‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

May 18, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.
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Benedict Cumberbatch at the Bowery Hotel in New York on May 13, 2013. (Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)

benedictcumberbatch9 Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Bowery Hotel in New York on May 13, 2013. (Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)

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Zachary Quinto, left, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine in a scene from "Star Trek Into Darkness." (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures)

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Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Karl Urban in a scene from "Star Trek Into Darkness." (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures)

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Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of "Star Trek Into Darkness" on May 2, 2013. (Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images)

benedictcumberbatch trekpremiere1 Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

Chris Pine, left, Alice Eve, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch attend the London premiere of "Star Trek Into Darkness" on May 2, 2013. (Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images)

benedictcumberbatch4 Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Bowery Hotel in New York on May 13, 2013. (Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)

benedictcumberbatch10 Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Bowery Hotel in New York on May 13, 2013. (Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)

Settle in and make yourselves comfortable. Benedict Cumberbatch is taking off his tie.

Only a few minutes into an interview about his villainous turn in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the English actor was all apologies for the distraction. But a painful pinched nerve required some tending to before he walked the red carpet at the New York premiere of J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated sequel.

A pinched nerve in the left shoulder? Perhaps Cumberbatch has been spending too much time in the company of angry Vulcans of late?

“Ah, I see what you did there,” Cumberbatch said with a laugh. “Those who pay attention to these things will notice that’s the one that Zach grabs in the film.”

Benedict Cumberbatch. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Benedict Cumberbatch. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Zach, of course, is Zachary Quinto, who, in reprising his role as Mr. Spock for “Into Darkness,” spends considerable time pursuing, punching and, yes, Vulcan nerve-pinching his wily foe.

Set roughly one year after the events depicted in Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, “Into Darkness” sees Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew reunite in the face of a new enemy who turns out to be one of the most memorable villains in all of “Trek” lore.

PHOTOS: Benedict Cumberbatch’s career in pictures

The true identity of Cumberbatch’s character, who’s introduced as John Harrison, has been the subject of widespread speculation since the film headed into production. Abrams is famous for guarding the details of his projects, but “Into Darkness” took the cloak-and-dagger mystery to a new level.

As the film beams into theaters this weekend on a course toward a roughly $100-million opening, the secret is out — the twist has been revealed publicly in at least one film review, on Wikipedia and on the Internet Movie Database. Though as recently as late last week, Cumberbatch, speaking by phone from New York, was keeping mum.

“I think [being surprised by what's in a film is] a rare thing in our day and age where you have a super saturation of media over-publicizing every detail or spoilers in adverts or trailers,” he said. “That’s what it should be about, going to the movies. It shouldn’t be about ticking off a list of, ‘Yeah, I heard that was going to happen.’”

Q&A: J.J. Abrams talks ‘Into Darkness’

If anyone should understand the ephemeral nature of mysteries, it’s Cumberbatch. His portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective in the BBC’s “Sherlock” has brought him considerable acclaim and has helped catapult him into a variety of high-profile film roles.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in "Star Trek Into Darkness." (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in “Star Trek Into Darkness.” (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures)

Later this year he’ll appear opposite Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s historical drama “12 Years a Slave”; he’ll take the screen with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”; and he’ll play Julian Assange in the fact-based drama “The Fifth Estate” from director Bill Condon.

He’ll also take center stage as an ancient, powerful dragon in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” when Peter Jackson’s second installment in his planned trilogy opens in December.

Cumberbatch said he tries to trip up expectations in “the politest ways” when choosing roles. “Into Darkness” certainly sees him wearing the mantle of action antihero more overtly than ever before, though it’s the sequences in which he attempts to manipulate Kirk and Spock with his cool intellect and seductive baritone that perhaps most directly capitalize on the actor’s signature skill set.

“Mr. Cumberbatch, pale and intense, has become the object of a global fan cult, and it’s easy to see why,” the New York Times’ A.O. Scott wrote in his review of the film. “He fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence that seems to raise the ambient I.Q. whenever he’s on screen.”

Just a few weeks after landing his part (originally offered to Benicio del Toro), Cumberbatch found himself fighting with Vulcans and Klingons, jumping through exploding glass doors on spaceships and running through the streets of Los Angeles, which stood in for the San Francisco of the future where Starfleet Headquarters is based in the film.

