Star Trek London Press Conference: Part Two

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On the afternoon of the UK Star Trek premiere, Paramount laid on a press conference in the Mirror room of Claridges to pit JJ Abrams and lead cast against (as conference referee Mark Dolan had it) “the members of Her Majesty’s Press.” We have already started coverage of the event (read part one here), but here is the next juicy installment. Particularly fun: this is the bit where /Film’s question is put forward (and, for the record, it received the two most animated responses of the afternoon).

Returning to the London Star Trek press conference already in progress.

JJ was then asked to what extent he felt he needed to be a Star Trek historian.

Abrams: I was never a huge Star Trek fan when I started working on this and so I didn’t have that feeling of it being sort of sacred text, that I couldn’t make creative decisions that I would think would be better for the movie and the risk there obviously was alienating fans of Star Trek, original fans, and I didn’t want to do that but I also felt that if we did we follow up on our job and made a movie that was entertaining, that would include Star Trek fans. Things like the exact look of certain species, that’s changed in the history of Star Trek anyway. You can even look at the original series and find inconsistencies that they had. It’s part of the charm of, and the reality of an ongoing series. Its fiction, you know. At a certain point you’ve got to make the right choice for the right movie and if we’d only gone after pleasing the existing Trek fans I think we’d have a very different film. So, things like that were really a question of what feels right for now, what feels interesting, knowing that we will always upset someone. There’s always going to be someone who’s gonna feel like its sacrilege to change this or that or make this adjustment or that adjustment. But I couldn’t approach this film, none of us could, from the point of view of what does that one particular fan want, we had to look at the film and try and put blinders on and not listen to the noise of that kind of nitpicking stuff. I think that the overall concern we had…protected by Roberto Orci one of the writers who is a huge Trek fan and he made sure that we weren’t slapping the face of the diehard fan and we’re beholden to that person. We wouldn’t be making a Star Trek movie if those people hadn’t kept it alive for so many years, so it was a tightrope, sort of, to walk.

Jack from Cardiff (not to be confused with Jack Cardiff) asked if John Cho thought his Harold and Kumar fans would ever be able to see him in the same light again.

Cho: I hope they still like me thought I’ve take a bit of a ‘terry’ from comedy. ‘Terry’ – are you impressed? I’m not even sure if that makes sense. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to jump genres, and I think Karl was saying earlier that JJ is a fan of kind of messing with paradigms and I’m just happy to be part of that experiment.

I think he thought Terry was cockney rhyming slang. I suppose it might be, but I didn’t know what on Earth he was talking about and neither did anybody else I spoke to.

Mark Dolan then asked Cho if he liked jumping genres enough to next try out a period drama.

Cho: Let’s do it. Three Musketeers. Bana, are you in?
Bana: Er….possibly.

A member of the press now enquired how much cast were influenced by their predecessors – and if they practiced their iconic lines in front of mirror.

Pegg: Well, for myself and Karl, sadly our counterparts have sadly left us so, for me, I met up with Chris Doohan, who was James Doohan’s son and we had lost of chats about his Dad. I never went into this wanting to impersonate James, I wanted to pay homage to him and maybe do a performance he would like, perhaps, just as a viewer, so I had that connection.

Urban: I felt it was important as a Star Trek fan, if I wasn’t in this film and was going to go and see it, which I definitely would, I would appreciate to see some sense of continuity to the Star Trek I had known. So how I approached the role was really to try and identify and capture some sort of essence and the very spirit of what the late Mr. Kelly did so wonderfully well for 40 years and kind of infuse that into my interpretation into what a younger Bones would be. And that was the challenge for all of us really, was you know, not to deliver some kind of carbon copy and thankfully none of us did.

Kelly from Chichester wanted to know if these characters defined by social significance at the time of original Trek still had significance today.

Saldana: I think it is very important to inherit significance[…] of that all these characters of different cultures represented at that time, 40 somewhat years ago. I do feel very happy to say thanks to those bold moves by either artists or amazing leaders that we’ve had throughout history whether in politics or in arts or whatever, I’m able to say I was born into a generation in the States, I’m from New York, where these things were becoming much more normal rather than unusual or new. And I do know that it was inspiring at that time and it did break a lot of barriers, especially for African American women but also for women in general because it could have been any woman, it could have been a French woman, an English woman, just the fact that there was a woman who was not ready to compromise her physicality in order for her to command authority in a sea of men and to still deliver her duty, as a lieutenant and to be equal was amazing and she didn’t need to look like… um… like KD Lang.

Dolan enquired if Saldana liked being the only female in the pivotal cast, surrounded by a bunch of blokes.

Saldana: I love it. It’s great. Not every day can a woman get up and go to work and not have to, like, va-voom herself and get there and she’s surrounded by this, like, hotness, sea of like men and still blend in like one of the buddies but at the same time too still be able to remain feminine. And you can only do that in a very responsible, sort of equal like and graceful environment so I’m very grateful to be working with these guys. They’re ‘blokes’ – I like that.

One of the critics now tried to claim the film had great relevance in the current political climate. Abrams’ face was priceless at that moment – he seemed quite surprised by the question. The pressman then asked who of Spock and Kirk the director would vote for.

JJ: I would say Kirk, but only because Chris is sitting right next to me, but if Chris weren’t here I’d say Spock. I think the answer is that the thing about Kirk and Spock is that they’re each sort of separately full of great potential but it’s not until they come together as a team that they can accomplish almost anything. And to me the key to the movie is that friendship and  in fact my approach to the movie was almost like a story of two brothers, I just thought that it was their relationship that was the spine of the film, so I think the two of them together, they have to work as a team.

And here’s the big moment – well, for little ol’ me anyway. I got to ask the next question. I said “I want to hop back to one of the nerdy things Simon said earlier because he evoked the other big fanboy touchstone which was Star Wars, and I noticed a couple of similarities – for example, the opening shot reminded me of the opening shot of Star Wars with the spaceship revealed to be very large and then dwarfed by one that was even larger, but then later on, Simon, you ended with a little sidekick. And in a film that is full of perfect plays to the fanboy audience, maybe he might be a little controversial, maybe he might have echoes of the Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks about him. Being absolutely honest, how do you feel about that character?”

Pegg: I think it’s a great… I mean that the fact is that, you know, Scotty is not alone on that planet, there’s another guy there with him who just happens to be an oyster faced little guy called Keenser played by the brilliant Deep Roy who is a fantastic actor. You know, the literally multicultural nature of space is something that is always interesting. Keenser’s no Jar Jar man, come on! What we really liked playing in that whole thing is the notion that these two guys have pretty much been stranded on [Delta Vega] alone and have kind of a slightly odd couple relationship, where they kind of  don’t like each other but really will miss each other when they’re apart and it was another part of trying to create a universe that was varied and multicultural. I think the comparisons to Star Wars are perhaps simply that we’re now seeing Trek in an aesthetic where it’s more comfortable to do effects in those films. We’re seeing Star Trek in a way that Trek fans would always have liked to see Star Trek, which is huge and with every possibility recognized.

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Abrams: Also, if I could just say this, is one thing about Star Wars. In the 6 films, they’ve done everything, every weather system, every kind of planet, every weapon, every ship – I mean, its so hard, the shadow looms so large of Star Wars that, for us, my guess is that every space movie will feel somewhat derivative and that was to me almost more of a threat for me in this movie, the fear of ripping off Star Wars was more of a concern I had than any Trek fan concern I had and the only way to deal with that was not to worry about “Well, oh, they’ve done snow, we can’t do snow”. It’s like we can’t do anything. So to me it was, again, focusing on the characters and knowing that if you have a character who might be small, I can name a number of characters that were small but the inspiration was none of those characters, it was a specific thing we were trying to do. Trying to keep focused on the… Deal with the fact that they’ve made these amazing Star Wars films that we just have to live after – although Star Trek did come first.

There’s another big chunk to come, which will include the inevitable question and answers about the equally inevitable sequel. Keep on keepin’ ‘em peeled.

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