Interview: Bryan Singer On Trek

At the Saturn Awards this week Bryan Singer picked up awards for Best Director and Best Fantasy Film for Superman Returns. After the show I had a chance to talk Trek with him about his love for Star Trek. Singer said that he is looking forward to Trek XI and thinks JJ Abrams is ‘brilliant’. He said that even though he had ‘bandied about’ some ideas for Trek himself, he never had the time to commit to it. Famous for spending over $200 million on Superman Returns, Singer did note concerns over Paramount giving Abrams enough money ‘to do it right’ and felt that he would ‘go north of $100 Million’ if it were his. The director also revealed how he ended up getting a cameo in Star Trek Nemesis and what it was like to meet some of Trek’s biggest stars, including a surprise guest at Patrick Stewart’s house.

Interview with Bryan Singer

(NOTE: Sandy Stone of StarTrek.com joined me, and asked some questions himself)

TrekMovie.com: It is well known you are a huge Star Trek fan

Bryan Singer: I am

TrekMovie.com: Can you talk to us about your proposal for a new Star Trek?

Singer: I could not…I think it’s being done…JJ Abrams is doing one

TrekMovie.com: Didn’t you have an idea?

Singer: We bandied about an idea, but that’s a full commitment. I have not been able to afford to give that commitment. JJ Abrams is brilliant and I hope his version gets made and I look forward to seeing it.

TrekMovie.com: So what do you think about returning to The Original Series and recasting those characters…it is kind of similar to Superman Returns in a way.

Singer: Well it is a bit earlier right? Well I love it. I love those characters. I don’t know whether you tried to imitate them whether you try and create a new [inaudible]. I don’t know what you try to do. Anything is cool as long as you do it well. To me it is never a premise thing, it is always an executional thing. I love Star Trek especially The Original Series because of the stories the writing and the acting, believe it or not!. I thought it was tremendous and done with great conviction and that is an execution thing.

TrekMovie.com: Well if this becomes a new franchise, just like with the X-Men franchise with new people coming in, how would you feel about coming in again if they make a XII, XIII, XIV,…

Singer: Oh another picture? It depends. If I like where they are going sure I can see myself sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise…AGAIN. I had a cameo in the last Star Trek movie. I wouldn’t mind playing in that world again.

Sandy Stone:: Why did you do a cameo in Star Trek Nemesis?

Singer: Because Rick Berman and Patrick Stewart asked me to. I am such a fan, how could I pass that up?

Sandy Stone:: Did you have a relationship with Rick Berman before?

Singer: No. I had met him before because my friend Gary Goddard designed the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas and I went to their opening and I met him. But it wasn’t until I started working with Patrick Stewart that I got to know the whole Star Trek family and Rick and everyone. It was interesting, Patrick said to me ‘once you do this cameo, as small as it is, you are going to be part of that Star Trek lexicon. And no one will ever be able to take that away from you and I thought that was intense. There is a little trading card with my face on it and I am a DVD extra.

TrekMovie.com: Were you a fan of TNG like you were the Original Series?

Singer: Yes, but not as much. The Original Series will always have a place in my heart. One night I went over the Patrick Stewart’s house to have dinner with him. He had a surprise for me and I thought it was pictures from the day I did my cameo. And the doorbell rings and William Shatner and his wife came in and it was awesome. I ended up playing Next Generation pinball with William Shatner in Patrick’s game room and I can’t even describe it.

Sandy Stone: Patrick has a TNG pinball machine in his home?

Singer: Next Generation pinball machine yep. But it has homages to other series, because as we were playing it I believe original music from The Original Series kept playing. And I kept staring at Shatner when playing this game

TrekMovie.com: So why do you refer to your next Superman movie as ‘the Wrath of Khan’ of the Superman franchise?

Singer: Well I think with the first Star Trek movie, like any first bringing back a franchise, you have to reintroduce the universe and set some tone and bring a bunch of characters, at least played by these actors. And then from there once you have done all that, and that is all a bit expository, with the second one you can dive right into the action of the story and the drama and take things to another level. I look forward to do that. It is the nice part of having made the first part. It is the same thing with X-Men 1and got to do a lot more with X-Men 2.

TrekMovie.com: Roger Ebert said “a film is only as good as its villain” in his review of Star Trek II. So are you looking to have that kind of villain in Superman Returns 2, or whatever it’s called?

Singer: Yah, or villains.

TrekMovie.com: About this Justice League movie that Warner has just announced it has put into development…it is confusing are you involved in that?

Singer: No, No

TrekMovie.com: Does that involve any of the same people, like Brandon Routh?

