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Interview: Benedict Cumberbatch on Why The Grinch is so Popular

The voice of the new Grinch is in love with the character.

Nov 06, 2018

By: Lynn Barker

Popular Dr. Seuss' The Grinch actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played some of our favorite characters, Dr. Strange in the Marvel universe, villain Kahn in Star Trek into Darkness, Sherlock Holmes on TV and the voice of tiger Shere Khan in Mowgli among many other roles. Now the British acting dynamo takes on the voice of holiday green, fuzzy fave The Grinch in the new animated film.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch - Official Trailer

Benedict admits that he was glad this version of the famous tale gives the Grinch a backstory reason for his sourpuss take on Christmas and life in general. The actor had fun wrapping his voice around a damaged being who would have a hard time accepting love. Check out Mr. Cumberbatch’s responses to all things “Grinchy”.

Benedict Cumberbatch voices The GrinchBenedict Cumberbatch voices The GrinchCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What makes your Grinch different from previous Grinches?

  • Benedict: A lot of things. One is the revelation that he was an orphan. The idea that he’s somebody who didn’t have family love and care and a home to return to and would naturally feel traumatized by seeing everyone else having that and question why he didn’t have or deserve that. It’s everything that makes him bitter. When he is offered love and forgiveness by Cindy-Lou and the Whos, that disappears. That makes him unique. You understand why he is the way he is but love it when he’s good again and his heart grows.

Can Cindy-Lou soften up the Grinch's heart?Can Cindy-Lou soften up the Grinch's heart?Courtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What is your favorite Grinch character trait?

  • Benedict: Emotional eating. I’m doing some of it today. I’m far from home and tired and hungry so I share that with the Grinch (he laughs).

Q: Is there something positive about him?

  • Benedict: I like that, by the end of the film he figures out what the true value of Christmas is and life in general which is love and kindness, the things we need most.

The Grinch despises Santa cookies!The Grinch despises Santa cookies!Courtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Do you personally love or dread the Christmas holidays?

  • Benedict: I’m kind of in the middle. I’m not as high as a Who on it but not as grinchy as a Grinch. I don’t dread them, that’s for sure. I seem to put more pressure on myself to get them right than I need to. That’s sort of the materialistic thing creeping in ‘Got to get the presents. Got to get the right thing for the right person’ instead of remembering that people are grateful for you to be there. You have a good time with those you love.

The Grinch sees Whoville all decked out for the holidaysThe Grinch sees Whoville all decked out for the holidaysCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: So true. What scene was a lot of fun for you?

  • Benedict: A lot of them. The hunt for the reindeer, getting frozen as he climbs the mountain with Max. It was fun to get into that moment when the Grinch goes full psycho to steal the thing and the end as well, just playing that social misfit who has never experienced belonging before. This guy is out of his comfort zone and learning.

Friendly, chubby reindeer Fred cuddles the Grinch and MaxFriendly, chubby reindeer Fred cuddles the Grinch and MaxCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What else makes this new version of the story different?

  • Benedict: This version is very loyal to the book which is a very thin book but tiny phrases in the book are catapulted into massive set pieces. The amount of energy makes this a very special version of the story, the amount of visual invention, flair and freedom that the animation artists have and the message wraps up in a very wonderful, modern way. There is a lot of comedy and invention.

The Grinch with his feisty dog MaxThe Grinch with his feisty dog MaxCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Why do people like the Grinch so much?

  • Benedict: I think people get a vicarious thrill out of how the Grinch behaves. How curmudgeonly he is, how the over magnified and overproduced elements of Christmas can be just too much. Also, he’s funny. That will be memorable about this Grinch. He’s very witty and self-aware. There is also a very strong, beating heart to this.

Benedict understands why Grinch is so grumpyBenedict understands why Grinch is so grumpyCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What is your secret to providing the voice for the Grinch?

  • Benedict: (I had to) find out who the character was and experiment with that a lot and push it around. That was kind of key for me. The writing is pretty blissful. They’re taking a lot from the book as well. That kind of jam, the poetry the riffing of rhyming couplets and the rhythm of that is important to different parts of the story to get who he is. There is a lot of backstory on him in this film so you know what motivates him. You have the usual actor questions about that I guess, even though he is a green fluffy guy who wants to steal Christmas and has a heart that is two sizes too small.

See Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch in theaters Friday, November 9th

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Movie PosterDr. Seuss’ The Grinch Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Studios

Express Yourself!

Are you a fan of the Grinch character? Did you like previously versions of his story (like the Jim Carrey live-action film for example)? Are the holidays fun or just too much pressure for you. Are you a Benedict Cumberbatch fan? Comment to your fellow Kidzworld visitors below or write down your feelings on your profile page.