That nice, warm feeling: Benedict Cumberbatch chats about voicing Dr Seuss' The Grinch
Dr Seuss' The Grinch is a classic Christmas tale that needs re-watching with the entire family. The film features a cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson and Angela Lansbury.
The story: Grinch and his loyal dog, Max, live inside a cave on Mount Crumpet. His main source of aggravation is Christmas time, when his neighbours in Whoville celebrate the holidays with a bang.
When the Who’s decide to make Christmas bigger, the green grump Grinch hatches a scheme to pose as Santa Claus, steal Christmas and silence the Who’s holiday cheer once and for all.
We got to chat with Cumberbatch about voicing the Grinch. Excerpts from the interviews:
What do you love about the films made by Illumination?
I love the fact that they just tread the balance between the serious, the profound and the profane, and it is highly entertaining and greatly skilled animation.
It is not only entertaining for adults, but also for kids and they carry a lot of heart but it’s never saccharine it’s always good fun.
They made some pretty iconic characters and original stories and hopefully, I am delivering this iconic source material.
Illumination is great because they don’t stop trying to push things, they have got a great track record plus the table is full of fantastic and great films for all the family.
They are witty, smart, moving, very entertaining and there is goodness in them. I realised that I am completely hooked onto the idea after seeing the artwork and speaking to Scott and the rest of the team and developing this character has been really good fun.
Why do people love the Grinch? What is your favourite Grinch character trait?
I think everyone gets vicarious thrills out of how the Grinch behaves, how over saccharine, over-blown, over-produced and over-magnified elements of festivities around Christmas or thanksgiving can just be a bit too much and he is funny that’s what is certainly going to be memorable about this Grinch.
He is very witty, and he is self-aware. My favourite Grinch character trait is that, by the end of the film he realises all the true values of Christmas and life in general which is love and kindness, something that we need the most.
Do you love or dread Christmas?
I am in the middle. I am not very high on it, but I am also not something as Grinch. I don’t dread it and that’s for sure, I kind of look forward to it. It always seems to be a thing that puts more pressure on me to get right.
For some reason, I see the materialistic thing creeping in, like go get the present, get the right thing for the right person rather than just remembering what we are grateful for, to be there present. And it’s just about having a good time with those you love.
Is there a specific scene that was a lot of fun for you?
A lot of scenes were a lot of fun. The hunt for the reindeer was a great fun. Getting frozen when he climbs the mountain or at the end playing a social misfit who has never experienced belonging before. Crashing into someone’s family home and trying to be helpful and so many things. It’s heartbreaking to see this guy completely out of his comfort zone, learning.
What makes this Grinch unique? What makes this version different from the other ones?
A lot of things make this Grinch unique. The main one in the character is a revelation that he was an orphan, the idea that, somebody who did not have belonging, family love, care and a home to return to, would quite naturally feel traumatised by seeing everyone else happy and question why he wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve that.
It is everything that made him bitter and its everything when he is offered love and forgiveness by the Who’s after which he disappears. This all is what makes him unique and you understand why he is the way he is, but you still enjoy him being mean and love it when he gets good again.
The most different and special thing about this Grinch is that it is very loyal to the book which is a very thin book but it brings it into a world where you have an endless amount of adventures around that and tiny phrases in the books catapulted into massive set pieces.
The amount of energy makes it a very special version of it, the amount of visual invention and the freedom the artists had, in making this.
The whole message is as powerful as it is in the book but wrapped up in a very wonderful, rich and modern way of making films. There is so much invention in every single frame of this and there is also a lot of comedy.
What is the secret to play the Grinch?
The voice, to find who he was in character and experiment without a lot, that was the key for me. The writing was pretty blissful, and it was a lot from the book as well. That wonderful jam, poetry, that wonderful sort of biffing of rhyming couplets, the kind of rhythm with that.
The story is really important to guessing who he is. You understand in this film that why he is the
way he is. You understand what the backstory is even if he is a green fluffy guy who wants to steal Christmas.
How was it working with Scott Mosier?
Your first audience always as an actor is your director, Scott was no exception to that. If it tickled him, made him laugh, I knew I was somewhere on the right path, but the point is if it made him giggle then I knew we would be getting something right and then it was about keeping the ball up in the air and floating your ideas and pitching other angles on it, takes on it and just keep working it.