Singer: I have no idea? But it is really interesting and sounds really cool.

TrekMovie.com: Would they possibly be doing a Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Justice League movie all at the same time?

Singer: Probably not, and you never know. But you never know and these things are always complex and have a long development so you want to get a head start. If one comes up with something really interesting then it is worth trying out. Who knows what ages they are at, I don’t really know. I have been in the Valkyrie world. My head has been in the Second World War and some projects for television and Superman 2.

TrekMovie.com: One Geek question for Geek Magazine. What do you ‘geek out’ about?

Singer: Star Trek. Early Star Trek. I really do. Even seeing Shatner doing ‘Rocket Man’ got me excited.TM What is your favorite episode?

Singer: That is an obvious one, “City on the Edge of Forever.” What is the other one? “Trouble With Tribbles” of course, Sherman’s Planet that whole thing. I love “Space Seed” now in retrospect because Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I can go on.

TrekMovie.com: Do you know about the remastered project where CBS is Remastering The Original Series in HD and adding new CGI…have you had a chance to watch any?

Singer: I haven’t but I heard it’s OK I heard some of it is interesting. As long as they don’t change the performances or change the colors of the actors of what they are wearing I think that’s fine. The visual effects are a little dated I am sure. Us fans have seen them over and over so let’s see something new. As long as they are not changing the story.

Sandy Stone: They are not, they are just cleaning the dust off the opticals

Singer: When you play those opticals in high def you see those matte boxes glide away. Actually if you pick an early copy of Star Wars you will see the same thing.

TrekMovie.com: So you are excited about JJ Abrams?

Singer: Oh yah, yah. I don’t think it is anything he is doing lightly. It is something he really cares about it and he is really talented. I cant wait to see it. I hope they give him enough money to do it right. Very often with the Star Trek franchise because I don’t think it plays so well foreign, they end up cutting the budgets and cutting and cutting. Very often some parts start looking like television movies. I hope they give it the resources to make it look right.

TrekMovie.com: Superman Returns cost about $200 [million] and Star Trek Nemesis cost about $65 [million], so what do you think the magic sweet spot for a Star Trek movie, if you were making one?

Singer: Well it is all script dependent [laughing] I would go northing of 100 if I start adding up visual effects in my head. But that is just unfortunately that is the cost of today’s audiences palette.

TrekMovie.com: Do you think a 200 million dollar Star Trek movie could make money?

Singer: I don’t think it would make money, but I would sure as shit go see it

  
Singer as unnamed tactical officer in Star Trek Nemesis

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Nelson
May 12, 2007 4:59 pm

Interview could have used subtitles, but interesting comments.

Aaron R. (Sisko's stunt double for uncomfortable interviews)
May 12, 2007 5:37 pm

Very cool. Liked to here some of his points about film making in general however he seemed to be searching for a favorite eppisode! (Chuckle) It’s ok Mr. Singer… Not all Trekkies are huge nerds who memorize every detail! I myself don’t even remember half the next gen epps by name…

Aaron R.

VOODOO
May 12, 2007 5:50 pm

Nice interview.

Pinball with James T Kirk + Jean Luc Picard. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Lou
May 12, 2007 6:36 pm

Excellent!
I hope that singer gets a chance to be involved in the next one… providing they do a sequel to this…

Kev
May 12, 2007 6:47 pm

Love the last comment.

May 12, 2007 6:49 pm

Did anyone but me notice Superman Returns was just Superman 1? Lex Luthor wants to make expensive realistate so he tries to kill a bunch of people to get it. And his girl friend has a heart of gold so she betrays him to help the good guys?

You’d think with 200 mil you’d go beyond the limits of the 70s and 80s with its human scale villains. Where’s brainiac or darkseid? Or at least Luthor in a super suit. Geez!

Nelson
May 12, 2007 7:42 pm

Thanks for the effort on the transcript, I was being jokey! The effort is appreciated!

Ro-Dan
May 12, 2007 8:10 pm

Mark 2000, there’s a VERY good chance Brainiac will be appearing in the Superman Returns sequel. ;)

steve623
May 12, 2007 8:36 pm

I think Singer is really talented and I *loved* Superman Returns.

So nyah.

May 12, 2007 9:01 pm

In spite of the most callous display of creative “pilfering” in movie history, Superman Returns had virtually nothing of value that the original Superman film DID. Charm, wit, a childlike excitement, wonder, subtlety, anticipation with a GREAT payoff, fantastic actors (Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Chris Reeve)brilliant writing (Mario Puzo)and an overall intangible quality that few movies ever achieve.

