‘Star Trek’ Villain Revealed: What’s His Secret and Who Almost Played Him (Spoiler!)
Khan roulette (from left): Ricardo Montalbán, Benicio del Toro, Benedict Cumberbatch (Everett/Getty/Paramount)
When J.J. Abrams started casting the villain role for "Star Trek Into Darkness," he was looking almost exclusively at actors of Latin descent.
Why you ask?
Well, Abrams himself admitted early in the film's development that he was thinking seriously about adding to the mix Khan Noonien Singh – aka the guy who royally ticks off Captain Kirk in the 1982 film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." In it, Khan is played by a Spanish actor who grew up in Mexico -- the late Ricardo Montalbán – also known for his leading role in the long-running '70s and '80s television show "Fantasy Island." (Fun fact: Montalbán first played Khan in a 1967 television episode of "Star Trek" called "Space Seed.")
When it came to looking for the right actor to carry the torch first lit by Montalbán, it makes sense that Abrams sought someone who could pull of Khan's Latin accent from the original series.
Abrams considered Edgar Ramirez ("Zero Dark Thirty," "The Bourne Ultimatum"), Jordi Molla ("Blow," "Colombiana"), and several others. "We were looking for the right actor. We met a lot of people," Abrams told Yahoo! Movies during a recent interview.
Eventually the mega director locked in on Benicio del Toro. And the Internet became abuzz. The "Traffic" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" actor, who is known for his dark intensity on screen, was starting to spark excitement among fans. This guy might be the perfect choice for Khan.
Del Toro had the bad guy role clinched, but, to the disappointment of onlookers, he turned down the role. The 46-year-old actor, originally from Puerto Rico, walked away from the highly anticipated Abrams project when his payday couldn't be agreed upon, according to Vulture.
Back to square one.
Watch 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Insider Access – Tears:
This apparently gave Abrams time to expand his thinking on the possibilities of his villain.
Enter Damon Lindelof – Abrams's longtime collaborator and "Lost" television show co-creator.
"Damon Lindelof said, 'You should check out "Sherlock."' I watched 'Sherlock' [and] he was just brilliant," Abrams remembers of Cumberbatch's performance on the BBC show.
With the "Into Darkness" film shoot just a couple of months away, Cumberbatch was officially made part of the cast. And his iPhone audition -- just a formality, Abrams has said. His work on "Sherlock" all but sealed the deal.