Benedict Cumberbatch has been collecting big-budget franchise roles like no body’s business. Having starred in the biggest and nerdiest of productions in the past two decades, Cumberbatch has not only distinguished himself as a commercial success but also as a critically acclaimed actor.
Having played iconic roles like Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch is no stranger to brilliant characters with rich histories. One of them was his character in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into the Darkness, Khan Nooine Singh. However, to bring the character to life, Abrams pitched the character to Cumberbatch by asking the Doctor Strange alum to draw inspiration from 3 iconic villains in film and comic history.
Benedict Cumberbatch was asked to draw inspiration from 3 movies for Star Trek: Into the Darkness
Abrams asked Cumberbatch to base his character on three characters in particular. All the mentioned references were iconic villains in film history, that would inform Cumberbatch’s performance of the character. The Joker from The Dark Knight, Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, and Jack Torrance from The Shining were the characters that Abrams wanted Cumberbatch to focus on,
In The Dark Knight, The Joker is portrayed by Heath Ledger. The actor received tremendous acclaim for his portrayal, making it one of the most iconic portrayals of a comic book character in recent history. However, as nefarious as the character was, it pales in comparison to the horror and chills that Sir Anthony Hopkins brought to the table in playing the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the notorious cannibal from The Silence of the Lambs, adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Stephen King. Another of Stephen King’s adapted novels involves the character of Jack Torrence, the protagonist/antagonist of The Shining. All these three antagonists find themselves isolated from society, distant from what it means to be human. This could have served as an interesting note, given Khan’s history in the Star Trek Universe.
JJ Abrams had the right idea
Using these characters as a map to inform Cumberbatche’s performance worked. His portrayal of Khan (which he denied in interviews as a part of a secrecy campaign) was universally acclaimed, likening it to other stoic male characters that had taken Hollywood by storm. Critics and audiences alike enjoyed the character a lot. It also helped that Cumberbatch himself is an immensely gifted actor. Portraying Khan as a superhuman, man-who-does-not-fit-in character aligns perfectly with the references that Abrams presented to the Avengers: Infinity War actor.
Cumberbatch’s list of franchises in his resume only seems to be set to grow even more.