Cumberbatch: Abrams Pitched Into Darkness Villain As Combo Of Hannibal Lector, ‘Shining’ Jack & Joker

The hottest topic around Trek these days has been about the villain (and his plan) in Star Trek Into Darkness. A newly released video of Benedict Cumberbatch from the Japanese press event offers some more tidbits, including how JJ Abrams described the role villain role before his audition. Cumberbatch also says that even though he is a bad guy, the villain has a three dimensional motivation and he may even be a sympathetic character.


Cumberbatch: Abrams pitched villain as combo of baddies – but you can empathize with him

A just released video from the recent Japanese press event for Star Trek Into Darkness features Benedict Cumberbatch talking to GyaO! about his role as the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness. Like with other interviews, he describes the character as a terrorist who is adept as both physical and psychological warfare. But he also offered up this tidbit about how producer/director JJ Abrams described the role before he even auditioned…

JJ described the role in movie terms as a mixture of Hannibal Lector, Jack in the Shining and The Joker in Batman. There are sorts of levels to pitch in amongst quite a high bar as well to succeed in comparison to. It was a framework to understand this character before I saw the whole script.

Cumberbatch went on to say that his character (John Harrison) is not a two-dimensional baddie and you might even feel for him…

I would say he is three dimensional in a way that he has a purpose, unlike the villains can sometimes go in franchises where it is just the obstacle – just this immovable thing this entity in the way or destroying what the good guys do. This person has real purpose behind his actions – his intention. It doesn’t mean I condone them, but I can empathize with the reasons. So there is a degree of leaning in and understanding and caring about him as well as being terrified about what he is doing.

JJ Abrams ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ villain math

here is the full video interview with Cumberbatch.

thanks to Sarah for Twitter tip and sskrmrc on Youtube for clip

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From hell’s heart I stab at thee…


Well, I would say that each of the component characters has certain issues, not to say is totally deranged and bonkers, so I trust that Cumby will draw out the more sensitive sides of their natures.

Jody Foster’s character could have mentioned something about the chianti sauce her villain preferred….


just think in 6 months we’ll know everything – who the main villain is, if Khan and the augments are in it or not , who lives, who dies, if any TOS music will be heard, all the little Trek references/easter eggs etc etc

6 months

It’s “Lecter”, not “Lector”.

Serious? all these crazy guys on space!……. OK ;-) :-)

“Gimme a nice schmear of ‘surfer.'” Nothing like designing a character by just mushing together other characters! Screams “good storytelling.”

Poochie, the Rockin’ Villain!

Only five months, Khan 2.0. Five months. And I will enjoy each and every day on the way to the answers.

1. Indeed.

3. Gasp. Chianti’s a wine. ;)

5. And then we’ll have nothing left to do but complain about it all for the next 2-4 years.

I’m hoping our friend has some sort of cause/ point to prove/belief in what he’s doing.

Of all of them, the only really interesting one was Ledger’s Joker. Lecter was fun (and scary) in Lambs and then, I don’t know, the character got a bit silly.

If JJ was literally comparing to the villain, then… I guess they’re all bad guys you root for. All killers. All theatrical. And they’re all fun to watch.

He’s not khan, it’s obviously a timeline trick. He’s Mr. Kyle, they’re both English, duh! In this timeline he gets revenge for being so incredibly dorky in the original show.

Well, this settles it. He’s playing a Tribble.

Why do people not accept he is John Harrison, instead of guessing who else the character could be? They already said he was John.

I was hoping for more of a Biff Tannen-Apollo Creed-Morris Day kind of bad guy.

From his other interviews, Cumby seems to be a fast talker. Is the video on slow-mo or is he being polite to his translator by speaking slowly?

Any Japanese feedback with regards to the IMAX preview?

I’ve seen him.
He’s a lion.
He’s huge.

Just saw the 9 minutes again today in IMAX 3D after finally taking my post-surgery recovering wife to see “The Hobbit” (great movie, BTW), and after seeing Cumberbatch’s super Anglo features and accent on the big screen? Well, all I can say is that if someone had said at that very moment that he was playing Khan Noonian Singh from “Space Seed”, it’d probably generate an audible laugh or two. It’d be like saying Elijah Wood was playing the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

John Harrison is so clearly not Khan Noonian Singh. He is an augment of some sort, of that I have little doubt (probably of Starfleet design as well, but that’s supposition, not a fact) and he probably was Khan in an earlier draft of the script (which is where Anthony’s source probably got his info), but Harrison is not Khan now. When I told my wife after the movie that the rumor mill suggested Cumberbatch was cast as Khan, she just laughed it off.

