After they showed the Star Trek trailer, the full Wondercon Star Trek panel comprised of JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci, Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, and Zoe Saldana held a Q&A session. See below for a detailed breakdown with partial transcript and images of all the ‘surprise guests.’
Trek panel addresses the fans and their issues
After showing off the new the trailer (see previous TrekMovie article), Abrams then introduced his panel, comprised of executive producer Bryan Burk, co-writer Roberto Orci and actors Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura). All got big rounds of applause, with the biggest probably going to Zachary Quinto, introduced as "one of our Heroes" followed closely by Chris Pine who was introduced as "one of our heart throbs of the future." They then went immediately to Q&A.
Below is a partial transcript, focusing on a couple of the more interesting exchanges, followed by a summary of more from the panel. Also note all images can be clicked on for larger versions
Question: I heard it said that a big part of this Star Trek was to open it up to a wider audience, how difficult was it to strike the balance between that and making it something that long-time fans can approach. How much are you staying with continuity of everything that has come before?
Abrams: It is a great question, and you are a fan of Star Trek? Huge Fan? [questioner replies ‘yes’] Then obviously, you are savvy enough to know that if we were just to make the movie for fans of Star Trek we would be limiting the audience enormously. And the truth is, because we love this, because we are beholden to you, because the fans of Star Trek are what allow us to make a version of Star Trek at all, I can assure you that we making this movie for you. It goes without saying, although it is important that we say it. I have taken some flack for saying in the press "we are making this for future fans of Star Trek" as if we don’t care about the existing fans. That could not be farther from the truth. We love and are beholden to the existing fans of Star Trek and one of the ways we made sure this movie is going to make you happy is we had this great range of points of view with the producers, one of whom is Bryan, who had never seen an episode of Star Trek at all…then we have got Bob Orci who is an absolute avowed Trekker, so we have this great balance. So the answer to your question is that there are a million references and the story adheres to canon pretty much as well as The Original Series adheres to canon, the movie really does. I mean that.
You all know, even with The Original Series, there are some contradictions. But the truth is: we love it. And as someone who was not a fan to begin with, I’ve come to appreciate and understand and actually feel
jealous I didn’t get hooked earlier so I can understand how amazing the show was.
Orci: Everyone here respects and was inspired by what Trek was and this movie is in a unique situation where it is both a prequel, but a sequel. All of Trek that preceded this movie is necessary within canon for this movie to have happened. So if you are a fan, your knowledge of Star Trek is going to be rewarded. And if you are not, you are going to learn why we were all inspired by it.
Question: Especially for those of you who are new to the Star Trek phenomenon, what has it come to mean to you over the process of making the film and now promoting it and being in the middle of all of this?
Quinto: For me one of the most rewarding experiences throughout was getting to know Leonard [Nimoy], besides working with all the people on this process. Having his involvement so integral to the process was so illuminating. And not only that, but to see the impact it had his career and his life and the kind of man he is. And I think that is an extension of what Gene Roddenberry set out to create over forty years ago. I think the times that we live in necessitate that kind of point of view. And I think JJ is such a great great person to take it and move it forward, there is an optimism that lives in the heart of this film and the heart of the franchise that I think is a really great thing for us to share with the world right now. That was something that had a great impact for sure.
Pine: I think for me it was just a great opportunity to get to know people I now call my friends. JJ created such an unbelievable ability to create absolute equanimity on the sets. No one feels like there is a dictator shouting orders behind video village. It was a family on the set I was so lucky to have fun with every day. So that kind of family that we built on set will hopefully build into this bigger family out here that will accept this new version. And this is all credited to Bob, JJ and Alex [Kurtzman]…a good blend of great action sequences, like we saw on screen right there, and wonderful relationships between the characters and I was privileged and grateful to be a part of it.
Quinto: We all just saw the movie for the first time this week, the three of us. I just saw it last night and literally couldn’t speak for like twenty minutes, and I am not like that. It is such a ride. It is so exciting. I am really excited to share it with everyone, and I think we all are, but it was such a thrill and I am really proud to be part of it. It succeeds on a lot of levels.
Saldana: [after a pause] Sorry I was distracted…it is Spock and Kirk! I get distracted because I am so excited. For me I would definitely have to agree with Zach, the most exciting thing of this experience was originally meeting the original cast members–working with Leonard Nimoy and meeting Nichelle Nichols. That is one elegant and sexy Uhura, I will tell you that. To know how excited they were and how much they blessed this entire project. From JJ being the creator behind it and the writers and the direction in the way the story is going and the revamping and bringing it back for you guys and to make believers out of generations that were born in the 80s and 90s, it is an opportunity for them to be introduced to this world that existed for so many years. I am a believer now.
