Exclusive Excerpt From Upcoming Nicholas Meyer Star Trek Memoir

A generation ago a young upstart director had the temerity to shake things up in the Trek franchise, and result was the classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, beginning a decade long relationship for Nicholas Meyer. This summer Meyer will recount his years with Trek in a new memoir, and TrekMovie has an exclusive excerpt, along with more Meyer summer 2009 news.

 

Meyer’s Star Trek
In the 1996 Official Star Trek 30 Years Collector’s Magazine, the editors listed the 100 most influential people to the success of Star Trek. Rightly on the list was director Nicholas Meyer who is described as bringing "unconventional" style to Star Trek with a philosophy of "design for the future with an eye to the past." Meyer wrote (without credit) and directed Star Trek II, co-wrote Star Trek IV, and co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI, all considered to by many to be the best of the classic crew films. And although Meyer is always happy to talk about Star Trek, be it at lecture halls or on DVD commentaries (the new Blu Ray discs includes not only a new commentary track but a very moving tribute by Meyer to Ricardo Montalban), fans have never had a definite telling of his experiences with Star Trek. That changes this August when Viking Press publishes "The View From The Bridge – Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood"  by Meyer,
which can be pre-ordered now from Amazon.

Viking Press describes the book Thusly

An enormously entertaining account of his involvement with the Star Trek films: STII: The Wrath of Khan, STIV: The Voyage Home, and STVI: The Undiscovered Country, as well as his illustrious career in the movie business. The man best known for bringing together Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud in The Seven Per-Cent Solution had ironically never been interested in Star Trek until he was brought on board to save the film series. Meyer shares how he created the script for The Wrath of Khan, the most revered Star Trek film of all, in twelve days — only to have William Shatner proclaim he hated it. He reveals the death threats he received when word got out that Spock would be killed, and finally answers the long-pondered question of whether Khan’s chiseled chest is truly that of Ricardo Montalban. Meyer’s reminiscences on everyone from Gene Roddenberry to Laurence Olivier will appeal not only to the countless legions of Trekkies, but to anyone fascinated by the inner
workings of Hollywood.

MEMOIR EXCERPT
Excerpt of "The View From The Bridge – Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood"

Star Trek II – Shooting part ii
 

Interestingly Kirk and Khan (how did their names both happen to start with the same letter?) never get to play a scene together in the film. Did I notice this would be the case? I can’t say I did—nor did anyone else ever comment on or worry about it during the shooting, though Bill Shatner remembers a long discussion about the need to have a physical fight scene between the two men that he says was eventually scrapped for budgetary reasons. I can’t say I miss it. Kirk and Khan do have a “phone” conversation of sorts of the type now common on iChat, and it was interesting to compare their styles and to learn how I could contribute to Shatner’s performance.

On Star Trek VI, Christopher Plummer told me that he could tell that Shatner would be a star when he watched him subbing for him in Henry V one night at Stratford, Ontario. “He did everything different from me,” Plummer recalled, “and that’s when I knew . . .”

And if there was one thing Shatner knew, it was Captain Kirk. But the Kirk of Star Trek II was a bit different from the character of the TV series and the first film; he was aging, he was off his game, he was depressed (Captain Kirk depressed? This really was going to be different), and now he was in the fight of his life, up against a super­intelligent opponent whose only weakness was his obsessive hatred of Kirk. Khan has given him a minute to surrender the details of Project Genesis. Kirk, forced to put on reading glasses beneath the contemptuous glare of his implacable foe on the forward viewing screen, plays a desperate gambit and stalls until finally turning to Khan and telling him, “Here it comes,” before he proceeds to hammer Khan’s hijacked vessel with torpedoes.

The first time Shatner delivered “Here it comes,” his sneer dripped off the lens. “Bill,” says I, “this guy is some kind of über genius. You telegraph like that, he’s gonna raise his shields in a second. Let’s try it again.”

The second take was similarly heavy­handed but, as it happened, no good for sound. (A stratagem I had contrived beforehand.) The third take, I think the focus was soft—and so on. Eventually Shatner became bored and when he got bored he got good. He dropped the attitudes he was prone to strike and instead became Kirk, with no trimmings. It was a good trick to stumble on and it happened early enough in the shoot that I was able to make good use of it throughout. (The only difficulty was ensuring that Shatner, who got better with every take, did not have to appear in a two-shot with someone who was at his best on take one and thereafter deteriorated.) When all’s said and done, however, a director can only do so much; Shatner’s triumph in the movie is his own, the product of his own intuition and his gift.

