Imagine Benedict Cumberbatch asking you to do something. You’d absolutely do it. He’s got that sort of voice, where there’s so much confidence and elegance behind it that you’d just unquestioningly obey him. Alan Rickman had the same thing– if you try and do an impression of Alan Rickman, you can’t, and the reason for that is that if you could do Alan Rickman’s voice, that would just be your voice. Why, if you could speak like Alan Rickman, would you ever choose to sound any other way?
Benedict Cumberbatch offered a key bit of persuasion in Josh Brolin’s decision to play Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he didn’t even have to unleash his golden pipes to do it.
Interviewed on Sirius XM’s Entertainment Weekly Radio, Brolin said it was YouTube footage of Cumberbatch that did it. “I looked on YouTube when I was deciding whether I wanted to do it or not, and saw what Benedict Cumberbatch did for The Hobbit,” he said.
The footage in question was of Cumberbath in full dotsuit mode, hamming it up and playing the dragon Smaug.
“He was in this mocap suit in this big warehouse, crawling around like a snake, snapping his tongue out, doing this incredible performance. I saw that and I was like, “Alright, that’s the bar – this is not like bullshit, this is something that you actually have to sink your teeth into.” Then I decided yeah.”
It seems extremely plausible that this is the video he’s talking about:
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It’s quite the performance, and one that involves as much acting as you’re ever likely to see. It’s easy to imagine Brolin umming and aahing about taking on the role of the universe’s biggest-chinned bastard, because it could so easily be a lazy panto-esque baddie – do a silly voice and let the CGI guys take care of it. Then you see something like this, Benedict Cumberbatch playing a dragon but doing so with the same level of commitment and same lack of self-consciousness as when playing Alan Turing, and it makes sense. Times have changed, and the technology is there to translate fully-formed, multifaceted performances into CGI. It’s pretty amazing really. Thanks, Andy Serkis!
Speaking of Andy Serkis, if you want another example of stellar behind the scenes acting, pre-special effects you should really check out this performance for Planet of The Apes which shows his full transformation into Caesar ‘mid-scene’:
Cumberbatch is in Avengers: Infinity War with Brolin’s big chinned mass-murderer Thanos, of course (although Cumberbatch is doing his Doctor Strange American accent rather than his usual plummy mellifluousness, so he’s not operating at the full extent of his powers), and the pair of them will reprise their roles in the still-frustratingly-untitled fourth Avengers film next May.
(Pics: Marvel Studios, Getty)