Superman Returns had a gutless, wussy 16 year old Lois Lane,
A peeping tom Superman,
An extremely dull and underplayed Clark Kent,
An annoying Jimmy Olson,
Kevin Spacey blatantly “imitating” Gene Hackman,
An ill conceived and awkward husband/child soap opera with the same terrible actor who played Cyclops from XMEN(a FAR better film)
Absolutely NOTHING original and unique.
Oh, it DID have nice effects.

Kind of like a “SUPERMAN LITE”
Alot of ICING but no CAKE.

: )

NYAH.

mikeg
May 12, 2007 10:22 pm

I think Mr. Singer is a very bright, and talented guy, who obviously loves films and film-making. And I could totally relate to his feelings about TOS… That show, those actors, those stories, are still the ULTIMATE Star Trek, to me… probably because they were the most raw.
It would be interesting to see what Mr. Singer would do with Star Trek.

steve623
May 12, 2007 11:24 pm

we obviously did not see the same movie. :)

DOUBLE NYAH

May 13, 2007 7:25 am

Say what you want about Superman Returns, it is the ONLY film I went to the theater 8 times to see. Most I only see once there and then wait for the DVD. Not this one.

Lord Garth Formerly of Izar
May 13, 2007 8:41 am

Pretty cool story. “Son…….IIIIIIIII”MMMMM trying….to play pinball…… would youuuuuuuuuuuu pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaasse stop ……..starring!!!
Very much enjoyed superman returns, Routh needs to lift more weights next time out and they definately need to recast Lois.

May 13, 2007 9:02 am

Nice interview. I loved “Superman Returns;” it’s definitely up there with Donner’s “Superman” and way ahead of the three sequels to that one. ;)

Kevin
May 13, 2007 10:00 am

I enjoyed Superman Returns. Sure it had some parts that bugged me (the casting of Lois, peeping tom Superman, they could have left the kid out entirely). I thought Routh and Spacey were great. I thought they balanced their own performance with borrowing what the previous actors had done (since it was a continuation of the Reeve movies). I think that’s how the next Star Trek movie should be done.

As for the budget thing… Paramount will not spend that much on Trek. I have no idea why Singer spent that much on Superman. They made some very poor budgeting choices for that film.

Michael Appleton
May 13, 2007 2:11 pm

#17 “I have no idea why Singer spent that much on Superman”
I do; The answer is in watching the video diaries they posted of Singer while he was making the movie. You can see Singer and crew sitting around with their thumb up their ass blabbing about inanities while the teamster crew is loitering around in the background doing nothing while being paid FULL scale. How the director of a MAJOR motion picture can be so leisurely and lazy in his approach to spending a studio’s money is outrageous in the extreme! Typical Hollywood waste; they casually forget that it’s called show BUSINESS where people are on “the clock” and things should move along in a brisk and orderly fashion. This is what happens when you let the f*#king flakes call the shots; you get one of the most expensive movies ever made, poorly conceived for what he came up with, and lukewarm box-office returns as a result! Yank him off the franchise and let somone who knows what he/she is doing to helm #2!

Cygnus-X1
May 13, 2007 2:45 pm
Bryan Singer seems like a very nice guy, but when he talked about the tastes of the movie-going public demanding $100 million, special-FX-laden films, my immediate reaction was incredulity. To me, today’s “all sizzle, no steak” movies are supply-driven, and, not demand-driven. I can’t speak for everyone, but, the reason that I go to see today’s movies (on those rare occations when I do) is NOT because of their supposedly dazzling CGI, but, rather, because they’re what’s playing. I’m visiting my family. We all want to do something together. Seeing a movie is our usual choice. So, whatever’s playing is what we see. Same goes for when parents take their kids, and their kids’ friends, to the movies. They’re gonna see some movie, and, whatever the best one that is playing is what they shell out their hard-earned cashola for. When I was a kid, the best film playing was almost always better than the best film playing today. When I went to the movies with my parents, they enjoyed the film just as much as I did, because the movies weren’t dumbed-down. There was tons of stuff in Raiders of the Lost Ark that I didn’t quite grasp, when I saw it in the theater at age 7. But, that wasn’t a problem for me. It expanded my mind by motivating me to think about things that were beyond my level of understanding. It was a fulfilling, life-changing experience. It was a nourishing meal, as opposed to cake and… Read more »
May 13, 2007 4:04 pm

Of course, one of the reasons for shooting “Superman Returns” outside the U.S. was the aforementioned union scale issue. Do the Teamsters organize in New Zealand? ;)

Doug L.
May 13, 2007 6:14 pm

re all…

The use of good effects should never hamper the story. As someone is pointing out above, new movies tend to be effects heavy and content light. I feel in any circumstance that writing a great movie and enhancing the world of that movie with the appropriate effect, is a great recipe.

