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STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

A Nemesis Uncovered
The inky heart of "Star Trek Into Darkness" comes in the person of a mysterious enemy, an intergalactic terrorist whose destructive instincts seem to know no earthly, or cosmic, bounds. This is John Harrison, a one-man army of doom who becomes Captain Kirk's target.

From the time the filmmakers first began thinking about the man called John Harrison, and his deep connection to Star Trek lore, the search was on for someone with the acting chops to embody him.

After meeting with dozens upon dozens of skilled actors, Abrams decided to take off in a completely unpredictable direction. Going far afield, he looked at Benedict Cumberbatch, the English actor best known for historical and period roles ranging from television's "Sherlock", "War Horse," "Atonement" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" to "The Hobbit" and "Parade's End." Though he might seem to defy expectations, Abrams was sold on Cumberbatch's combo of skill and magnetism.

"In the first film, we had extraordinary actors who took these iconic roles and made them their own, with a spirit that completely validated what they were doing. Benedict did exactly the same thing with his character," Abrams explains. "He came to the table with a whole new attitude, personality, background and strength. But he's such a compelling and powerful actor that it works. He has a wry sophistication to his approach that is so right. To me it nullified any concerns of how he might look. We are not in any way undoing what's come before, but he is our version of this character. It was the right way to go because he was so damn good."

Cumberbatch was already a Trek fan when he read the script. "I'd seen the first one and I thought it was just terrific. It was an amazing witty, intelligent romp at the same time as being faithful to the original. And this script hooked me even deeper," he says. "J.J and I talked a lot about my character, about who is this man and what role has he played in Starfleet?"

It was thrilling for Cumberbatch to come onto the set of The Enterprise in the midst of an already tightly constructed family -- even if he plays the ultimate threatening outsider to that family. "J.J. creates an atmosphere on the set that is absurdly good fun," he comments. "He has great respect for actors and their process -- so there's always a time and a place for play but also for serious concentration. That's a great mixture of dynamics to have on set."

As he dove into the character's roiling psyche, Cumberbatch also dove into training for the most physically demanding role he's ever taken, chock full of fight scenes and chase sequences. He says both Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto helped him in that department. "Zach and Chris are just brilliant at this stuff, very strong and fast, but they were also really kind and considerate with me," he says. "They were always concerned about safety -- but then they just let the emotions rip."

Those high-wire emotions, especially between Pine and Cumberbatch, were viscerally felt by everyone. "I loved watching Chris and Benedict when they were doing scenes together because the sparks would literally fly," says Karl Urban.

Adds Pine: "Benedict went at this character like a scalpel. His performance is so precise, I watched in awe as a fan and a fellow actor. It was chilling and creepy and hands down I think he has created some moments that will stand in the pantheon of great Star Trek moments."

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