Montalban knew he was not a good judge of his own work (“I don’t know what I’m doing out there . . .”), but many actors are convinced they are. And this despite the fact that so far from being objective, actors frequently pick the wrong roles in which to appear, let alone the wrong takes. Shatner was no exception. He would come up after the shot and say softly, “Take three was best for me.” I would always nod and make a note of it, regardless of whether it was the take I wound up selecting. Similarly, if an actor wants another take and I have time, enough daylight, and I’m not blowing up a bridge behind him, I will always give it to him. Why should an actor have to go through the movie feeling his best work is getting away from him, even if he’s mistaken? There’s always the possibility that (a) it will get better or (b) he’ll feel he’s not been cheated or (c) it may not be better, but it may give you an idea for some­thing you hadn’t thought of that will be better.

William Wyler, Stanley Kubrick, and Warren Beatty are known for doing scores of takes, John Huston and Clint Eastwood for doing very few. Which is correct? Can you tell the difference watching their films?

Nimoy had long since figured out how to play Spock. “I never played Spock as a man with no emotions,” he explained to me early on. “On the contrary, I always played him as a man of deep passions who was continually struggling to keep them in check.”

I didn’t need to say a word.

—————–

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from THE VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by Nicholas Meyer.
Copyright © 2009 by Nicholas Meyer

"The View From The Bridge – Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood" by Nicholas Meyer is due out in mid August. It can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.com. In August TrekMovie will have an author interview and early review of the memoir.

Meyer Book Tour
This autumn, Meyer will tour to support the book at these locations:

  • August 25 at 7:00 PM Book Passage (Corte Madera, CA)
  • August 27 a 7:00 PM Book Soup (Los Angeles, CA)
  • September 2, 7:00 PM Borders Northridge (Northridge, CA)
  • September 10, 7:30 PM Warwick’s (San Diego, CA)
  • September 14,7PM Prairie Lights (Iowa City, IA)
  • September 15, 7PM Barnes & Noble, East 86th St. NYC (New York, NY)

Book Soup offers those not attending the signing event a chance to get a signed edition of the book. Details are at booksoup.com.

 

MORE MEYER NEWS

University of Iowa Meyer Collection Star Trek Exhibit
Nicholas Meyer is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the library there houses an amazing collection of his papers. From now until July 1st, the library is having a special exhibit curated by Greg Prickman called "Where Many Have Gone Before: Relaunching Star Trek." The free exhibit includes items such as the first Star Trek fanzine from 1967, Spockanalia, early fan club material, and highlights from Nicholas Meyer’s work on the Star Trek movies: a script, storyboards, and correspondence from Star Trek II, Meyer’s reactions to the first draft of the Star Trek III script, an early version of the Star Trek IV script, and concept art from Star Trek VI.

TrekFest Tenuto Presentation on Meyer
Speaking of Iowa, next week (June 26-27) is the annual TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa which is about 20 minutes from the University of Iowa, and TrekMovie’s own me (John) will be presenting rare Star Trek photos from the The Papers of Nicholas Meyer Collection before introducing stars Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei on June 27th.

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First! How cool – great director.

I like Nicholas Meyer and his work. He’s a very interesting story teller who isn’t afraid to talk about his works, but like a respectable magician, he doesn’t give away too much information.

Nicolas Meyer-
“Sound dominates picture. There are no exceptions.”

GREAT excerpt from the book. Among the most thoughtful and interesting pieces I’ve read about the actors, approaches, and characters.

“Nimoy had long since figured out how to play Spock. “I never played Spock as a man with no emotions,” he explained to me early on. “On the contrary, I always played him as a man of deep passions who was continually struggling to keep them in check.”

I didn’t need to say a word”

Seems like most everyone knew better than to tell Nimoy how to play his character.

Wonderful stuff on directing Shatner.

A shame NM didn’t become more ubiquitous in Hollywood as a writer/director. We got him for 3 Trek films, and we’re fortunate.

“…and finally answers the long-pondered question of whether Khan’s chiseled chest is truly that of Ricardo Montalban….”

That was answered in Nimoy’s autobiography, “I Am Spock”, in the section on TWOK. x3

YES, HIS PECS ARE REAL. Really.

