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When director J.J. Abrams set out to create a new canon telling the story of the sci-fi legacy known as Star Trek, casting the new faces of old favorites must have been a terrifying ordeal. Yet when it came to picking someone for the role of Spock’s Vulcan father Sarek, actor Ben Cross was probably one of the easiest casting decisions he could have made. Wise and stoic, but eventually with a hint of fatherly pride, Cross’ reinvention of the character helped the 2009 blockbuster become the success it eventually was known to be. Which makes it even sadder for us to report that Ben Cross has died today, at the age of 72.
Also remembered most notably as real-life athlete Harold Abrahams in the Academy Award winning Chariots of Fire, as well as the new face of vampire Barnabas Collins in NBC’s Dark Shadows reboot from 1991, Cross was confirmed to have passed in Vienna this morning. According to Deadline, the news came straight from his family, as he is survived by his wife and two children.
Ben Cross’ career started back in 1977, with the role of Trooper Binns in actor/director Richard Attenborough’s World War II drama A Bridge Too Far. From that point, it wasn’t long before Cross landed his role alongside co-stars John Gielgud and Ian Holm in Chariots of Fire, which went on to win Best Picture at the 54th Academy Awards. Apparently, Ben Cross’ death was due to a short unspecified illness, as he was working as early as a little over a week ago, wrapping his final film The Devil’s Light.
Cross was also known for his television work, as previously mentioned, due to roles like that of the central vampire in the modern, pre-Tim Burton reboot of the famed supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. In more recent years, Ben Cross could also be seen in projects like The CW’s space opera Pandora and the TV adaptation of 12 Monkeys for SyFy.
But for a wide swath of viewers, moviegoers, and Star Trek fans, the resurrection of a fan favorite will be what Ben Cross is best remembered for. In the role originated in franchise history by late actor Mark Lenard, Cross was the first person to play Sarek since Lenard’s final appearance in the role on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1991. With a brand new world for the characters of Gene Roddenberry’s creation to explore, there were somethings that could stand to change.
Thankfully, Ben Cross’ Sarek was one of those touchstones that helped nail down what was new, but familiar, when it came to Star Trek. And in his true fashion, Cross played the part with the great skill and versatility he had been known for throughout his career; which, of course, left actor James Frain with some mighty big shoes to fill when he took the part over in the casting for Star Trek: Discovery. Such is the legacy of a great actor to follow the path of the past, while also paving the way for the future. Our sincerest condolences go out to Ben Cross’ family and friends at this time.