Why did 'The Grinch' steal Christmas? Benedict Cumberbatch and co-director Scott Mosier talk us through their unique approach to that iconic question
The 'Doctor Strange' star admits he got a little Grinchy during production, too
As the third screen adaptation of the seminal 1957 children’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Illumination’s The Grinch had to be a little bit different.
But “The Grinch’s” co-director Scott Mosier recently admitted to me that while he sought to make the film unique by delving into the motivation and back-story of the grumpy, green creature that despises Christmas, they still “really started with the book.”
“We wanted to start the journey at the beginning and the core emotional truth of the book. How kindness and empathy can heal and transform people. We knew that was there and we had to include that.”
“We also knew that being a Grinch, that’s not just a character, that’s an idea. You can be grinchy. You can be described that way. So we knew that we wanted to make a movie that didn’t throw that idea completely out of the window because we wanted to be original.”
It also helped that, shortly after starting work on “The Grinch,” Mosier and his co-director Yarrow Cheney acquired the talents of Benedict Cumberbatch to voice the titular grump. But Cumberbatch is the first to admit that the role came with its own unique set of challenges.
“It is such a strange way of working but the way it evolves over time is full of new and interesting challenges. Clicking back into it when you have so much other stuff, like projects and life, is the biggest thing.”
“You are doing so many takes. Because you are very much covering your bases with animation because you never know which way it was going to be drawn.”
“And also they can look at the take and then work that into the animation. It is a combination. They are constantly retrofitting bits that you have done. It can be painstaking the process. Because every frame is filled with so much humor, wit and detail that you have to respond to.”
“The most Grinchy I got was when producers would call up and say, ‘The animators have done this. And we really need you to do this in 10 days.’”
“Sometimes it would be really short notice and I would be like, ‘Guys can’t we do this a bit later? I have a holiday. I have another project.’ And they were like, ‘No, no, no. We have to do this now.’”
“That was like a year ago, too, and I was like, ‘Come on we have year.’”
“But there’s such an amazing amount of work that goes into it. You can see that when you watch it. There might well have been one of those when I was promoting strange. In fact, I know there was. But not in the outfit. When I was over there for Avengers.”
Mosier’s instinct that Cumberbatch was the only choice to play The Grinch quickly paid off, as he instantly added a richness and depth that allowed the film to explore a different side to the character.
“Benedict has an ability to be funny and give this emotional performance that we haven’t seen in a lot of animated movies.”
“So then you’re like, ‘Let’s go there. He can do this.’ We knew he could create the sincerity and emotion that was needed to make those scenes work. Even though he was dressed as a green furry person in a Santa outfit.”
“Because consciously we wanted to make a movie that had the feel and the experience the original version of the character. But was new and exciting, expanded the world and the characters and allowed the audience to go into Whoville and the surrounding area and the Grinch and the cave and experience a version of The Grinch that we haven’t experienced before.”
“The most exciting thing was pushing deeper into his backstory. And going deeper into why The Grinch stole Christmas. What was his motivation for it?”
“In doing that and looking at him as a kid, and the feeling of isolation and loneliness that he experienced and building a really emotional arc of the story that still hits all the bits in the story that everyone remembers, but just has a deeper emotional resonance to it.”
“We wanted to modernize it and make it relevant for right now, too. To create a message that the power of kindness and being kind to each other is right. Especially for right for now.”
“The Grinch” is released on November 9.