Star Trek Into Darkness producer JJ Abrams says he cast British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s lead villain after seeing him in the BBC series Sherlock.
Mr Abrams, who is also overseeing a new series of Star Wars films, rebooted the Trek franchise in 2009, crafting an alternate timeline plot to give his team the freedom to tell new stories.
At the London press conference for Star Trek Into Darkness, writer Bob Orci said the intention had been to “respect canon and to free ourselves from canon”.
He added that the decision to seperate the rebooted franchise from the original series timeline meant “for the second movie we could do anything we wanted.”
Abrams said that even with greater freedom, “the biggest challenge continues to be honouring the Trek that came before but at the same time making it completely, totally accessible to people who have a perceived notion of what that is, both tonally and at a story level, and also making the movie fun to watch but also meaningful.”
In the new film Cumberbatch plays John Harrison, a terrorist with links to Starfleet who launches an all-out attack on the Federation.
The actor praised the film’s writers for shunning the stereotypical black/white divide between Hollywood heroes and villains and instead telling the story of a man who lived in the “grey” area between the two extremes.
Cumberbatch said Harrison had “a moral core” and that “brilliant” writing allowed the audience to “sympathise and empathise with his cause” but not his means which he described as “pretty brutal and abhorrent.”
Abrams said he was introduced to Sherlock and Cumberbatch by Damon Lindelof, another of the film’s writers.
He described the show as “the perfect medicine” for the difficulty he and his team were having in nailing Harrison’s character and said Cumberbatch’s performances in it left him “blown away”.
Star Trek Into Darkness is released across the UK on May 9th and receives its UK premiere tonight, May 2nd.