Cumberbatch reveals his inner ‘Grinch’
Benedict Cumberbatch is mean, green and ready to joyfully snarl through the holidays in “The Grinch.”
The English actor, 42, has played cantankerous genius types, from Marvel’s Doctor Strange to Sherlock Holmes. But Cumberbatch knew he was stepping up that game revisiting the conniving Grinch from Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) children’s book and the classic Chuck Jones 1966 TV special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
“That’s the joy: Vicariously or not, you get a thrill out of some of his meanness,” Cumberbatch says from New York, where the animated movie premiered last week with an avocado-green carpet.
But there’s Grinch love, too, in the new version (out Friday). USA TODAY spoke to a surprisingly joyful Cumberbatch about donning Christmas sweaters, driving like a Grinch and what makes him crazy during the holidays.
Question: Sensitive actors would hate that call saying, “You’re the perfect Grinch!” How did that go down?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I have my moments. But, I thought, “Christ, it’s a bit early for being called out as a Grinch, isn’t it?” One of my first questions, in all seriousness was, why me? They said, “We love your voice.” So I gave them a Grinch voice, quite animal-y with an American dialect. They went, “No, we’d like your voice.” Then I got it. They saw a correlation between casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch. They saw Sherlock, and outsiders, somewhat socially awkward, who can be occasionally rude. I said, “I might not be the right guy.” I had to stick to my guns: “You cannot release a film with an English Grinch. It’s got to be an American.”
Q: Do people understand that the Grinch ethos is laudable in some areas, like his stance against Christmas commercialism?
Cumberbatch: He’s proven right and wrong. But when you start stealing toys from kids, it doesn’t go down so well.
Q: Does the Grinch offer freedom to be grumpy?
Cumberbatch: There are things that are going to grind you down. I’ve worked in a shop over the Christmas season, with the holiday track repeating. It drives you insane . ... I’m not as high on Christmas as the Whos of Whoville. But I’m not as Grinchy about it as the Grinch. I’m somewhere in a happy English, cynical, medium place.
Q: What holiday aspect brings out your Grinch?
Cumberbatch: Definitely plastic winds me up with the amount of waste and short-term joy. Beyond that, I’m human behind the wheel. ... I can get Grinchy in a car.
Q: Christmas is a great time for villains. Who’s your favorite?
Cumberbatch: Hans Gruber in “Die Hard.” It is a Christmas film in my book.
Q: Have you ever worn a Christmas sweater?
Cumberbatch: Never. Not knowingly anyway. Not once I could dress myself and had some control of my wardrobe.
Q: So you’re anti-Christmas sweater?
Cumberbatch: I’m not antiChristmas sweater. I would just rather other people walk around as good target practice.
Q: What mantra gets you through the holidays?
Cumberbatch: Only (fill in the number) days to go. No, to be honest, I’ve worked so to the wire the last few holiday seasons, all I’m looking at is the gold at the end of the rainbow: family and friends behind a closed door with no other demands. That is the only Christmas present I could ever want.
Cumberbatch shows new sides of character.
Cumberbatch can relate to the Grinch.