You might know him as Dr Strange in Mar­vel movies or as Sher­lock Holmes in the BBC drama se­ries, but Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch has an­other side to his acting ca­reer – be­ing heard but not seen. He is as an ex­pe­ri­enced voice-over artist (The Hob­bit, Pen­guins of Mada­gas­car) but his lat­est role has him play­ing the lead in an an­i­ma­tion for the first time. Cum­ber­batch voices the iconic clas­sic green and tiny-hearted Christ­mas-hat­ing vil­lain in a new fea­ture film ver­sion of Dr Seuss’s fa­mous tale, How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas. Play­ing the can­tan­ker­ous, green furry crea­ture came nat­u­rally to Cum­ber­batch. “There was no acting re­quired be­cause I’m a lit­tle bit grumpy most of the time as the three peo­ple cur­rently stand­ing in this room nod­ding their heads can at­test,” he said with a chuckle. The role in­volved a lot of work in stages over two years. Dur­ing that time Cum­ber­batch be­came more fluid with the character, find­ing a feel for the the Grinch’s mean­ness and adapt­ing to the unique story-telling struc­ture. “It is a bizarre process. You don’t work with any of the other ac­tors, which is a lit­tle pe­cu­liar. But even­tu­ally it all takes shape. The mu­si­cal­ity of Cum­ber­batch’s voice lends it­self well to the non­sen­si­cal lan­guage of this well-known Dr Seuss character. He was asked to use his own voice, but Cum­ber­batch in­sisted he re­placed his English ac­cent with an Amer­i­can drawl. In­ter­est­ingly, the Dr Seuss book has been adapted into film three times – a 1966 an­i­mated TV film star­ring Boris Karloff as both the nar­ra­tor and the voice of the Grinch, a 2000 live-ac­tion fea­ture film di­rected by Ron Howard and star­ring Jim Carrey and this year’s 3D com­puter-an­i­mated pro­duc­tion. In this lat­est ver­sion, Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment and Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures ex­plore a bit more of what makes the Grinch so grumpy, us­ing flash­backs of his early life to give an ex­pla­na­tion as to why he gets more ag­gra­vated around Christ­mas time. In Dr Seuss’s words, “How­ever many sizes too small his heart is, there is a very strong beat­ing heart to this.” “We find out why he is so grinchy and the script sheds some light on the rea­son he is trau­ma­tised by the fes­tive sea­son,” Cum­ber­batch said. “Christ­mas is ob­vi­ously a time of lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion for the Grinch. Per­haps that’s why he is green. He is en­vi­ous and full of venge­ful­ness and hate, for the joy and spirit shown in the Whosville com­mu­nity.” Nar­rated by Phar­rell Wil­liams, The Grinch brings the tale to life via great CGI an­i­ma­tion. It is funny and up­lift­ing with twists and turns along the way. This Grinch tells the story of the cyn­i­cal grump who lives a soli­tary life in­side a cave, rigged with in­ven­tions and con­trap­tions, on Mt Crum­pet with only his loyal dog, Max, for com­pany. When the Whos de­clare they are go­ing to make the fes­tive sea­son three times big­ger, the Grinch goes on a mis­sion to steal Christ­mas by pos­ing as Santa Claus on Christ­mas Eve, but he is trapped by a young girl, Cindy-lou Who, whose gen­er­ous hol­i­day spirit changes his heart. Cum­ber­batch may curse Whoville with his un­bear­able cyn­i­cism as the Grinch, but in re­al­ity, he is look­ing for­ward to hav­ing time off and spend­ing Christ­mas with fam­ily and friends, hop­ing the things we need most – love and kind­ness – are be­stowed upon us all. The Grinch opens on Thurs­day.

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