Benedict Cumberbatch is mean, green and ready to joyfully snarl through the holidays in “The Grinch.”

The English actor, 42, has played cantankerous genius types, from Marvel’s Doctor Strange to Sherlock Holmes. But Cumberbatch knew he was stepping up that game revisiting the conniving Grinch from Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) children’s book and the classic Chuck Jones 1966 TV special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

“That’s the joy: Vicariously or not, you get a thrill out of some of his meanness,” says Cumberbatch, speaking by phone from New York, where the animated movie premiered last week with an avocado-green carpet. But there’s Grinch love, too, in the new version (in theaters Friday). USA TODAY spoke to a surprisingly joyful Cumberbatch about donning Christmas sweaters, driving like a Grinch and what makes him crazy during the holidays.

Question: Sensitive actors would hate that call saying, “You’re the perfect Grinch!” How did that go down?

Benedict Cumberbatch: I have my moments. But, I thought, “Christ, it’s a bit early for being called out as a Grinch, isn’t it?” One of my first questions, in all seriousness was, why me? They said, “We love your voice.” So I gave them a Grinch voice, quite animal-y with an American dialect. They went, “No, we’d like your voice.” Then I got it. They saw a correlation between casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch. They saw Sherlock, and outsiders, somewhat socially awkward, who can be occasionally rude. I said, “I might not be the right guy.” I had to stick to my guns: “You cannot release a film with an English Grinch. It’s got to be an American.”  

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