Why Benedict Cumberbatch Was The First Choice To Voice The Grinch

Benedict Cumberbatch's Grinch holding coffee mug

Last November, Benedict Cumberbatch followed in the footsteps of actors like Boris Karloff and Jim Carrey by bringing Dr. Seuss’ classic character, The Grinch, to life. Illumination’s The Grinch marked the debut of the eponymous character in computer animation on the big screen, though naturally the movie stuck closely to the original book, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! As for why Cumberbatch was hired to voice the green-furred curmudgeon, The Grinch co-director Scott Mosier explained that the actor’s versatility made him the #1 candidate for the job almost from the get-go. As Mosier told CinemaBlend:

We had a list of people, but it's strangely like, I don't even remember a lot of the names. It was pretty unanimous and quick that Benedict rose to the surface. It wasn't a long process. We kind of did a list and his name is on there and everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that feels right.’ We knew we wanted to go into his backstory and sort of go more in depth into his character emotionally. And we're like, you know, like he's funny, he can be rude and enjoyable in Sherlock. You know, he's just an incredible performer, and like I said, it happened really quickly. It was like, the name came up and then that was kind of it, and we all sort of jumped at it and it just kinda made sense.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Scott Mosier, who co-directed The Grinch with Yarrow Cheney, on the phone about the animated Christmas movie ahead of its Blu-ray/DVD release. When I inquired about if there were any other actors who were strong candidates to voice The Grinch, Mosier made it clear that even though some other names might have been considered, it didn’t take long for him and the creative team to select Benedict Cumberbatch to star. The actor’s work on Sherlock showed them that he could hit all the emotional beats they wanted out of this version of Grinch.

Even though The Grinch stuck to its source material rather closely, just like the live action version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas! in 2000, this animated movie did take several creative liberties to ensure that this could be a feature-length tale. One of the ways this was accomplished was with how it delved into Grinch’s backstory. This version of Grinch had been orphaned as a child, and his loneliness led to him shunning the Whos and despising Christmas, although just like in Dr. Seuss’ original tale, specific events lead to him changing his perspective on both.

With a $508.8 million worldwide haul, The Grinch has become the second highest-grossing Christmas-themed movie of all time, trailing only behind the classic Home Alone. Along with Benedict Cumberbatch, the movie featured the voice talents of Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury and Pharrell Williams, among others. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention Grinch is just the latest pre-existing fictional character that Benedict Cumberbatch has gotten to put his stamp on, as along with Sherlock Holmes, he has also portrayed Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek Into Darkness, Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy, Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Shere Khan in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

The Grinch is now available for purchase on Digital HD, and the 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD copies hit shelves next Tuesday, February 5. If you’re interested in learning what movies hit theaters this year, look through our 2019 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.