Today, at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, J.J. Abrams was in attendance to talk about his latest television series, the spooky and mysterious Alcatraz, premiering on Fox on January 16th. While we will run what he had to say about that series, along with his thoughts about the continuation of Fringe and the pilots he currently has in development, a little bit later on, we did want to share what he had to say about Star Trek 2, which goes into production this coming Thursday, his recent casting choice of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), his decision to convert to 3D after filming, and how long he expects production to run. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: What did you make of the reaction to you possibly casting Benicio Del Toro, before that fell through?
J.J. ABRAMS: I was just happy that anyone was interested.
Did you have to do away with the character that you were going to cast him as?
ABRAMS: We haven’t made any changes because of casting.
With Star Trek 2 starting up, how will you balance that with Alcatraz?
ABRAMS: We start shooting Star Trek on Thursday, so I’ve gotta go! The truth is that this show, I didn’t create, I’m a producer on it. Luckily, with the people with whom I work, what I’ve been trying to do is help, whether it’s reading the scripts, giving notes, giving suggestions on cuts, doing the theme music, and playing with the show and getting it up and running. But, the truth is that, whether I was doing Star Trek or not, this is a show that was always going to be run by Jennifer [Johnson] and Dan [Pyne]. This is not something that I am suddenly stepping away from and not running. They’ve been carrying the ball, not me.
So, will you no longer be a part of Alcatraz?
ABRAMS: Of course, I’ll still read and watch and give notes, but directing a movie precludes me from being involved in any greater way. But, the job was never to do more, it was always to enable. Sometimes as a producer, you’re creating and writing it, or sometimes you’re writing and directing it, or other times you’re there from the very beginning. This was one where my job was to try to help facilitate it and get it going, and give notes that they could take or leave. It really is a show that they are doing a beautiful job running and I’m lucky to be working with them.
Are you shooting Star Trek 2 in 3D, or will you be converting it later?
ABRAMS: We’re shooting on film, and the reason for that is I wanted to shoot with anamorphic, and you can’t shoot 3D in anamorphic.
Do you plan on using lens flares again, and have you thought about how the 3D will affect that, in converting it later?
ABRAMS: I’ve had some people make fun of me about that. Yeah, we’ve done some tests. Not only lens flare tests, but we’ve done 3D tests. We actually converted a bunch of the original movie, which looked really good. That was the thing that made me feel like, maybe that would be okay. But, I didn’t want to shoot the movie digitally.
But, it will be in 3D?
ABRAMS: It will be converted, for those who want to see it in 3D. But, I wanted to match the look of the first one and shoot it anamorphically.
Because the popularity of 3D has died down some, are you worried about the commercial viability of 3D?
ABRAMS: I did not fight for the 3D. It was something that the studio wanted to do, and I didn’t want to do it. And then, when I saw the first movie converted in sections, I thought that it actually looked really cool. So, I was okay with their doing it, as long as I could shoot the movie the way I wanted to, in anamorphic film, and then let them convert it. So, those who want to see it in 3D, which looked pretty cool, can do it, and those that want to see it in 2D can do that too.
Besides having the greatest name ever, what caused you to cast Benedict Cumberbatch?
ABRAMS: We just were looking for someone with the most awesome name in history. That was the casting call. We asked for someone with the most awesome name in history, ever, and Benedict Cumberbatch showed up, so we were like, “You’re cast!”
What was it that made him your villain?
ABRAMS: Who said he’s our villain?
What made you want to cast him?
ABRAMS: He’s a genius. Honestly, he’s just an incredible actor. If you’ve seen his work in Sherlock, he’s just got incredible skills. He’s an amazing stage actor. He did amazing work (on stage) in Frankenstein. He’s brilliant. You try to cast people who are great. We got lucky.
Did you look at a lot of people for that role?
Was he an immediate choice?
ABRAMS: I just loved his work and thought that he was perfect for what we needed. We were just very lucky.
Was the decision to not use anybody from the original cast this time an easy or difficult decision to make?
ABRAMS: It was just what the story of the movie required. With everything, you respond to what you’re trying to do and what story you’re trying to tell.
How long will the shoot last?
ABRAMS: Four months. Just about as long as the first one. Maybe a little less.
Is it safe to say that this Star Trek movie is totally in its own universe, moving forward without any changes in the timeline?
ABRAMS: Yeah. I think the job of the first movie was just to establish it. I don’t want to give anything away, but I would say that the burden we had in the first movie was just existing at all. With this movie, instead of having to stand on the shoulders of the original series, we built a little bit of a platform for us, with the last movie, to tell this story.
With as well as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol did, when will you start thinking about a 5th one?
ABRAMS: That’s a good question. Tom [Cruise] is in Pittsburgh shooting something, and we’re about to start the Star Trek movie, so I’m not sure.