Benedict Cumberbatch knew he'd have a tough act to follow when he signed up to play the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness (the film opened in American theaters yesterday). Trekkies know the franchise's bad guy pantheon inside and out: The Borg, the Klingons -- and who can forget the man who got Captain Kirk screaming his name? KHAAANNNN!
So Cumberbatch made sure the character John Harrison, a former Starfleet agent-turned-interstaller terrorist, had a little something to set him apart.
Of Harrison, Cumberbatch told Rolling Stone, "He's a one-man weapon of mass destruction, driven by super-human levels of emotion. The care he has for his people, his crew and his family is a complete parallel to Kirk."
The actor had to make many adjustments to portray the character, give him a certain steely presence. "I wanted Harrison's voice to have something slightly manufactured and odd, that sounded test-tube-made, where every word was sort of etched," Cumberbatch said in a New York Magazine interview, playing up the genetically engineered aspects of the Harrison character. "I was keen to make his violence quick-not balletic, but purposeful. And his physique-he's not Bane, he's not this unsurpassable physical entity.
"He's a warrior, a spearhead-someone who just carves his way through and doesn't stop. There had to be emotion in the movement as well, and when he was at rest, it was more reptilian."
"The only hardship of playing that kind of a character is that I did have to physically remove myself on a couple of occasions," said Cumberbatch to MTV News. "To just get my game on, set my head straight and realize that there was glass, literal and figurative, between my character and their characters."
Star Trek always has a focus on the social issues of the day, whatever day that might be -- indeed, it began in 1966, in a time of particular societal upheaval in American history -- and Cumberbatch reminds moviegoers that Harrison is merely as complex and nuanced as the world that created him. "Sadly, it's all too relevant - one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," said Cumberbatch in the music publication. "He's someone that's activated and manufactured in a way by Star Fleet, and it's a scene that has come back to haunt him."
Cumberbatch told USA Today, "We could get accused of 'Ah, yes, in this wonderful Hollywood fantasy, we're turning all baddies into relatable villains in the sense that he is a terrorist. [But] politically, it speaks an awful lot of what power is both now and what it could be in the future. There is a massive analogy to American foreign policy and home-bred terrorism."
Check out the trailer here!