Benedict Cumberbatch at San Diego Comic Con – The Penguins of Madagascar

PanelBenedict Cumberbatch made his debut at Comic Con today appearing on the Dreamworks animation panel to promote The Penguins of Madagascar in which he plays Agent Classified – a wolf and part of the North Wind intelligence outfit who gives the titular penguins their world saving mission.

Appearing on the panel with Benedict were moderator Craig Ferguson, Tom McGrath (Skipper the penguin), John Malkovich who plays villainous octopus Dave and directors Eric Darnell and Simon J Smith. The very enthusiastic crowd were delighted to see Benedict, many of them having queued for over 19 hours and camped overnight to get into the hall. The footage from the film was universally well received and Benedict’s character was cheered every time he appeared!

In the panel Benedict confirmed that he and John Malkovich never actually worked together during the filming process and they’d only met the day before SDCC. Benedict said it wasn’t quite what he thought their first time meeting would be like – instead of asking about Steppenwolf Theatre Company he instead found himself asking him what it was like to play an evil octopus!

Talking at the panel Benedict said that he plays “an all action wolf” – Agent Classified who is head of the North Wind and who underestimates the penguins. In preparing for his role he said

It was sheer hell. I worked in yellowstone park as a wolf for quite a while. It got a bit hairy when I became the alpha male.” About a month into it, I realized that two of the other wolves were Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis.”

Panel-2On voice acting

What new techniques does Benedict use for voice acting? “A great team to contextualize helps plus a little leap of faith with improvisation.

Benedict was prepared for doing the voiceover for Agent Classified for the film as a result of his myriad radio appearances (Cabin Pressure received a shout out) and his book readings. But he said the script for the film helped. “If you make the directors laugh, you know you’re in the right ballpark

Benedict also said that he tries to use his whole body when doing voice work and that he has no inhibitions.

What attracted him to the role?

He was attracted to the role because he wanted to work with the penguins

The penguins are winning characters and they make kids laugh” Benedict enjoyed that Agent Classified was sort of a Bond pastiche and that he liked unpacking that spy role and making him more human. Discussing the North Wind he said “He’s got a slick operation… it sometimes only goes skin deep. There’s a nice vulnerability to him.” In an interview with MTV he said that Classified had a heightened pompous version of his own voice with a bit of Timothy Dalton thrown in.

What sort of things did he enjoy as a child?

Airwolf, Knight Rider, Manimal & Gentle Ben “because I shared the name” and The Hobbit which was the first book that his father ever read to him.

On what classic comic-book character would he love to play?

“Nurse Normal? That was a joke on Doctor Strange…Uh, Batman. Batman I guess, yeah.”

You can find a fun write up of the panel on Vulture here along with the panel itself on youtube.

Benedict also took part in an interview with Joshua Horowitz from MTV which was livestreamed. During the talk he confirmed he’d be taking part in the Hobbit panel in Hall H on Saturday. He was overawed by the scale of Comic Con. He said he’d sought advice from friends Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender before he came but that nothing could prepare him for the sheer scale of it. He said he was excited to see the fans and see everyone in costume.

He confirmed that the next episode of Sherlock to be filmed is indeed as widely supposed a Christmas special and that he was “so excited” at the pitch for the new series. When asked if he knew how Moriarty had come back he said he did but he liked to conveniently forget so that he doesn’t blurt it out by accident and also so he can come back to it afresh when they start to film.

Benedict discussed Star Wars and how he had had a discussion with JJ about appearing in it but not to be. However he pointed out that there were another two films to go giving hope to those who would like him to appear.

He said there was always a possibility that his character Khan could return to Star Trek as he’d just been frozen at the end of the last film and simply needed to be defrosted!

Benedict has finished filming Black Mass and had nothing but praise for Joel Edgerton and Johnny Depp “what a beautiful human being he is”. He confessed that he is worried about his accent –  that noone from Boston would like it as it’s very hard and even locals argue amongst themselves as to the correct way to pronounce things.

MTV asked about the Doctor Strange rumours. Benedict suggested that his role as Hamlet next year would prevent him from doing such a role.

Benedict said that he was a geek when it came to his research and confessed that he had been taught to cook by his godmother – fudge brownies. And meringues. And fudge brownies with meringues in.

Finally after answering every single question in Josh’s geek quiz incorrectly Benedict did two superb impressions of Jar Jar Binks and Gollum.

You can see photos from the panel and photocall in our galleries and a video of Benedict posing with a cuddly penguin here.

Thanks to all who livetweeted the panel!