And would any sensible, impartial person who has seen both Space Seed and WoK describe Khan as a cross between Hannibal Lector, the Joker and Jack Torrance?!? Really doubt it. That’s not exactly a Khan Noonian Singh profile.

At this point in the game, I really don’t care much for this “character” and what drives him, or the entire movie, for that matter. Seriously.

I’m still cheesed off about the name. John Harrison. Really? Is that the best they could do? If that’s the case, why not name the bad guy Dick Dack, John Smith, Mike Schumntz, Roger Prodactor, Dirk Hardmeat, Brick Hardpeck or Elmo Jones (Hey, he was canon! Really! He was the 7th guy from the right, 14th scene, 8th blurry background extra on the Carbomite Maneuver! You remember that guy……right? Right?)

The more I read about this dude, this movie, how they went about promoting it and all the hype and the MAJOR SERIOUS let down about the name AND who the bad guy is………………killed it for me.

Gonna be reading the entire movie on Not paying my hard-earned moolah to see it.

Oh, one more thing. For all those Khan-hards out there who just KNOW that this guy is Khan…why don’t we have a “if it’s not Khan we get to kick you in the nuts” contest? That would make a great story here! Perhaps we could post some camera-happy, telephoto-lens-equipped shmuck in a tree about 2 miles out and get some great shots of the action!


I still don’t get it.

This is how you market this movie?

And with this british Cumberpatch guy? Epic fail. Its gotta be.

I just don’t get it.

He’s Mr. Rogers… in a blood-stained sweater.

@19 Just curious. If it depends on you how are you going to market it then?


Thank God you wife straightened this out for all of us. We can rule out Khan completely now.


PS: Seriously, I hope your wife is OK, and also I am thinking that JH is most likely a member of the Bontany Bay crew, but not Khan himself.

Sebastian S, post above was meant in response to your post @17, not in response to Beavis and Butthead’s post @18.



I’m really not all that concerned with this Cumbersomesnatch character. All I care about is if the Gay-Trek-Character problem has been addressed appropriately. And, it had better not be this Cumbersomesnatch person.

The villain in the new Star Trek is a guy named John Harrison. It’s a new character and a new story. All this makes me wonder if some fans will still persist in thinking John Harrison is actually Khan even after they’ve seen the movie.

Bob Orci –

Speaking of Star Trek Villains, I was just watching Balance of Terror. Mark Leonard as the Romulan commander said something that struck me –

“You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could’ve called you friend.”

In your JJ-verse, since Nero has altered the relationship between Romulans & the Federation, might Ben Cross feel up to playing that same Romulan commander but in a different light? Or more possibly, in the comics?


All, after listening to Pike’s voice multiple time in his voice over on the newest trailer, I have come to the conclusion that Pike may be giving a deathbed speech to Kirk. Listen carefully and you can hear his voice quaking and crackling like he is losing energy and having some difficulty getting the words out.

Combined with the funeral scene, I am sorry to have to say that I think Pike dies in this movie and that his voice-over words of advice to Kirk are being said by him as he lies dying after being injured in the terrorist strike on Starfleet HQ.

21. Aix

How? just be more straight forward with the message.
And make it more TOS in style and substance (my preference).

#26. Scott (above) unoficially just did so much more for this movie

“The villain in the new Star Trek is a guy named John Harrison. It’s a new character and a new story.”

I think it would have been soo much wiser if they would have kept it simple, and taken a moment to the clarify the worded descripton.and include something along the lines of what Scott wrote above.

Teasing us with misleading murky non-Trek inspired images is ruining the marketing.

But perhaps I am way too close to the media hype on this one.

IDIC, I guess. But I am still more interested in seeing Iron Man III.

That clinches it, he’s obviously playing Harry Mudd in this movie.

@29 I prefer it like this, actually. Marketing is suppose to mess up with your head in a way, you know, to keep you intrigued. And I willingly surrender to the manipulation of the marketing team for now. Haha!

MJ, I just listened to Pike’s voice-over on the trailer again, and I think you may be on to something here. Yea, his voice sounds like he is in pain, and he sputters a bit. Could be he is dying.

Hmm. What a list. Sound’s like they are making a star Trek Horror Show.

First off, Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazingly talented actor. Period.

Next, this clip is from a Japanese press interview. Not only did Cumberbatch have the intelligence and grace to slow down his rhythm of speech for both cultural considerations and logistics of translation, he also displayed a humility that escapes most actors.