I will definitely have to at least flip through this. Looks really fascinating. =)

Would’ve been interesting to see his version of StarTrek09, or at least hear what he would’ve done. I’ve always thought that VI is one of the best, but if he’d been given a budget like JJ’s, I can’t imagine how great it would have been, let alone what he could do with today’s tech.

Gene L. Coon was a U. S. Marine. Stand at ease.

Interesting, but much of this is mentioned in his commentary on the DVD. I am more interested in his IV and VI comments. Haven’t seen those.

Have to say that, while I enjoyed VI. I didn’t love it. Some of the politics was a bit heavy handed. The whole “this president is not above the law” is a real doozie. Wow! He’s not a bad gut like that Nixon! We get it. The idea of Kirk being Nixon going to China was brilliant, and sufficient. And the pompous-ass military guys were a bit too over the top. I find gross stereotyping of “hardline-nincompoop-military-bad-guys-that-want-to-take-over-the-world-unless-their-civilian-betters-keep-them-in-check” trite. How great would it have been to have a character more like Dryden from Lawrence of Arabia? The world weary but wise diplomat hiding his cynicism behind some solid realpolitik and advice? Memo to JJ for the next one: Kirk encounters a Federation version of this character.

And I thought the ending went too fast. I would have liked to spend a bit more time on the bridge one last time.

Interesting, could be a good read :)

I have a hunch he probably enjoyed the newest movie, for the same reason(s) Star Trek 2 worked so well. Can never say for sure, though.

I always loved his commentaries in the DVD directors edition. I always felt like they needed to give him more time to tell the stories.

Big budgets usually are not the whole story in the end. It is ironic (at least to me) that the film that cost the least of the entire series is probably the most beloved… and in a lot of ways, I feel today’s mega-hundred millions of $$ budget movie directors/producers could learn a thing or two from the likes of Mr. Meyer.

For my money, I will still take STTMP for Gene’s vision, but for pure action and excitement both TWOK and ST09 are hard to beat.

I’ll look forward to reading Meyer’s remarks. If he writes prose as well as dialogue and as he directs, this read should be.. dare I say it? …. fascinating.

What I’ve heard of his TWOK DVD commentary was brilliant. I may have to check this book out…

The Wild Man of Borneo

#10

are you kidding me? TWOK and trek 2009 were two TOTALLY different movies and if I were Meyer I would be insulted to compare Abram’s Trek with his.

Now…that Nicolas Meyer book sounds fascinating. Talk about a teaser there.

And I don’t really think it’s fair to say he had all that much temerity. Other than the uniforms he didn’t stray away from what we all knew.

#14: Dude, chill out.

Of course, the two films are different. I would hope the 27 years separating them would lead to two different kinds of film product. Heck, to some degree, we have a totally different audience with different sensibilities and expectations today. If “Star Trek” were to lay stagnant for that amount of time, it would deserve to die.

Why should Meyer, or JJ Abrams for that matter, be insulted? That is like saying Arthur C Clarke (were he alive today) should be insulted by the works of Isaac Asimov (same remarks) just because they were different.

Quit creating emotional controversies where there are none.

One thing I have enjoyed about listening to Nick Meyer’s film commentaries are that they actually are about filmmaking…

I think this shall join Dan Brown’s upcoming book on my “to buy” list!

#14-It’s always nice to have someone come out, phasers blazing!

Meyer sounds like a very talented and generous man and Director. No wonder his movies rocked.

Does anyone else out there want to see this man involved in Star Trek again??

Seriously, I would love it if Nick Meyer got involved in something related to Star Trek. Even if it was just a consulting job. The man created (hands down) the best Star Trek film of all time.

This does look like an interesting read. I’ll look forward to it.

20 – I think that would be a great idea.

20

They should get him involved without question. I think I read somewhere Roberto Orci said he would love to see more movies in the prime timeline (or was it another TNG movie?). Let Meyer direct his own Trek movie in the PRIME timeline, be it another TNG movie or something post spock disappears into black hole..

they could throw him 30 million and he would probably make the best TNG movie to date, send them out with a proper exit.

Yeah, Meyer did a great job with his Trek movies. Shatner actually asked him to write “Star Trek V”, but Meyer was unable to because of his schedule. And Rick Berman actually approached Meyer to direct “Nemesis” at one point, and Meyer said he would take the job only if he could re-write the script. Berman already promised John Logan that his script would not be altered, so Meyer passed.