Bryan Singer is a mixed bag for me. I feel like he and I could probably sit down and talk about Trek, BSG, and X-Men comics til dawn breaks, but I’m really disappointed with his Superman, and on retrospect I’m a bit disappointed in the X-Men. The X-Men movies seem to have brilliant moments clumsily tied together. IMO. Superman Returns I thought was awful, and don’t understand any of his choices.

Glad he’s not on Trek at the moment. Doug L.

monger
May 13, 2007 7:42 pm

I’m sure I’m in the majority who were disappointed by SR. In contrast, I liked Batman Begins far better. Bryan Singer is inconsistent. Usual Suspects was great. Apt Pupil not. X-Men- better than SR. X-Men 2- about the same. SR was a great movie to look at, especially in 3D IMAX where I saw it, but was too derivative and just left me unthrilled. True, BB wasn’t perfect, but I saw it many times both at the theater and on DVD. SR I saw once. If Bryan Singer had been handed the reigns of the Star Trek franchise instead of Abrams, I’d be full of hope that a true fan would do it justice, but I’d still be a little nervous that he’d somehow fuck it up.

Kevin
May 13, 2007 8:14 pm

That’s a little harsh implying… or out right saying that people who go see blockbuster movies with CGI have no soul. I’m pretty sure I have soul as I’m always being told I’m going to Hell and you can’t do that if you don’t have a soul.

CGI has it’s place in certain movies, it just doesn’t make the movie. If you have a bunch of wonderful action and flashy CGI but no real plot to speak of, you end up with Spiderman 3.

I do find the comment he made about -if it cost 100 million, he’d definately go see it, odd. If it were a crappy just throwing money at it will not make it better.

Captain Pike
May 13, 2007 9:06 pm

I’m just not that big a fans of Singer directed movies. His X-Men films have this sub-text about being ostracized because you’re different ie gay. Singer is gay. Superman Returns has this theme about being adopted. Singer is adopted. It’s fine that Singer sees something of himself in X-Men and Superman and brings that to the table. But I’m not gay or adopted or a Hollywood director, so who’s going to make a superhero movie for me?

Before someone rips me a new orifice – that’s a rhetorical question. I do have favorite superhero movies: The Incredibles and Mystery Men spring to mind. The Director’s Cut of DareDevil was fun too. But Superman Returns was a bloat POS loaded with all kinds of baggage from the earlier films. All completely unnecessary. Everybody knows Superman, Lois, etc. Just take the archetypal characters and make the best story you can about Superman – you don’t need to constantly refer back to his origin, his upbringing, his “history” with Lois.

Just make a superhero (or Star Trek) movie about the characters we love have an adventure in the fictional universe we know. It doesn’t have to be an allegory about being gay or the threat of global warming or the incompetence of the government. I hate allegory. I want romanticized escapism.

Cygnus-X1
May 13, 2007 10:11 pm

Credit where due: The Usual Suspects was fantastic.

Cervantes
May 14, 2007 6:06 am

#25 Cygnus-X1

The Usual Suspects had a brilliant and original storyline…his Superman Returns did not, and was a MAjOR disappointment to me. I’d rather a J.J Abrams TREK, given his choices on SR. I also see that he’d only heard that the new TOS effects are “ok” and that “some of it is interesting”, rather than “Man, have you seen the latest integrated TOS effects Brian?, they are bloody AMAZING!”

Cervantes
May 14, 2007 6:11 am

Ok, it’s Bryan for any pedantic ones out there…

Cervantes
May 14, 2007 6:12 am

Okay, it’s Bryan for any pedantic ones out there…

May 14, 2007 6:16 am

#22: “I’m sure I’m in the majority who were disappointed by SR”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).

