SEXY BEAST (Total Film, November 2014)
Penguins of Madagascar: Benedict Cumberbatch is a lone wolf in DreamWorks’ Madagascar off-shoot…
Somewhere between Sherlock, The Hobbit and Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game, Britain’s busiest actor - that’s Benedict Cumberbatch to you has somehow found the time to record his first animated voice part (not counting a Simpsons episode last year). Want to know more? Well, we’d love to tell you. The problem is, it’s classified.
Yes, “Classified” is the name of the Brit’s lupine secret agent in Penguins of Madagascar, a wacky spin-off from the Madagascar franchise which puts its popular posse of pingus front and centre. “He’s an all-action wolf who heads up this team called the North Wind,” says the actor, who drew on his extensive experience of radio drama to help him play the role. “He brings [the penguins] in to get as much information out of them as possible.”
It turns out that Messars Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private have some inside skinny on evil octopus Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovich) that could help Classified’s team. As Benedict discovers, however, these aren’t the sort of birds to take orders. “Classified underestimates what they are capable of and overestimates what he is capable of,” the 38-year old explains. “He has to learn to run at the problem like the penguins do, I like the idea of taking a spy and making him a bit more human, if that makes any sense for a wolf.”
So how did Cumberbatch find the DreamWorks’ sound booth? “It was really bizarre,” he says. “I was looking forward to working with the penguins and with John but you do it in isolation. You don’t have the camaraderie you do with most kinds of jobs.” Not that it stopped him from “arsing about” and acting like a Sally… “At times I was imagining things hitting me whilst holding onto a plane! Improvisation is important: to be free with an idea, to go too far and come full circle. You have to have no inhibitions.”
With another voice role lined up in cartoon fantasy Magik before playing Andy Serkis’s Jungle Book: Origins, it seems that Cumberbatch’s larynx won’t be taking any time off soon. (‘Benedict Cumberbatch’s Voice’ even has its own page on Facebook.) He will have to keep something in reserve, however, having signed up to play Hamlet next year on the London stage, (“It’s been in my life for a long time,” he says of the Bard’s daunting tragedy. “I’m at an age now where I think it’s now or never.”) In the meantime, he’ll have to spend a little time getting Classified out of his system. “The hardest thing is getting un-wolfed,” the actor deadpans. “Going to the bathroom was a new education and my eating habit were a little awkward. So don’t put any kittens in front of me…”