Oh the possibilities…..

Shatner hated the script for Khan. What do you Shat lovers have to say about THAT???

I love William Shatner. His Capt. Kirk was my boyhood hero, and still, to this day, his TOS and movie performances resonate with me deeply.

I’ll never know firsthand what he’s like to work with , but when so many of his ST fellows have lodged the same complaints about his behavior on set, and when he, in turn, has repeatedly professed his innocence and ignorance of where such reactions could possibly have come from, well … it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something’s rotten in the state of Shatner.

I enjoyed the above excerpt from Nick Meyer’s book, even as I sat here shaking my head in disbelief at the number of takes it took to get Shatner to deliver “Here it comes” as memorably and perfectly as he finally did. It’s hard to read and accept the sorry truth about an actor who has brought so much to my life through his performances.

Nevertheless, I look forward to Meyer’s account. Through his work and his commentaries, it’s clear that he’s an excellent judge of character and knows exactly how to extract brilliant performances from the actors in his charge.

#26
– …It’s hard to read and accept the sorry truth about an actor… –

Why “sorry truth”? Sometimes, the scenes that look the most simple are the most difficult to perform. And the fact that eventually it was delivered that perfectly, speaks in Shatner’s and Meyer’s favor.

Nicholas Meyer has a very keen eye for handling actors…great psychological directing!

I love it…thanks for this fantastic article.

Trekwebmaster

#27

It’s not about the number of times it took Shatner to deliver the performance he finally did. I was commenting on Meyer’s assertion that it was only when Shatner became “bored” with repeating the scene over and over that he dropped his “attitude” and “became Kirk.”

“Sorry truth” speaks to my reluctance to accept that Shatner, the man I idolized for his performances as Kirk, wasn’t himself an idol. He was difficult to work with. He wasn’t perfect. He was human. We all are. I was just saying that it’s hard for me to reconcile the “two Shatners.”

For the bulk of actors, it’s all about them — it takes a particular kind of person to want to be in the spotlight. But they need good writing and direction. The first season of TOS (except when he was called upon to emote) and movies I, II and III were Shatner’s best Kirk for me. He had a ridiculous idea for the fight that didn’t happen between Kirk and Khan in one of his books — although it’s hard to tell when Shatner’s joking — where he thought Kahn shoul d have a glove that turned into a panther claw and then an eagle or something (these were the Beastmaster years, methinks). Them not meeting was probably the best part of the movie — the fight in Space Seed (where he beats Khan with a PVC pipe) was weak.

Later, Shatner just started playing himself. Even in TWOK, there were some dodgy attempts at sarcasm that didn’t work that well… still an awesome movie and performance.

I’ll get killed for this — but I actually find Nimoy’s Spock fairly uneven from episode to episode and in the different movies, beyond the differences called for in the script (like Kohlinar and the resurrection). HIs TWOK Spock is probably my favorite.

God, I love Nick Meyer.

Isn’t it ” It’s coming now, Khan.” ?

@32

Yes, at one point he says… “it’s coming through now Khan”

but just before attacking, he says… ‘here it comes”

Would love to hear Shatner’s reaction(s) to Meyer’s evaluation of how to get the best performance out of Shatner.

Meyer is a very intriguing gentleman – a Renaissance Man. Plus he gives off a Harlan Ellison vibe too.

The book should be a real treat.

#34 Shatner’s well aware of it. Practically everything said in that extract, is in the book Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner.

It’s not a new revelation. I believe Meyer himself is quoted on it.

30 – i think shatner only played shatner in Trek V and Generations…one where he directed himself and the other the first time film director probably just let him get on with it

Looking forward to reading the book. After finally seeing the new TREK film this past Sunday night, I can say without any doubt that Meyer directed and wrote the best movie in the series, THE WRATH OF KHAN.

I think Meyer’s observations are spot-on regarding how to get the best out of Shatner.

If you go back to first-season TOS episodes, the very best, most compelling Kirk episodes were one where Shatner delivered a measured, deliberate performance, as if that tendency to ham it up were creatively and constructively redirected and tempered. Conversely, think of some of the worst of the franchise, and many of those were where Shatner was, well, arguably more Shatner than Kirk.

Shatner’s measured performance was arguably the best of any of the movies. By taking away the hamminess, he was arguably a more intense, more compelling character…

I think it goes to the credit of Meyer as a director to recognize it, too. As I recall, he watched all the Trek episodes to get a feel for the series when he was signed on, and I suspect he recognized the same thing.

