch.”
Strangely enough, that line is not in the movie.
No, the “motherfucker,” that got cut. You’re right, it did. That didn’t make it to the final film.