It's been a breakout year in the U.S. for Benedict Cumberbatch. Having made a name for himself in the UK with "Sherlock," a modern retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, Cumberbatch appears in two of this year's biggest holiday releases, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "War Horse." While both films have garnered Oscar talk, the project he will begin working on in January may be his biggest yet.
That's when Cumberbatch will head to New Zealand to work on Peter Jackson's two-part "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit." Facing him is a challenge that could intimidate any actor, portraying, both in voice and motion capture, the legendary dragon under the mountain, Smaug.
"I can't wait. I hope it does fans justice," said Cumberbatch, who is currently wrapping on another project before heading to Middle Earth.
Preparing to take on a role of that stature requires Cumberbatch to return to the original source, the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.
"Preparation for something like that is quite unique. I think it will be partly to go with going back to the book, but I sort of want to look at real life serpents and creatures of that ilk, dragons," Cumberbatch said. "He's a reptile, obviously, so it's not like Andy Serkis' work with Gollum. I'm going to be on my belly, so that's going to take a bit of practicing."
To Cumberbatch, Smaug is a much more complicated character than people may give him credit for.
"He's an exceptionally beautiful, vain, devilish and also, in a lightly weird way, an innocent character. He's fooled by an invisible midget," he said. "It's quite frustrating. There's something quite exceptional about the power he has over people and the imagination of that world that is unlocked in this story."
But most of all, Cumberbatch hopes to meet fan expectations. "Obviously, I did something right in the audition," he said. "So tell those fans not to get their daggars sharpened just yet."
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