He certainly understood his Japanese audience when he expressed fear in living up to the role while clearly stating that he had to audition for the part. Total humility. Most actors would try to gloss over the hiring process by flat out saying they were offered the role.

This guy is supersmart, immensely talented and, for us to have him star in a Star Trek movie, we are very lucky to have him!

Bob, would you agree with my statement?

Please, stop joking with Benedict Cucumberbatch’s name!!!

# 34
You got it just right!

@35 Something tells me you are not going to be buying the major tie in toy line planned for the new STID: “Cumber Patch Kids” dolls.


@13 braxus,
“Why do people not accept he is John Harrison, instead of guessing who else the character could be? They already said he was John.”

Because Bob Orci said that John Harrison is TOS canon.

Therefore, he has to be someone else (the laziest assumption), or John Harrison is an unnamed character (or a character named just “John”, or just “Harrison”) as referenced somewhere in the original 80 episodes and 8 films (possibly including the animated series). Unless Orci lied, which he said he hasn’t.

So don’t blame those guessing, blame the producers for creating the game.

I knew Pike was going to die this time around way back when they announced that Greenwood was in the movie. So there :)

RM10019, I’ve thought all along that Pike was going down in this movie as well, and I believe multiple other people have commented similarly on this recently. However, this new observation from MJ regarding Pike’s voice does certainly seem to support this.

The real question is… WHICH JOKER?

STID is to Khan as Prometheus is to Xenomorph. We are going to be scratching our heads the whole movie wondering how it’s going to tie together.

K-7, rm10019,

I wasn’t claiming here to have solely predicted Pike’s death ahead of time in STID — sure, many have made that comment here before.

What is new and original about my comment in @28 above is that I believe that I have now proven that he dies based on a careful listening to issues with Pike’s voice in the voice over for the latest trailer– no one else here has made that deduction. That is my new information here.


No shit, *Sherlock!

MJ, I keeed, I keeeed………………..please don’t hurt me!

*(Cumberbatch, being known for Holmes, allowed me this liberty)

I’m hoping they don’t use the term ‘augment’. I know that was the term they used in Enterprise, but I never much cared for it.

@17 Sebastian S.,
“And would any sensible, impartial person who has seen both Space Seed and WoK describe Khan as a cross between Hannibal Lector, the Joker and Jack Torrance?!? Really doubt it. That’s not exactly a Khan Noonian Singh profile.”

Sebastian, as much as I would like to agree with you, and wish it were true, it’s just not in the context of this universe.

If you think about it, Khan, was on his way to the nut farm in TWOK, and that’s fundamentally what all three of those villains Abrams cited have in common. But what motivated him in that case could not have happened in this timeline. And if we assume that John Harrison is Khan, then Space Seed could not have happened either.

So we’re left to speculate on a whole new backstory for Khan from the moment he was first awakened on the Botany Bay, which could have happened as much as 26 years earlier than this film. And if during that time Khan has been tortured, restrained, starved, abused, etc. suffice it to say he would have likely gone insane much sooner. Take into consideration Khan’s intelligence, and I could very easily imagine someone lying in a cell, strapped to a table, turning dark and inward to his intelligence, plotting his revenge day after day.

Unlike the Khan who was marooned on Ceti-Alpha but able to live freely in those confines, a tortured and imprisoned Khan would evolve quite differently. Rather than strike with quick and decisive brute force, he now wants to slowly pull his captor’s fingernails, to make them suffer as they made him suffer for so many years. He’s much more measured in his response, and we all know how he feels about best serving up revenge. His augments are perhaps dead, and its just him. But he has flashes of the Khan we know … Jack Torrence was reckless in his attempts to kill his family with an axe. The Joker was not afraid to use massively destructive weapons. And above all, like those villains, no one could make Khan listen to reason, even his own people, who may not be there to temper him as long as they did in TWOK.

Bottom line, if John Harrison turns out to be Khan, I would accept this kind of characterization given the proper backstory and motivation.

He tasks me…
He tasks me, so i shall have him!

@44 LOL

So he’s an intelligent cannibal who goes mad and chases people with an axe for the sole purpose of watching the world burn? Yup, definitely Khan.

29. “Teasing us with misleading murky non-Trek inspired images is ruining the marketing.”

What the heck does “non-Trek inspired mean?” Trek may have made you wonder, but at some point you seem to have stopped…

Speaking of having an open mind, I watched Nemesis again on Netflix last night — and I was a little more appreciative of the attempt to make it mean something. It was clunky, sure. But it meant well, I think.