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John Malkovich and Tom McGrath play a spy game in 'Penguins of Madagascar'

John Malkovich and Tom McGrath at the "Penguins of Madascar" press conference at 2014 Comic-Con Internationalin San Diego
John Malkovich and Tom McGrath at the "Penguins of Madascar" press conference at 2014 Comic-Con Internationalin San DiegoCarla Hay

John Malkovich is an Oscar-nominated, world-renowned actor who has taken on a wide variety of roles, so why not as an animated octopus? In the 3-D movie “Penguins of Madagascar,” Malkovich voices the character of villainous octopus Dr. Octavius Brine. DreamWorks Animation describes “Penguins of Madagascar” (which is directed by Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell) as a movie about “entertaining and mysterious birds in the global espionage game.” The movie arrives in U.S. and Canadian cinemas on Nov. 26, 2014.

In “Penguins of Madagscar,” birds Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath, who has voiced the role in all the “Madagascar” movies so far), Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller), Rico (voiced by John DiMaggio) and Private (voiced by Christopher Knights) join forces with the chic spy organization the North Winds, led by Agent Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). On July 24, 2014, Malkovich, McGrath, Cumberbatch, Smith and Darnell were on a “Penguins of Madagascar” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Before the panel, there was a "Penguins in Madagascar" press conference. (Cumberbatch was scheduled to be at the press conference too, but was unable to attend due to a delay in his plane flight, according to DreamWorks Animation.) Here is what Malkovich and Stack said at the press conference.

John, why did you want to be in an animated film like “Penguins of Madagascar”? Did you have any hesitation?

Malkovich: When I recorded it, I always had excellent reads. It read very, very well.

Smith: It’s not unusual for the actor to not meet face to face until they’re done.

Tom, you’re known for co-directing animated movies such as the first three “Madagascar” movies. How did you end up as a voice actor?

McGrath: When it came time to cast, Robert Stack unfortunately passed away. And I was filling in as a scratch voice, and I fell into the part. It would have been amazing to have Robert lend his voice, because he was such an incredible actor. So this is for you, Robert!

John, can you talk about playing the villain in “Penguins of Madagascar”? Is it more fun for you to play a villain than a good guy?

Malkovich: I don’t know if I was made to play the part of a bad guy, by definition. This one [Dr. Octavious Brine] is quite fun because he’s lazy, a not particularly profound or remorseful psychopath. And that’s, of course, always a pleasure. It’s a very fun character to play.

I know actors sometimes say [playing a villain] is more fun than playing a good person or a protagonist or somebody who’s meant to be decent. I’ve never been convinced about that. Some parts are more interesting than others, but they’re not always more interesting because the person is “bad.” They just might be better-written.

For more info: "Penguins of Madagascar" website