“There was one particular moment where I was being dragged along the floor of Playa Vista, the famous Howard Hughes studio, the birthplace of the Spruce Goose, at 60 miles per hour at 1 o’clock in the morning in a spacesuit. My character’s in control, but as an actor, the minute after I did my thing as a character I stood up and said, ‘Did everyone see that? That was amazing, can we do it again?’”

It was an interesting experience for an actor who doesn’t profess to be overly studied on “Trek” canon, though he does have a healthy respect for the creative legacy of “Star Trek” godfather Gene Roddenberry.

“‘Star Trek’ works in subtle ways,” he said. “There’re such condensed, incredibly beautifully drawn characters that are very now even though it’s a future-scape with loads of rich imaginative detail for fans to obsess over. The actual core content of the story is universal in time and place.”

Cumberbatch certainly could have a future with the franchise, though little is clear about what specific shape a third “Trek” film might take. Paramount has said Abrams will at least produce another “Trek” movie, though he’ll next direct a new “Star Wars” film that Disney intends to release in 2015.

For his part, Cumberbatch simply seems to be enjoying his newfound status as a larger-than-life Hollywood heavy. Apparently, evildoing has its own unique rewards.

“I’ve just driven past a phone booth, with my face, the poster they use of me for the film, it’s amazing,” he said. “To be in the middle of New York, a city I’ve always loved, and going to the premiere and seeing myself on a side of a phone booth, I think you’d have to be made of stone not to feel something.”

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


25 Responses to ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Benedict Cumberbatch enjoys being villain

  1. helen says:

    Thanks for the article and gorgeous photos. Cumberbatch is an astonishing actor and I'm thrilled he's finally getting the recognition he deserves.

  2. @alfordy says:

    The best actor of his generation and the most versatile.

  3. joeallard says:

    Geez, who wouldn't want to reprise Ricardo Montalban's role as Khan, in the Star Trek series? I saw the 2D version on Thursday and Benedict Cumberbatch was awesome. It was great entertainment. In my opinion. All of the stars did a wonderful job. That said, Scotty was absolutely adorably funny as was Bones and Spock. Moreover, it goes without saying that it was also a pleasure to watch Zoe Saldana in action once again. I am anxious to see another Avatar.

  4. guestov says:

    If you haven't seen Sherlock, do. The 6 I've seen are excellent, and wiki says there are 3 more in production. Now that both Cumberbatch and Freeman have moved up, the series is probably dead, too bad. Anyways, Cumberbatch has some real presence on the screen. As villains go, he's just as cool as Tom Hiddleston is as Loki (who also has developed a world wide fan base, I guess villains are in). I hope they do bring him back in a future Trek, it would be cool.

    • Clea says:

      Don't worry, Sherlock is being far from dead. ;) The production will only take more time now because it's harder to fit the filming into both Benedict's and Martin's schedule.

      • Jacey Wacey says:

        thank you both for those reassuring comment. I hope we can all still uphold the *Fandom Spirit* In the future

      • Katy says:

        There's actually release dates finally, September 15th 2013 for Series 3. They're pushing them out faster for the fans (which is fantastic to hear as one)

  5. Rob says:

    Spock vs. Spock…….Awesome

  6. David A. Frederick says:

    I saw the movie and for those who are new to Trek, enjoy. For us oldheads, the irony of this one vs. “Wrath of Khan” was good! It showed several areas between the original series and the “prequel” movies, as it were. Those who saw this film should watch the episode “Space Seed” of The Original Series in Trek, followed by the second film “Wrath of Khan”. Good sequencing.

    • Ghost says:

      Dates don't work. Kirk would have been over 100 in space seed. into darkness 2146 verses space seed 2267. Also Kirk didn't know Khan in space seed even though they fought in into darkness. But was good action movie but story line no.

      • Mike says:

        It's two completely alternate timelines, remember how the time travel in JJ's first movie, spun a new timeline…which is why Zach Quinto's Spock can talk to Leonard Nimoy's Spock. Kirk in Into Darkness has not met him…it's an alternate parallel timeline. Space Speed exists within the Original timeline, then as Spock was old, fought the Eric Bana Character through time and ended up changing history and splitting these characters into a new direction. If you follow the story, it's incredible

  7. @bejt10 says:

    he's AMAZING to watch

    • Cumberbatched says:

      Benedict has said he wants to do a series 4-he says he'll always make time for Sherlock!

