Some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s most famous roles – like Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and of course Sherlock himself – have made a great use of the actor’s terrific vocal range and buttery, British tones. But he is also called upon to act only through his voice, either in his long radio career or in animated or CGI roles. Here are seven of Benedict’s best voice-only performances. Some you will know about, some you might not.
Warning: This list contains some minor, indirect spoilers for Doctor Strange.
Howard Carter in Doctor Who: Forty Five
BBC TV fans have always wanted Benedict to turn up in Doctor Who. Well, it turns out he has – sort of. In this 2008 audio drama starring Sylvester McCoy (he’s the Seventh Doctor), Cumberbatch plays real-life historical figure Howard Carter – the famed egyptologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
British Prime Minister/Severus Snape in The Simpsons
Benedict is often asked to do some of his spot-on impressions on talk shows, but you might not know that he had to impersonate some celebrities for real in a guest spot on The Simpsons. In season twenty four episode ‘Love is a Many-Splintered Thing’, Bart and Homer watch a parody of Love Actually. Benedict appears in the scene as two characters in the movie who are clearly meant to be Hugh Grant and the late, great Alan Rickman.
Classified in Penguins of Madagascar
Cumberbatch played one of his silliest and most fun roles in animated family film Penguins of Madagascar. He voiced a secret agent wolf whose name was classified (which made the Penguins think he was called Classified). His role in this movie is particularly funny, as Benedict has previously demonstrated a problem with saying the word “Penguins.” Don’t believe us? Here, see for yourself…
Angel Islington in Neverwhere
In this radio version of Neil Gaiman’s seminal fantasy novel Neverwhere, Benedict plays the Angel Islington – who sort of acts as the Wizard of the Oz equivalent that the heroes of the story journey to meet. Apart from Benedict, Neverwhere features a terrific cast including James MacAvoy, Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer, Supergirl‘s David Harewood and Christopher Lee.
Smaug in The Hobbit Trilogy
This is probably Cumberbatch’s most famous voice role. For The Hobbit trilogy starring Martin Freeman, Benedict clearly couldn’t be kept apart from his old Sherlock pal and got himself the role of the evil gold-hoarding dragon Smaug. Benedict also portrayed the character’s physical presence through state-of-the-art motion capture technology. The booming, growling voice of the character was basically all him, with very little technical modification
Martin Crieff in Cabin Pressure
Before Sherlock, Benedict’s longest-running role was in this cult favourite radio comedy series. Running from 2008 until 2013, Cabin Pressure revolved around the hilarious antics of an aircraft crew. Benedict played the captain Martin Crieff, who loved being a pilot even though he is only semi-competent at it.
Dormammu in Doctor Strange
Here’s one you probably missed. Not only does Benedict play the title role in Marvel’s latest superhero movie Doctor Strange, he also plays its big third act villain as well. The dreaded Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension, owes his voice and facial movements to Cumberbatch himself. The film’s director Scott Derrickson explained that Cumberbatch was the perfect person for the role as he imagined Dormammu as a personification of Strange’s dark side – with his arrogance and thirst for power unchained.
Do you have another great voice-only role for Benedict’s that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!