Why Benedict Cumberbatch’s 'Depth' Made Him the Perfect Grinch

The Grinch is back and he’s ready to ruin Christmas for all the Whos in Whoville. In this iteration of the beloved film, audiences will learn more about why the iconic grouchy character—created by late author Dr. Seuss—is, well, a Grinch.

Viewers last entered the Grinch’s world when Jim Carrey played the part in a live-action adaptation in 2000. Before this, an animated version of Dr. Seuss’s popular book premiered as a made-for-television picture in 1966. Come Friday, the grouchy character’s story will be seen in an entirely new light, courtesy of directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier.

“The origins of making the movie was about going back to the book and looking at the core emotional truths and the spirit of the book,” Mosier told Newsweek. "It’s a really great time to make this movie.” The film is “about the power of kindness and empathy to heal and transform the people around us.”

Cheney elaborated on the Grinch’s inner-struggle during the holiday season, adding: “The holidays are a wonderful, joyful time. Sometimes they can be difficult for people. The Grinch was the ultimate example of [this]. The holiday season comes along, it brings up painful things in his life. In this film, we kind of delve into that a little bit and try to heal him.”

Other than the flick’s gorgeous and luminous 3D animation, a big part of what makes this reboot so special is its leading man: Benedict Cumberbatch.

Benedict Cumberbatch is the Grinch Benedict Cumberbatch is pictured attending 'The Grinch' New York premiere at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on November 3, 2018, in New York City. Newsweek spoke with directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier about why Cumberbatch was the best choice to play the titular character. John Lamparski/Getty Images

When developing The Grinch, Cheney and Mosier immediately knew Cumberbatch was the man for the job. The English actor is no stranger to the world of animation, having lent his recognizable voice to characters in Penguins of Madagascar and The Simpsons. This part, however, proves to be the perfect animated role for Cumberbatch to tackle. Cheney suggested the Oscar nominee had the acting chops to pull off the Grinch’s “entire gradation.”

“In casting, all these names came up. As soon as we saw his name, it was kind of like all the other names disappeared from the paper,” said Mosier. “He has the sense of humor and the depth as a performer to do what we want to do with this movie. If you watch him in things like Sherlock, he can obviously be incredibly funny and be mean. But he also is one of the best actors working today. We knew we wanted to take the film and give it a deep emotional arc, so...watching him deliver those speeches and those moments were exactly why we hired him.”

Cheney and Mosier were inspired by the late Chuck Jones, an animator and filmmaker who directed 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Unlike its predecessor, the directing duo wanted to explain why the Grinch held such a distaste for Christmas, going “a bit into his backstory and build an emotional arc of the character,” Mosier said.

Be forewarned: this film is guaranteed to melt your cold heart.

“What we’re proudest about is its a movie we think is for everybody,” Mosier said. “It’s not just about kids. We all could learn to be a little kinder.” 

Why Benedict Cumberbatch's 'Depth' Makes Him the Perfect Grinch Newsweek spoke with the directors of "The Grinch" about retelling the classic story with Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor who they believe has the "depth" to pull off a role of this caliber. Here, the Grinch is pictured in a promotional still on April 13, 2016. Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures