Director J.J. Abrams Interview STAR TREK DVD – Talks About Deleted Scenes

     October 14, 2009

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This year’s reboot of the Star Trek franchise, under the guidance of director J.J. Abrams, proved that new eyes could make something that has already been around for 10 films, fresh and exciting again. Abrams’ sensational re-invention was hailed by critics and embraced by both long-time fans and newcomers to the Star Trek world. With an exciting cast, including the original Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, the success of the film left fans highly anticipating its sequel.

While Abrams and writers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman are busy trying to determine the story for the next Star Trek film, the director took time out to talk about the special features on the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release on November 17th. Here’s what he had to say ……..

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Finally, if you missed what J.J. said about the “Star Trek” sequel and his other projects like “Fringe” and “Mission Impossible 4″, click here.

Question: You said that you wanted the hardcore fans to still like your take on Star Trek. How did they react to the film? Did they give you a lot of feedback?

Abrams: Luckily, because they didn’t kill us, I think the hardcore fans, for the most part, were okay with the movie. They are a very vocal, passionate people. I was warned time and again, by many people, “You’ve got to be really careful. You must be terrified doing Star Trek.” It was a little nerve-wracking, mostly because people kept warning me about the fans, but they seemed to really embrace it and I give complete credit to the cast that managed to take over these roles that were iconic roles, even for people who didn’t know Star Trek well.

Everyone sort of knew about Kirk and Spock, but Chris Pine, Zachary [Quinto], Simon [Pegg], John [Cho], Anton [Yelchin], Karl [Urban] and the whole group just embodied these people, in a way that made it safe for not just new viewers and new audiences, but also existing fans to embrace those characters. And, finally, because Leonard Nimoy was in the film, in a meaningful way, he really provided the bridge between the existing Star Trek and what is now. We could never have made the movie without him.

When you were making the film, how conscious were you of DVD content?

Abrams: I’m always thinking about the DVD part of it because I’m a fan of DVDs. I want to make sure that we’re doing stuff that is going to be beneficial. It’s about getting video crews in, as early as possible, to document moments that might seem insanely mundane or unimportant, but in a context of how things got made, the crew of a movie like this, and especially this crew, worked so hard and they did such incredible work. They’re usually the invisible person.

If they do a great job, you’re not really thinking about the costume, you’re looking at it. If they’re doing a great job, you’re not really thinking about that visual effect, that prop, or that set. It’s even more reason that they should be celebrating, so what I love about the special features is people like (costume designer) Michael Kaplan, (production designer) Scott Chambliss, (visual effects) Roger Guyett, (composer) Michael Giacchino, or any of these people, get to take the stage, talk about and have documented the amazing work that they do, and often get credit for, but don’t get screen time. So, it’s a really nice thing to see them, front and center.

What is your process for DVD special features? Do you have a special team at Bad Robot that you bring in for all your projects?

Abrams: We have a great group that worked on this DVD, with whom we’ve worked before. There are people at Bad Robot, notably David Baronoff, who does a lot of work with us on the DVD and online materials. Bryan Burk and I obviously watch the cuts, and listen to the ideas, the proposals and the final products, and give our notes.

Since you had to cut them out the first time, is there any chance you’d use the Kligons again?

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Abrams: One of the deleted scenes on the DVD and Blu-Ray is a sequence where you actually see Kligons. They were in the movie, and it’s one of those things that I hated to cut, for a number of reasons. One of them was that I loved the design, the world and the story, and that moment was really cool, so I’m very excited for people to see these scenes. And, also, Victor Garber, who is one of my favorite actors, played a Kligon, had a ton of make-up and a very heavy, hot costume, and I had to call him and tell him his scene wasn’t in the film. A huge consolation for me was that it will live forever on the DVD and Blu-Ray, so I’m psyched for people to see that.

With the film being an alternate timeline, is there something on the DVD that defines or examines that?

Abrams: There are elements in the special features and deleted scenes that address the storyline and the logic of it. For example, one of the things that people had issues with was, “Oh, come on, Kirk is going to run into an ice cave and run into Spock? That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!” Granted, it’s unlikely. But, in the scene where they’re in the cave, there was a sequence that is on the DVD, that was cut from the movie, where Spock speaks to that and talks about how this is the timeline’s way of trying to repair itself, and it’s as much about fate as anything. It’s a funny thing.

When we were working on the script, frankly it was one of those moments where I was like, “How in the name of God are we going to figure it out?” One of the genius moves that Alex and Bob did is that they just did it. They made it about inevitability. The movie’s about this family that nothing will keep apart. It’s about that kind of friendship that will endure anything. So, there was a genius in taking the most unlikely moment, a coincidence that I would never, in a million years, buy and hang a huge lantern on it and say, “That is fate working.” You just go, “All right.”

To me, it was one of those moments where I thought we could lose that definition you now see on the video because, in my mind, it really didn’t need to be explained away, although I think people who’ve seen it have said, “Oh, that was really good, though, because it helped explain why that unlikely thing happened.”

Will that alternate timeline affect you, in doing the sequel, as far as what you’re going to leave in and what you’re going to leave out?

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Abrams: The trick in doing any movie, but especially something like this that involves some weird alternate reality/time travel thing is that you don’t want to not explain it, but you don’t want to explain everything. I think you have as much fun with the missing pieces as you do with the pieces you get. So, for me, not knowing every detail, allows me to get inside of the story and start to fill in the blanks. When everything is spoon-fed, typically I feel like you’re being pandered to, or it’s too expositional. It’s always a balance.