Abrams: They are very kind to call me and the writers ‘creators’ of the movie, but you should know that we were all so aware of Gene Roddenberry when we making this movie. We were so indebted to him and having Majel, who so sadly passed away recently, not only on the set, but getting her to be part of this movie. And having people who were there who worked with Gene, not the least of which is Mr. Nimoy, a more elegant, thoughtful, considerate and caring man does not exist. He is remarkable. I wanted to make sure you guys know how much we appreciate and bow to everything that comes before, because this movie would not remotely have a chance to exist at all had it not been for all that work.
Abrams on Trek inspiration and combining character and action
JJ was asked (by pre-teen fan) what inspired him to bring back Star Trek. He said that when he was first approached to produce it, even though he wasn’t the biggest fan, he was interested "by the idea of Kirk and Spock and what they came to be." Then after bringing in the other producers and the writers, he loved the script so much he would be "jealous" if anyone else directed it. Of the script he said it was "fun and full of characters and action and spectacle." At that point Bob reached over and handed JJ some cash. The crowd laughed and he said "no money needed, it really was a great script" and he then pocketed the money.
Abrams was also asked how he finds way to combine character stories and action in all of his work. The director noted that his favorite movies are those that "combine characters that are complex, that are broken in some way, but you believe them and they are real and they make you feel…and then they are thrown into the craziest s–t of all time." He noted that working with Bob, Alex and Damon [Lindelof] keeps pushing him to "find ways to feel more and deeper about characters in situations that are increasingly unbelievable." Abrams also said that he had to give credit to the actors for making it all believable.
More random Abrams comments
Abrams invited Kevin Smith to see the film early on because he is a friend and is "painfully honest"
Abrams admitted that he and Chris Pine would do ‘beat boxing’ between takes, and he and Chris demonstrated their skills with Pine riffing "Star Trek in da house"
Abrams noted the extras on the film were "spectacular" and they were "tireless"
Abrams on the work of ILM "they did some stuff this time that just blew my mind"
Working on "an idea" for Cloverfield sequel which is "pretty cool", but it should not be done "as a business decision"
Pine and Quinto on Classic Trek
Chris Pine was asked if he had a favorite episode and he immediately did a Shatneresque scream of "I’m Captain Kirk!" (from "The Enemy Within"), also noted that "I love it when he fights Finnegan" ("Shore Leave") which he thought was "hysterical", but Pine isn’t sure he would have done the one where he "wrestled the young boy" ("Charlie X"), but went on to say "I think what I love about The Original Series is that Mr. Shatner is incredibly funny. It is that humor he brought to Boston Legal. It is that twinkle in his eye that anything can happen. It is that something I couldn’t recreate for the life of me, but I tried to bring my own thing.
Quinto was asked if he looked to TOS for inspiration and he noted that he watched the show in his trailer while they were shooting Trek but looked directly to Nimoy as a resource instead of looking to episodes for his inspiration. He also noted that he did a lot of research "reading a lot about the world and about character." But he
emphasized that they were doing something new and that "the words that Bob and Alex gave us and the situations that the characters found themselves in were really the most important thing."
When asked about taking over the roles of Kirk and Spock, Chris Pine said "it was not pretty daunting, it was totally daunting" to which Quinto jumped in joking "I was not daunted," again showing the rapport and chemistry that this new team have. Pine then said when he took the role he was conscious of not letting down the Trek fans, which he called "the best fans of all of fandom" (nice pandering Chris, but appreciated. But Pine noted that while respecting what had come before, their job was to tell "this story and this particular journey."
Bob shows off new card
During the panel when I went up to take some photos, Bob Orci saw me with the other press and waved. He then pulled out one of the cards from the Rittenhouse Star Trek set announced this week (see TrekMovie story) and displayed it for me.
After the panel Orci jumped off the stage and started handing cards out to those in the front rows. But by the time Bob walked by me again he didn’t have any left, but Tamar at Paramount publicity caught up with me on the show floor after the panel and gave me one. She also showed off her Trek cred, see below.
And here is the card
This was the first time to see so many of the cast and producers together, and it was the Star Trek panel that everyone wanted to happen last year at Comic Con. All were refreshingly candid and yet showed their immense passion for the project. It was a delight to see the rapport they all had, especially the actors and that is a good sign for good chemistry in the film. The crowd applauded often and laughed at many of the jokes and seemed far more enthusiastic than at other panels earlier in the day.
It was interesting that Abrams brought up how he had got ‘flack’ for some of his comments in the press, and faced that issue head on. He has always had the challenge to make the film for multiple audiences, and now he has the new challenge of promoting the film to those multiple audiences. Today he was certainly shaping his message for the fans. However his comments about respecting the past and Roddenberry seemed heartfelt and were appreciated.
Overall I imagine Paramount considers this a success and it should help build buzz, along with the new trailer coming out with Watchmen next Friday.