Comic-Con 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch charms the fanboy faithful

July 24, 2014 | 2:59 p.m.
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the DreamWorks Animation panel on Day 1 of Comic-Con International 2014 on Thursday, July 24, in San Diego. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Benedict Cumberbatch answers a question at the DreamWorks Animation panel Thursday on Day 1 of Comic-Con International 2014 in San Diego. (Chris Pizzello / Invision/Associated Press)

In the first major studio presentation at this year’s Comic-Con International, DreamWorks Animation was eager to show off its upcoming alien buddy-comedy “Home” and its big-screen spinoff “Penguins of Madagascar.” But for the fans who packed Hall H for Thursday’s panel, some of whom had lined up overnight, the main attraction wasn’t cuddly extraterrestrials or adorable penguins: it was actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

The star of the BBC hit “Sherlock” and last year’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Cumberbatch had never actually attended the convention before this year and, to no one’s surprise, he was met with a rock star’s greeting of screams, squeals and popping flashes.

FULL COVERAGE: Comic-Con 2014

To ensure the focus remained squarely on “Penguins of Madagascar,” in which the actor voices a secretive and heroic wolf named Classified, panel moderator Craig Ferguson half-jokingly admonished the crowd, “I’m warning you, if anyone asks a question about ‘Sherlock,’ Comic-Con is canceled.”

John Malkovich, who was also making his first Comic-Con appearance (and who had never actually met Cumberbatch until arriving at the convention), co-stars in “Penguins of Madagascar” as a fiendish octopus called Dr. Octavious Brine.

“I thought it was such a funny idea to have my voice be the voice of an octopus,” Malkovich said. “It was just a no-brainer.”

But when the time came for the audience Q&A, nearly every question was directed at Cumberbatch. The actor said he was drawn to the prospect of playing Classified for its cheeky “Bond pastiche” and joked about the deep Method preparation he undertook for the role: “I worked at Yellowstone National Park as a wolf for a while,” he said. “About a month into it, I realized that two other wolves were Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis.”

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Christopher Maracha, of San Francisco, salutes on his way up a convention hall escalator. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Elias Meraz, left, poses with cosplayer Alicia Bellamy, dressed as the "Scarlet Witch." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The Gonzalez family of Santa Ana takes a rest on the convention hall floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans pass by BBC America's "Orphan Black" ad on a convention hall wall. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Beasley as the Hobbit's Gandalf makes his way through the crowd. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Kevin Uribe, of Red Bank, NJ, stands quietly, dressed as "Silent Bob." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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John Whitt of Minneapolis spreads his wings as "Batman." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Vick of Los Angeles touches up his makeup during a break from his role as "The Spoon Killer." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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"Orphan Black" fan Cynthia Perez walks away with a cardboard cutout of the show's character, Cal Morrison. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans pack an elevator to the convention center sky bridge. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Elisa Teague walks the convention center floor in an unconventional gown. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Bugs Mitchell of Westminster finds a quiet cove to check his email during Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Keeleigh West of Reno, Nev. spreads her homemade wings on the convention hall floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chopper the dog moves through the Gaslamp Quarter with his owner Mark Shaffer. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Clarke of San Diego reaches out to touch a macabre mannequin to see if it might be a real human in front of the Zombie Apocalypse Store in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A cosplay group entertains passersby in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter during Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Andrew Knighton, under the gigantic eyeball, heads into the Comic-Con convention center. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Convention attendees gather around a scale model of Star Trek starship USS Reliant. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Convention-goers stop at nothing, even if it means waiting in long lines, to buy Marvel merchandise. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A woman in a period gown takes the stairs after realizing it would be a tight squeeze into the elevator. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The face of fictitious mascot and cover boy Alfred E. Neuman shines through in a compilation of Mad magazine covers. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A pair of Supermen give onlookers a double take as they check out "Star Wars" merchandise at the convention. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Josh Roemele, 10, marvels at "Transformers" merchandise, just one item among a bevy of goodies. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans, dressed up and dressed down, take an escalator to the convention floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Cosplayers David Schoelen, left, and Paul Baum work up the right attitude. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Thomas Willeford of Harrisburg, Pa., appears in costume at Comic-Con 2014 as Steampunk Iron Man (circa 1889). (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Attendees enter the San Diego Convention Center as Comic-Con 2014 officially opens its doors for preview night Wednesday at 6 p.m. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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The Marvel booth at Comic-Con 2014 gives away free posters to the early arrivals during preview night Wednesday. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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A.J. Peplinski, 6, and his father, Allen Peplinski, of Las Vegas look up at a Bumbleblee figure from the "Transformers" movies at Comic-Con 2014. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Hannah Collier, right, explains the new video game "The Crew" to Robert Atwater at Comic-Con 2014. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Josh Buonocore of Orlando, Fla., takes a selfie with a zombie at "The Walking Dead" Terminus wall. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Children construct Lego projects during a contest at the Lego booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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San Diego friends Elizabeth Walsh, left, and Traci Haze clown around for a photo with a model of "The Hobbit's" Gollum. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Crys Harm of Langhorne, Pa., sports bright green contact lenses. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Zak Skelly rides on dad David's shoulders through a packed San Diego Convention Center. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A Thorin Oakenshield figurine, part of the Hobbit collection at the Weta booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A Han Solo in Carbonite. The life-size figure is part of a giveaway at the Sideshow Collectables booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Men are reflected in a glass case as they look over a Superman figure. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Adult Swim's master of ceremonies Randall Byers, center, supervises the Wheel of Wonder, which fans spin for prizes. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Kris Keyes as Dive Bomber, right, checks his email as passersby take his photo. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Renee White of Melbourne, Australia, snaps a photo of a giant Godzilla at Comic-Con in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego officially opens Thursday but fans arrive early to pickup credentials on Wednesday. Travis Jackson with 1540 production helps with the construction of Warner Bros.' 24-foot tall sculpture of Godzilla behind Hall H. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Lauren Moyer assembles flowers and billboards for the Interactive Zone at Petco Park as part of Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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SAN DIEGO- July 23 2014: Emily Graham, of Vancouver Canada waits in line for a preview event at Comic Con July 23, 2014 in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Arriving early at Comic-Con, para-olympic runner Blake Leeper of San Diego is the first double leg amputee in America in the Olympic games. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Anna Kegler, left, Rochelle Keyhan and Erin Filson, representing a group called geeksforCONsent at Comic-Con. The trio will be handing out anti-harassment paraphernalia at the convention. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Docy Elliott of Ottawa, Canada, is already in costume (Goku from "Dragonball Z") as he arrives early to pick up credentials. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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A worker helps assemble a giant billboard for the new NBC show "Constantine" near Petco Park as part of Comic-Con preparation. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Passersby look at a re-branded Hard Rock Cafe -- now the Ascension Cafe -- which is a Comic-Con placeholder touting the Syfy show "Ascension" in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The city of San Diego gets into Comic-Con as trolley cars are wrapped in ads from the CW's new "Gotham" television show. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Asked by a fan which “classic comic book hero” he would most like to play, Malkovich answered, with pure Malkovichian deadpan, “Lois Lane.”

For his part, Cumberbatch, who has been the subject of recent rumors that he will take on the role of Doctor Strange in an upcoming Marvel movie, shrugged: “Batman, I guess.” (Cue feverish speculation.)

As for whether he will return to Comic-Con next year to promote the next season of “Sherlock,” Cumberbatch would only say, “Possibly.”

—Josh Rottenberg | @LATHeroComplex

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