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Benedict Cumberbatch on Why the Grinch Is Like Smaug: ‘Angry, Isolated, Alone’

”The Grinch“ opens in theaters Nov. 9

Benedict Cumberbatch has never done an animated family film before like “The Grinch,” but he knows a thing or two about lending his voice to angry old monsters living secluded in a mountain.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cumberbatch compared his grumpy green character to Smaug, the dragon from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” films.

“For this character, a little bit like Smaug, he lives in a mountain and he’s quite angry and isolated and alone,” Cumberbatch said of the Grinch, adding that being alone in the recording booth without his fellow cast members like Angela Lansbury or Kenan Thompson around helped him tap into his lonelier side.

The British actor was also asked about how voice acting for an animated film compares to doing motion capture voice work, which he did for Jackson’s “The Desolation of Smaug.”

“You have to create a lot of energy, but it’s around a really fixed access of a microphone. Whether you’re being hauled around in a sleigh round a mountain or flung through a catapult or talking very quietly to a dog — all those levels have to come around a microphone,” Cumberbatch explained. “Your voice has to be supported by the action that makes it sound that way. But you have to stay on the mic, whereas with motion capture you can really swing yourself about because you have a headset usually. You can throw your body around the landscape.”

Cumberbatch clarified that unlike Smaug when the motion capture technology picked up both his movements and facial ticks, while animators filmed his vocal performances for “The Grinch,” he doesn’t think his hairy, green, Seussian character looks anything like him.

As for what he does share in common with the Grinch, he certainly likes those snarky green billboards that have each been localized to each city, like “You’ll never make it as an actor” for Los Angeles to “I’ve seen windier cities” in Chicago.

“The billboards are a very adult way into enjoying what ‘The Grinch’ is about,” he also told EW. “I get a real vicarious thrill out of knowing my green alter ego [is] looming over everyone in traffic being rude. That really makes me very happy.”

“The Grinch” opens Friday, Nov. 9 in theaters.