In part one of our interview with Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof we learned about his Trek fandom, favorites and connections to his other job, Lost. In part two we get down to details and discuss why the film release date was changed and how the change affects the production, budget and promotion. Lindelof also discusses how the film will appeal to both Trek fans and the wider film going audience.
TrekMovie.com: Lets start with Paramount’s decision to move the release date. How did you guys hear about the change and what was your reaction to it?
Damon Lindelof: JJ got a set visit from the powers that be at Paramount, including [CEO] Brad Grey who basically hired JJ to direct the movie in the first place. And JJ emailed all of us, Bryan [Burk], myself, Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman], saying "don’t say anything about this, but they are going to move the release date from this Christmas to essentially kick off next Summer and this is a very good thing." It was being presented to JJ, and I have been hearing the same thing from the studio, that based on the dailies they have been seeing and hanging out on the set and seeing and beginning to understand what the movie is, I think that they are starting to look at it as a big summer crowd-pleaser as opposed to a very sci-fi, not-as-accessible-to a-wider-audience Christmas release. So the reason that they have moved the release date is for their ability to market the film and sort of position it as the Pirates of the Caribbean for next summer
TrekMovie.com: So for your shooting schedule, are you still expecting to end in early April?
Damon Lindelof: Yep…well I think it is mid April, actually.
TrekMovie.com: What effect does this change have to the budget?
Damon Lindelof: On a budgetary level probably the most significant effect it will have is that we will not have to rush our post [production]. As you might imagine there are a gazillion effects shots. I have seen some of the early work being done by ILM and [visual effects supervisor] Roger Guyett and it is nothing short of astonishing. So they’ll basically have more time to render those effects than they would have if we had to release it by Christmas. So that will probably make the movie a little less expensive to produce.
TrekMovie.com: In November your friend and fellow writer John August blogged that JJ [Abrams] was frustrated by not being able to make a change during the WGA strike. Now that you have the chance, are you going to go back and make changes?
Damon Lindelof: Well until we see the finished movie and everything that we have shot, you really cannot determine if you are writing ADR [Additional Dialogue Recording], but you really are always writing ADR. A plot point lacks clarity so you write a line of dialogue after the fact or whatever. I think JJ’s frustration was a result of, even on a television show — let alone on a movie, you put the scene in front of the cameras and you see the actors start performing it and you go "oh wow, let’s just change that line to this" or "you don’t need to say all that, you can just play it in a look." That is sort of the ‘loosy goosey’ sort of improvisational quality of it. You couldn’t do that during the strike and I think that was a frustrating process for JJ.
TrekMovie.com: Before the change in release date we have been hearing about promotional images for the crew and the full Enterprise being released in the near term. Plus a trailer showing up in early Summer. Has the change in date also changed the promotional rollout plan?
Damon Lindelof: We are still the midst of our publicity plan. Obviously the schedule is now going to change to accommodate the new release date. My guess is that the strategy will turn more into a slow burn. But at this point we also have to be cognizant of once the film is done, and the more we shoot the more likely it is to invite spoilers if we are holding everything back. So we still want to release those images. As far as for the first trailer trailer, I heard we were still on for the summer to have a full trailer for the movie. But I would not be surprised if they decide to hold that back. I don’t know the answer to that right now.
TrekMovie.com: When the release date change was announced, Michael Vollman, the spokesman for Paramount, said that Star Trek was now in the same league as Transformers and Star Wars. Summer movies tend to be huge and those films did well over half a billion dollars each. Star Trek has been bigish, but never ginormous. So do you guys really think this film is that big?
Damon Lindelof: I am certainly not the one to prognosticate that this movie is going to be a massive break-out hit. We were very comfortable with the Christmas release date. When we all sat down and started to talk about whether or not we wanted to take on Trek, the question was very simple and that question has remained the same: do we think we can make it good? And there is a way to make that movie where the fans will feel that literally four decades of storytelling and canon is not being ignored, but you make the movie so there is an access point for people who want to come in and hear the band for the first time, as it were. We talked about that and kicked some story ideas around and became totally infected with it. So you never know. In February last year Transformers was a joke. It was coming out in summer and people were panning it, saying "it is a toy" and "a cartoon"…who is going to want to see that movie? Then people started seeing the trailers with the robots and started to understand that this is ascending to a different level. So until people start seeing what we are doing, I have no real gauge on whether or not this movie is going to break through to a wider audience. But obviously Paramount thinks so and that is very reassuring for us. Our job remains the same. We are not pandering to make this accessible to people who have never seen Trek, nor are we pandering to the fans. We are just trying to make the best movie we can.
TrekMovie.com: I think all of the fans understand the goal of appealing to both the wider audience as well as the fans. However, in an earlier interview you were quoted as saying "this film is not your father’s Star Trek," which raised some Trekkie eyebrows.
Damon Lindelof: Did I say that? That doesn’t sound like something I would have said.
TrekMovie.com: Ok…well then let me ask you. This film is of course entirely new, but is it also ‘your father’s Star Trek?’
Damon Lindelof: Not to get into the Star Wars films, because I think they are apples and oranges on a billion different levels. But the fundamental reality is the prequels were "not my father’s Star Wars." That is to say the looked different, they felt different. Although they featured some of the same characters, like Obi Wan and Yoda, but the methodology of the storytelling was different. I am not here to talk about whether it was better or worse, but what is interesting is that my buddies that have kids…they prefer the prequels because they are faster and visually more spectacular and there is a kid who is the protagonist in the first one. So if I said that "it is not your father’s Star Trek" it is just that we are making this movie in 2008 and so fundamentally when you think about what does Trek look like and what does it feel like, especially The Original Series, this is going to be an entirely different animal. Of course the characters are the same. The characters are untouchable. You cannot mess with the fabric of Kirk or Spock or McCoy or Scotty. They are who they are. That is why when we approached this thing, doing a total and complete reboot…like ‘oh what if Scotty was a woman?’ or ‘what if Uhura was an alien?’ or ‘what if Kirk was married?’ those were all ideas that are just heretical.
Read Part 1 of the TrekMovie.com interview with Damon Lindelof…where Damon talks about his Trek fandom, his favorites, Trek/Lost connections and more.
Lindelof (third from left) with the Trek team: (L-R) Roberto Orci, Leonard Nimoy, Zachary Quinto, J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Burk and Stratton Leopold (no longer on the project) at 2007 Comic-Con [click to enlarge]