“… you find that we are ruled by a King just as other absolute monarchies are. His name is The Majority. He is mighty in bulk & strength … He rules by the right of possessing less money & less brains & more ignorance than the other competitor for the throne, The Minority.” – Mark Twain

That said, based on its total box office the proposition that the majority of movie goers were disappointed by the film is so flimsy as to be indefensible; the most that can be demonstrated is that folks who are inclined to complain loudly on the Internet disliked it. I’m simply glad that based on the film’s success Singer’s been given the go-ahead to develop a second “Superman” film starring the same cast. :)

bmar
May 14, 2007 6:31 am

Hey Guys –

Long time lurker, infrequent poster. Listening to Singer describe his evening with Shatner and Stewart brought back a pleasant memory for me. I was fortunate to work on the ill-fated Star Trek: Special Edition when it was on Sci-Fi Channel back in the ’97-’98 and one of my fondest memories was when we wrapped production, Shatner and I toasted the production and each knocked back a Scotch Whiskey. Now, I hate Scotch, but, how many times do you get to pound a drink or two with Captain Kirk? It’s the same kind of feeling…trying to maintain your cool!

bmar

CmdrR.
May 14, 2007 8:49 am

Like Superman Returns but I hope they recast Lois for the next one… find someone who not only looks good, but has SOME chemistry with her leading man.
Brainiac would be a good villain if done right. The character in the animated series actually has some depth.
Justice League? Isn’t that verging over into X-Men territory? Dunno. Just seems too much.

Kyle H.
May 14, 2007 3:06 pm

Re: #11

I believe it wasn’t really a Puzo script that was shot for “Superman,” but rewritten extensively, with major contributions by Tom Mankiewicz:

http://www.supermancinema.co.uk/special_features/interviews/tom_mankiewicz/default.asp

I’m not taking sides or anything — I haven’t even seen “Superman Returns.” I just happened to see the article I linked above via commanderbond.net, one of the James Bond sites I visit (Mankiewicz’s big break was “Diamonds Are Forever”).

I thought I would pass along the info… perhaps this info isn’t anything new to any of you… but since I seem share the “geek trivia gene” with many posters here, I thought someone might find a new tidbit.

Thanks!

Just Another Hero
May 14, 2007 7:17 pm

Actually…. Superman Returns may have cost $200 million, but Singer didn’t spend all that dough. The movie was in development hell for years, and money was spent with previous directors McG and Burton, Nicholas Cage donning the suit, with a pretty penny spent by Jon Peters for inanity.

http://www.agonybooth.com/forum/topic2730.htm

Check it out. One source of many, apparently. But don’t blame it all on Singer when this boat’s been out to harbor for years before he came along.

IrishTrekkie
May 15, 2007 1:00 am

there is alot riding on JJ Abrams , and if he screws it up , we might not get any new trek for a while, if i Abrams did mess it all up i know who i whould want makeing the next trek movie and thats Singer .

snake
May 15, 2007 5:30 am

theres quite a few Khan homages in X2

The ice scene with Logan and Stryker (Singer said he got it from Spocks death scene with the glass) and the end sacrifice of Jean grey…sim to Spocks death even down to her doing the end voice over with the Horner-esque music..

Singer would have been a great choice to do Trek XI – sounds like he would have liked to as well – but Abrams will be good…

Wonder if Singer had done it if it would have been what we are getting with the TOS prequel or a TNG film (considering his Patrick Stewart connection)?

Michael Appleton
May 15, 2007 1:55 pm

Hey everybody, go to #33 and click on the agony booth link to read JJ Abrams take on what should be in a Superman film. If he thinks like THIS, I have grave concerns for what he’ll do with Trek XI!! I think there’s a bulb out in this guy’s lighthouse!!

JohnP
May 15, 2007 8:47 pm

Oh great, quote Singer who bailed on X-Men for a poor remake of Superman. Singer can do better.

monger
May 16, 2007 12:18 am

Hey, I agree! Everyone HAS to go to agonybooth.com and read about Abrams SHITACULAR treatment of Superman Returns! You thought the John Peters/Tim Burton take was bad! It’s absolute revisionist bullshit that does no justice to the Superman legacy! If he’s got crap like this in mind for Trek, it’ll be the death of the franchise!! We must put out an APB and let others know of this so that he can’t go this far!!!

Cervantes
May 16, 2007 5:49 am

#36 Michael Appleton

Yikes, you’ve got me WORRIED about J.J. now…

Cervantes
May 16, 2007 5:51 am

I’ll try to accentuate the positive…

Demode
May 17, 2007 4:33 pm

I would like to know what his ideas where for a STAR TREK movie. It sounded like it would have included both Shatner and Stewart. Would love to have seen what he had in mind.

I really would love to see TNG do a 4 hour mini-series to wrap it all up. If they could get someone like Bryan Singer to either direct or be executive producer (he was executive producer on the SCI-FI mini-series “The Triangle”) it would be great!

DVD sales for that would be huge, for sure, and television ratings would be huge for whoever broadcasts it (CBS? Sci-Fi? NBC?) A great way to wrap up TNG.

Someone like Bryan Singer would certainly have the clout to get Patrick Stewart back.

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