Star Trek: Into Darkness press conference: The cast reveal the making of the movie
In town to promote the second instalment of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek franchise, The Upcoming caught up with the cast and crew of Star Trek: Into Darkness at the movie’s press conference on London’s Southbank. In attendance were director JJ Abrams, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Bryan Burke and cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and Karl Urban.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when making this movie?
BB: We were fortunate to have a good reaction to the first film, and we knew we didn’t want to just make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel, so we spent a lot of time working on it so we could make one that matched, or preferably outdid the last one.
RO: I think the biggest challenge was honouring what came before, while making it completely accessible – making the movie fun to watch but also meaningful, and hopefully we nailed it.
KU: The biggest challenge was to come into this and not repeat ourselves, to be bigger, more dynamic, more character-driven and stay true to those characters we fell in love with.
ZS: For me it was waiting four years to come back and be with the people I’ve remained friends with, and it was wondering if we were going to be able to come back, because we’re older now…
BC: Which way to do my hair was the hardest bit. Straight or curly, or long with bangs, or a ponytail, or maybe no hair!
JA: My biggest challenge was Benedict’s hair. No, there were lots of challenges in terms of direction. We didn’t want to do a green screen or blue screen movie with people acting in front of nothing; we wanted to make it feel real. Also, the biggest challenge day-to-day was the tone, balancing the epic scale, the action set pieces with the intimacy, the comedy, the emotion.
CP: Everything’s bigger about this film, the spectacle and the story, for each of us. I think this story gives us a real chance to explore many different sides of our characters that we didn’t get to beforehand.
ZQ: Shaving my eyebrows.
AE: I suppose my biggest challenge was keeping up with JJ, whose mind works at warp speed, and in practical terms it turns out I’m a terrible runner on film. So I really had to work on that endlessly, and I think JJ kept a bit of it in, didn’t you?
JA: A little bit.
SP: As the oldest member of the crew, the challenge for me was remembering to take my arthritis medication and insert and remove my catheter. Fortunately I had an ally in Alice. Yeah it’s a physically demanding job, and I’m…34 now, so it’s tough.
RO: Freedom was the biggest challenge. The second movie we could do anything we wanted, and that was terrifying and horrible. Freedom is challenging; freedom is scary.
In this film, Mr Harrison is on the grey side of good and evil. What was the attraction of casting Benedict as John Harrison and Benedict, what did you think you could bring to this character?
JA: Not only am I grateful to the writers for writing a script that celebrates and exploits ambiguity, but I’m also grateful for their telling me to check out Sherlock. When I saw it I was blown away, and then Benedict famously auditioned on an iPhone and when we watched that video it was 100% clear we’d found our man. Working with Benedict quite frankly exceeded all our expectations.
BC: There’s a lot of motivation and reasoning behind what he does and he has a moral core, but he just has a method which is pretty brutal and abhorrent, maybe not in the New World, but in our world. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and I think there’s an ability to sympathise and empathise with his cause, although maybe not his means.
When you found out you were doing Star Trek, what was the first thing you did?
JA: The first thing I did was call Bob and Alex and Bryan. I was not a Star Trek fan, but I was very intrigued by the idea of creating a version of Star Trek that would appeal to me and people who were fans of adventure movies.
SP: I sat down. I didn’t for a second expect to be involved, so when I got that very straight forward, blunt request by email I literally sat down and asked the plane to take off again so I could think about it. To be honest, I worried; I thought: “I can’t just say yes, we should have some romance. Maybe we could go out for dinner, have a movie and then I might say yes.” I felt like such a slut just going “YES!” so I took two days to pretend to think about it.
ZQ: I reached out to a good friend of mine from college who has been to no less than 50 Star Trek conventions. I asked him to compile a booklet of information on the history of Vulcans, the life of Spock, a family tree, and we started a session of tutorials, which lasted until it was announced I was going to play Spock. That was the first time I met Leonard Nimoy, so then I fired my first tutor.
BC: I didn’t pick up on the signals at first. I got an email saying: “Do you wanna come and play?” and I thought “What? Tennis? Some kind of racquet-based activity?” Then the penny slowly dropped and I fell asleep, because it was about two in the morning. It was the most thrilling news – I was just over the moon. I was a huge, huge fan of the first film, for every reason. I knew it would be a riot.
Was there any particular prop or piece of costume that you liberated during filming, that might now be sitting on the shelf at home or in the back of the wardrobe?