You’ve said that the hardest decision for you was to not include William Shatner in the movie. Can you talk about the DVD/Blu-Ray feature “The Shatner Conundrum”?

Abrams: The Shatner thing comes up quite a bit. As someone who was a William Shatner fan, in a huge way, just because of The Twilight Zone episodes he did, and then completely appreciating what he did in Star Trek, but not really becoming a fan until I started working on this movie, it was a foregone conclusion that we wanted Shatner in the movie. The problem was that his character died, on screen, in one of the Trek films, and because we decided, very early on, that we wanted to adhere to Trek canon, as best we could, which was a huge challenge, because even the original series, in many ways, didn’t always adhere to Trek canon, the required machinations to get Shatner into the movie would have been very difficult to do, given the story we wanted to tell, and also to give him the kind of part that he would be happy with. It was this thing where it would have felt like a gimmick, in order to get Shatner in the movie, which would have honestly, to me, been distracting.

Having said that, would it have been fun to have him in the movie? Of course. Would it be great to work with him? No doubt. I was as excited to work with him, as I was Mr. Nimoy, who we luckily did have in the film. I will say that “The Shatner Conundrum,” which you’ll see on the DVD, talks to this. Essentially, it’s about how do you put him in the movie when you want him in it so badly, and yet the story actually seems in counter purposes with the story you want to tell.

Are you thinking about putting him in the next movie at all?

star_trek_movie_image_zachary_quinto_as_spock__chris_pine_as_kirk.jpgAbrams: In terms of moving forward, I am open to anything. I would love to figure out something, given the challenge of introducing these new characters and given the burden of having to cast these people. I feel like the first movie did some of the heavy lifting that needed to be done, in order to free us to continue, going forward. Maybe there’s less of a burden and there’s going to be more opportunity to work with him again. I would love to work with him. We speak. We actually have a lunch date planned. I’m a fan. I’m a friend of his. Or, he’s at least a friend of mine. He may say otherwise on his blog today. I have no idea. But, I really couldn’t like him more and would love to work with him.

Is there anything on the DVD that you’re most excited about or proud of?

Abrams: I’m just excited to have the special features that show a little bit of the personalities of the actors, like with the gag reel, which I think is very funny. When you see Zachary screw up and go from Spock to Zachary, the back-and-forth is so funny to me because he could not be less like Spock, and yet he was so convincing. To have him bounce back and forth so quickly, as he screws up, just makes me laugh every time.

To see the personality of the actors and just see how great they were, off camera, is wonderful. And, the work of people like Roger Guyett at ILM, and the design brilliance of Scott Chambliss, who had as hard of a job doing this movie as Chris [Pine] or Zachary [Quinto] did, working on the redesign of these ships and the world that avid fans are so passionate about. So, I feel like my favorite thing is seeing those aspects of a production spotlit and celebrated.

You don’t mind breaking the fourth wall?

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Abrams: No, as long as you’re not doing it before the movie comes out. To me, the thing that always blows it is when I’ve seen interviews and scenes, and I’ve seen a piece on how that set ends there and is green screen, before the movie even comes out. Then, I go to see the movie and it screws it for me because I’m just taken out of it. I love to withhold that stuff, so it’s not until the movie comes out that you go, “Oh, my God, that was genius, how they did that.”

There are so many movies that I’ve seen on DVD where I’ve been so happy to get to see that behind the scenes stuff, so I don’t want to withhold that. That seems silly. As long as it’s not pre-release, I think you’re in okay shape. It’s unfair to the artists who did the work, not to celebrate what they do because we should see it. It’s cool for people who care, and for filmmakers and the next generation of filmmakers to understand, “Oh, that’s a way to do it.” They’ll have a better idea for when they do it.

Nicholas Meyer watched all 79 original episodes of Star Trek, before he directed The Wrath of Khan. How many of the original episodes did you see, before directing your film?

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Abrams: I saw most of the original episodes. I watched a lot of them with my kids, and they loved it so much more than I ever thought they would and were scared to death. It was so cool to see these episodes through the eyes of a 7- or 8-year-old.

Nicholas Meyer, who is an amazing director and writer, was friends with my parents, when I was a kid. When I was a kid, among the other embarrassing things I would do, and there’s a list of stupid things, but I would make these dumb comedy tapes. I would often make prank phone calls, but I would also do it with friends. Greg Grunberg and I made countless moronic comedy tapes. I vividly remember, one night when Nicholas Meyer was over for dinner, he came into my room, when I was probably 9 or 10, and he and I made a tape together. It was some stupid interview tape, where he and I were playing characters, interviewing each other.

He was this guy who was willing to be silly and goofy. I knew he was a writer, but I didn’t really know much about it. That idea that later he would go on to direct a Star Trek movie, and then even later I would, is so weird to me. I’ve never discussed this because it’s obviously so painfully boring, but it was one of those things. And, years later, he came to my Bar mitzvah and he gave me the unabridged, annotated, two-volume Sherlock Holmes book, which I still have.

It’s just bizarre to me because I was such a fan of the films he did. That was the height of my Star Trek fandom. I saw the first film, but when his films came out, I just loved them. I always felt a kinship because I knew that guy. It was just very surreal to be someone actually in those shoes, getting to say, “Action!”

Finally, if you missed what J.J. said about the “Star Trek” sequel and his other projects like “Fringe” and “Mission Impossible 4″, click here.

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