      • Alquamírë says:

        Replied to the wrong post, didn't you? :-) But you made me feel like the first time I heard about him saying that – ridiculously happy. :-) However, I'm still worried about Sherlock – it's not just up to Benedict, you know… Also I truly believe he feels what he says is true but even he can't predict everything, he can't know he'll always be able to make time for it. Althought I believe in series 4 (and hope for the others to come), they can't cut it after nine episodes, they just can't! And after what they did to us with The Fall I think we deserve a proper compensation. :-)

  8. Loveallthingsmystery says:

    Please warn about spoilers before posting! Some of us truly love the surprise in movies and would have been surprised for the twist if not for comments… So warn first so those that want to can read on- and the rest of us can still have mystery.

  9. AnnaZed says:

    I love Cumberbatch – he is wonderful; but the last bit is either a misquote or an outright fabrication – there are no phone booths in New York City – none.

  10. marc says:

    As good as the movie was and he was, shouldn't Khan be some Central or South Asian dude? Afterall the original storyline was that (even if Ricardo is hispanic) and the name is a dead giveaway.

  11. Richard Pawley says:

    I thought the movie was worth seeing but probably not one I'd spend money on owing. J. J. Abrams did the best he could with the story. I read somewhere where the movie would be enjoyable except for a purist. Well, I guess I am one though I didn't know it until I saw the movie. My wife only likes the original series while I enjoyed all the sequel TV series, especially the last, which was a prequel to Kirk.

    The powers that be did an excellent job choosing the new crew but not even a hint of the spiritual dimension was sadly lacking in this film, except for the comment by a younger Spock to deny the miracles even exist. Of course that goes with today's culture, and if this latest Star Trek is a reflection of society as many of them have been, then we are indeed headed for a darkness that the entire world as a whole has not experienced before, though parts of it have. I suspect that man's ingenuity, in and of itself, will not be sufficient to solve the problems that are fast approaching..

    Someone I respect once told me that "There is much life in the Universe, but it is very far away. Because of the age old problem of good versus evil most civilizations that have reached the atomic age have destroyed themselves. The nearest sentient life is over 500 light years. The nearest life technologically equivalent to earth is over 1,000 light years. Mankind will never reach them, but they, may, in the distant future (not in the lifetime of anyone now living) reach earth. They have become masters of space travel." The possibilities that short piece of information gives, are, I think, incredible.

  12. Richard Pawley says:

    I thought the movie was worth seeing but probably not one I'd spend money on owing. J. J. Abrams did the best he could with the story. I read somewhere where the movie would be enjoyable except for a purist. Well, I guess I am one though I didn't know it until I saw the movie. My wife only likes the original series while I enjoyed all the sequel TV series, especially the last, which was a prequel to Kirk.

    The powers that be did an excellent job choosing the new crew but not even a hint of the spiritual dimension was evident in this film, except for the comment by a younger Spock to deny that miracles even exist. Of course that goes with today's culture, and if this latest Star Trek is a reflection of society as many of them have been, then we are indeed headed for a darkness that the entire world as a whole has not experienced before, though parts of it have. I suspect that man's ingenuity, in and of itself, will not be sufficient to solve the problems that are fast approaching..

    Someone I respect once told me that "There is much life in the Universe, but it is very far away. Because of the age old problem of good versus evil most civilizations that have reached the atomic age have destroyed themselves. The nearest sentient life is over 500 light years. The nearest life technologically equivalent to earth is over 1,000 light years. Mankind will never reach them, but they, may, in the distant future (not in the lifetime of anyone now living) reach earth. They have become masters of space travel." The possibilities that short piece of information gives, are, I think, incredible.

  13. xmarisolx says:

    I love Benny. That is all.

  14. Cumberbitch says:

    Ima cumberbitch for life :)

  15. gemma says:

    I love you !!!! Benedict!! your the best actor !!
    I really crushed on you!!!

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