SP: I smuggled back the entire Enterprise piece by piece, and re-built it in my garden. On the first film we had to hand back our badges every day. You’d hand it in to an armed man at the end of the day before you could leave the set. It was all very… you know… this one – I stole my badge! The production design on this film is beautiful; every prop is like a wonderful toy. I got to carry a fazer this time. That was a dream come true, and if I could’ve stolen that I would, but I was wrestled to the ground by a large woman, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
CP: I would have loved to have kept my script, but I found out on the last day we had to give them back, to maintain secrecy.
ZQ: During the first film, similar to having to hand in our accessories, we would also cut up every pair of eyes that I wore and throw them in the garbage, which I felt was just so wasteful. So on this film I asked politely if I could preserve a couple for my own collection, in particular one pair I wore during the fight scene we had on the trash barge, which is speckled with green blood.
Simon, as an Englishman playing a Scot who was created by a Canadian, what kind of feedback did you get from your first attempt at the accent and how did you go about working on it this time around? Also, where do you think Scotty would stand on the imminent subject of Scottish Independence?
SP: Well half my family is Scottish and I married a Glaswegian in Glasgow, and I have a huge critical band of Scots behind me, but I did work harder on the accent for the second film, actually. My father in-law bought me that book The Patter, although JJ would quell my urges to say things that are completely incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t from East Kilbride. It’s something I want to get right. The Scottish reaction to it has been lovely – the people who say: “Your accent’s not very good” are usually English.
And in terms of Scottish Independence, Scotty would absolutely boldly go. Why should Scotland suffer under a government that England has voted for? I think it’s ridiculous. For years Scotland – which is predominantly a Labour voting country – has had to languish under a Conservative government which they didn’t vote for, didn’t ask for. So INDEPENDENCE NOW! FREEDOM!
All of the characters represent different personality types. What trait do you like best about your character?
KU: For me it’s twofold: one is Bones’ altruism, there’s nothing that he wouldn’t do for his friends, and secondly, it’s the fact it’s wrapped up in this cantankerous personality that permeates everything. That’s what I love about him.
ZS: I love that Uhura is so reliable, responsible and elegant. She reminds me of a horse, a very beautiful stallion, and her elegance is something I hope will rub off on me.
BC: Harrison’s sense of honour to his own people; the idea of what family is and being protective of your tribe.
CP: I like the fact that under great pressure, he’s a fighter and he may not always make the best choices, but even when he’s knocked down he gives it all he’s got.
ZQ: I value Spock’s compassion, his faith in humanity, his measured expressions. He’s not irrational, and ultimately he’s true to himself.
AE: I like Carol Marcus’ fierce intelligence, which she is clearly so distracted by that she will even change in public.
SP: It’s fun to be the everyman of the crew. Scotty is constantly amazed by his predicaments and that’s fun to play.
Benedict, you’ve played some iconic characters in the last three or four years: Sherlock, the dragon in The Hobbit and John Harrison. Is there a common way you approach these roles? Do you avoid looking on the Internet and do you look back at how these roles have been played before?
BC: I always try to avoid going on the Internet. I think it’s best to try and start with a blank canvas, and if you know you’re in expert hands, a lot of trust goes to those people. So, for example, with Mark and Stephen rebooting Sherlock, giving a modern-day twist to a much-loved Victorian hero, it sounds like a cheesy spin-off idea and yet in those fan-boys’ hands it’s done with such authenticity and respect for the canon – in the same way that I think Star Trek has been done. In terms of playing iconic characters, I try to trick myself into believing that no one has ever gone there before.
JJ, could you talk about the relationship between Star Trek and Star Wars and how you think making these movies will affect the Star Wars project?
JA: When I was a kid and saw Star Wars for the first time it blew my mind, and around the same time I had friends who were huge fans of Star Trek, and I don’t know if I was smart or patient enough to get it. What I loved about Star Wars was the visceral energy of it; the clarity and the innocence of it. Star Trek always felt a bit more sophisticated and philosophical, debating things that were theoretically interesting, but for some reason I couldn’t get on board. It really took working with all these guys and actually working on Star Trek for me to fall in love with it. My hope was that we could take the integrity and spirit with which Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek and not throw away the critical and philosophical stuff. But the key was to also infuse it with energy and pace, and make it an action adventure. In terms of Star Wars, it’s a completely different universe and feels like a different tone and history. I don’t feel there’s much of an overlap between the two.
Photos: Gareth Cattermole
Star Trek: Into Darkness is released nationwide on 9th May 2013.
Read our full review of Star Trek: Into Darkness here.