25. Anthony Thompson: ‘Shatner hated the script for Khan. What do you Shat lovers have to say about THAT???’

Before you get too excited by Nick Meyer’s remark (what is the weird, almost sexual thrill Shatner haters get when they hear anything that could be construed as bad about him?) remember that following that meeting with Shatner, Nick Meyer tweaked the script draft and Shatner left a message on Meyer’s answerphone calling him a ‘genius!’

Shatner, like anyone sensible, was concerned about being in a cut-price Trek film being made by some blokes who had no connection with Star Trek. Nimoy was no more keen and only did the film on the condition that, Janet Leigh-style, he get abruptly killed off in Khan’s initial attack on the Enterprise.

Meyer has proven himself to generations of Trek fans with three Trek movies. Back then no one knew who the hell he was!

Can’t wait to get a hold of this!

I adore The Shat, but hey, I adore Ellison as well. I figure I don’t have to work with either one, I can just concentrate on the aspects I like and push the other stuff into the background. Life’s too short to deal with the emotional foibles of people you don’t actually associate with ;)

“Shatner hated the script for Khan. What do you Shat lovers have to say about THAT???”

He had the same concerns that a lot of fans had when they heard about the plot. Spock dying? A depressed Kirk? A more militaristic Starfleet? **I** was seriously concerned myself and I read the script while they were still filming it. But there were obviously tweaks and the actors and director delivered marvelously. Please remember that they had gone through numerous scripts for this film and nothing was working. Meyers used the best elements from several and came up with TWOK in a matter of days.

I’ve always been a Meyers fan so I’m really looking forward to this book.

#39/Dom — “what is the weird, almost sexual thrill Shatner haters get when they hear anything that could be construed as bad about him?”

Ain’t it the truth. It’s so funny — Niimoy does no wrong and Shat nothing right. And yet, Nimoy was a pretty tough cookie in the day. HE is the one who sued Paramount over royalties. HE is the one who only did a Trek movie if they killed his character off (TWOK). HE is the one who refused to do a cameo in Generations. All good choices IMO, but gosh, imagine if Shatner had done those things!!!!

[Oh wait, he didn’t want to do a cameo (that was never offered anyway) in the latest movie and got skewered for it.]

I know this goes against the grain of popular Trek culture, but I didn’t like Meyer’s directing. I think he took something that only needed to be enhanced (Star Trek TOS) and instead, he changed it to make it HIS. Bulky uniforms. Bulky hardware. Long, drawn out scenes (Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan). Overall, Nicolas Meyer’s Star Trek. Dull, boring and visually cumbersome.

However, I suppose his book will have some interesting anecdotes, as he was there. Wasn’t he?

Nicholas Meyer, what a thoroughly bloody nice chap he seems as well as being very articulate and intelligent. Ultimately in my mind this is the man (along with Harve Bennett) who saved my beloved Star Trek from it’s near death throws after TMP and whilst I have enjoyed Abram’s, Kurtzman and Orci’s new vision – I will be forever grateful for what Meyer did for Star Trek!

Live long and prosper…

The quote in this except expands a little on Meyer’s rather glib version on the commentary track (where he pretty much states that he would wear Shatner down by asking for multiple takes.) This version sounds kinder and more respectful. Meyer was certainly a wunderkind – this shows his maturation as an individual, to my ears.

It would be good to give him another ST movie, with the Next Gen or even the Prime K/S.

i was kinda surprised they didnt get him on the new film in some capacity (consultant, exec producer, script etc)

#25 “Shatner hated the script for Khan. What do you Shat lovers have to say about THAT???”

Typical for Shat bashers to jump to conclusions. Shatner actually DID like the film after Meyer did a re-write..hence his eventual signing on to do the movie.

The difference in performances and how Shatner benefits from being reigned in, are easy to see between II and V. In V he directed himself, the worst case scenario where he’s concerned.

25 et all, Oh how i laugh at people having a pop at the guy (Shatner), who for 40 years has been the center of Trek.. if you don’t like the guy, how can you like Trek, and the Character of Kirk… grow up..

49. That’s easy. The Shat’s, well, often not a nice man, but he plays Kirk, Denny Crane, etc., very well. I don’t like Shat but love some of his characters. So… get over it.

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