Benedict Cumberbatch talks about coming on board the Starship Enterprise as he plays the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness
Benedict Cumberbatch vividly recalls the moment when he stepped onto the Starship Enterprise and became an instant Star Trek fan.
It was his first day at work on Star Trek Into Darkness and he was unprepared for the scale and brilliance of a set.
“It was the script, the spectacle of the movie, the great performances and the way that J.J. had reshaped the whole idea of this franchise that drew me to it.
“It was extremely flattering to be offered the chance to be the next Star Trek villain.”
Cumberbatch plays John Harrison — a brilliant but disaffected former member of Star Fleet Command, who now employs his genius in devastatingly destructive ways.
The actor talks about his key role in Star Trek Into Darkness as also the controversial Wiki-leaks founder Julian Assange that he plays in The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County his other movie.
What can you tell us about the character you play, John Harrison?
He’s a terrorist. He’s not the usual villain and there’s a real calculation and intelligence to his actions. But also he is a ferocious warrior, for example in hand-to-hand combat and with weapons. We did these fantastic choreographed fight scenes, which I really enjoyed. But he’s equally dangerous in a still moment where he’s not necessarily physically seen to be in charge.
So he’s politically motivated?
I think within the world of the film, very much so. It is a political ideology he is fighting for.
You mentioned fight scenes. What kind of physical preparation did you have to do for the role?
I was consuming 4.000 calories a day for about a month and a half. Before that, just eating five times a day was enough but it really ramped up for the last month and a half for this scene, which might be cut (laughs).
I can’t say why at this point. But it was for a scene where my physicality is revealed at one point. But it might be cut because it might not fit in with the final edit. My trainer and I are heartbroken! (laughs).
What sort of stunts did you do?
Well some of the stunt scenes we did included being dragged across the floor at 60 mph by rope pulls and being jerked back. We were jumping off things suspended by wires — at one point my character jumps off a bridge.
And you enjoyed all of that?
It was just so thrilling. And I loved it — as much as I was allowed to do it. I have to hold my hand up and say that I had an amazing stunt man called Martin De Boer who you will be seeing a lot more of because he’s a good actor as well.
What was it like when you walked on to the Enterprise set for the first time?
A: It’s amazing. The first time I stepped on the set I was looking up to the Bridge – I was in outer space basically looking in. And then I walked around the corridors that link all the different areas on the Enterprise and it was just beautiful. And there are echoes of spaceships you have seen in films that you’ve watched down the years, it triggers lots of associations and yet it is completely unique to J.J.’s version of this franchise. And J.J. is genuinely fired up by the whole thing. And he surrounds himself with fantastic artistry in every department — make-up, costume and design. And I did gain confidence as the film went on because you get more comfortable.
What’s it like when you see the scenes you did with the green screen fully formed?
The stuff I have seen where we were working with the green screen has blown my mind because that’s the set that wasn’t there on the day and so you have to imagine it all and you throw yourself into it and it’s extraordinary. You know, some people seem to worry that this is only a Sci Fi trip, it isn’t, it’s just a great action thriller and it’s got comedy and romance and all the spectacle that you would want in a huge movie. It’s a strongly based character driven drama. I think people will look back and see this as a golden era of cinema – especially with the advent of 3D and IMAX because they really are such immersive experiences and it takes it to yet another level.