As part of their series of screenings for WGA nominees, there was a showing of the 2009 Star Trek movie at the WGA theater in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night. Following the film there was a panel discussion and Q&A with the writers (and WGA nominees) Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The pair covered a lot of old ground, but also discussed some of the hot point topics on the first Star Trek, and they also talked about the sequel too. They also talked about commenters at TrekMovie.com!
Showing Star Trek to the WGA
The 2009 Star Trek film is the first Trek movie to ever garner a WGA nomination. The screening series is one of the ways the WGA helps their members make the final decision when they vote. Interestingly the vast majority (by a showing of hands) had never seen the film before. It was interesting watching the film with a new audience again and even though they Hollywood insiders, you still got all the laughs and gasps from the audience you would get from general audiences last May. Following the event there was a discussion with the writers and a moderator, as well as some Q&A from the audience. We have excerpts below broken into things about the first movie, plus a few tidbits on the next.
Most of the WGA crowd (with some SAG members too) were there to see "Star Trek" for the first time
Orci and Kurtzman talk fans and the first Star Trek
Much of the discussion for the evening went over familiar ground as most in the audience were seeing Trek for the first time. Plus, being that this was a WGA event, much of the discussion was ‘shop talk’ about their process, making pitches, etc. However, many of the hot button issues of Star Trek came up, here are some key excerpts.
On consulting with the fans (at TrekMovie) and other sources of research:
Orci: Because we were fans, we were so aware of how we would feel if we were fans watching a couple of jerks screwing it all up. So, we very much interacted with fans. One of the websites, we are on TrekMovie.com a lot. We would read the reactions of what fans had to say about what they were learning and very much imagined ourselves being on those forums commenting and wondering what we would be saying if we knew nothing. And the opinions were getting were lining up with what we were doing…if you are a fan you are going to have a top 40 things that you would want to see in Star Trek. We always tried to keep in touch with our inner basic fan and not try and over think it, and we got lot of amazing feedback off the Internet and off of reading fan fiction, and reading the novels. We really immersed ourselves because we knew this is not ours, this is something that we were being asked to take of for a while. And we knew we were taking care of it on behalf of people like us.
On making changes while reconciling canon
Orci: that is why we didn’t agree to do it until we had Leonard Nimoy as the device, both karmically and literally in the story, that changed things. We looked at the movie as a sequel to the surviving member of the Starship Enterprise, who was Spock Prime, as we called him in the script. That story can be seen from Leonard Nimoy’s point of view and as a sequel to the last member of the Enterprise. It wasn’t until we hit that, that we realized ‘that’s is how to reconcile.’ The changes are not just that we ignore everything that happened before. Those things are prologues to this movie. And Leonard Nimoy’s memories and instincts about things–all of Star Trek is filtered through him and the changes come through the actions he finds himself in. So when we came to that conclusion we thought ‘that is how Star Trek would do it.’ Some might call it cheating, but that is one of the great things about Star Trek too.
On Shatner scene (you can read that here)
Kurtzman: At the end of the day we felt that like we really poured our hearts and souls into the dialog, but it just felt like it would end up feeling like a cameo, and everyone was expecting a cameo, and for that reason we ended up going away from it.
Orci: I think it would have worked.
On Spock and Uhura kissing:
Orci: Well you know Oedipally you marry your mother [laughs], and his mother was human. Part of our take was that we were going to harmonize with canon. So in the original series, the first interracial kiss was between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, and we thought in this, what is the harmony of that? And the harmony is the first inter-species kiss. It is Uhura and Spock. Well, number one he is younger and not as in control of his emotions. And number two, he has just lost his mother, who he has apologized to for saying "I hope you don’t feel I am rejecting all that it human by perusing Kolinahr," the Vulcan purging of all emotions. So in losing her, showing his emotions to Uhura is a way of keeping her.
Kurtzman and Orci answering questions at WGA
Orci and Kurtzman on the Star Trek sequel (and dream projects)
There wasn’t a lot of talk about the Star Trek sequel at the event, as most of those in attendance were just getting up to speed on the first film, but it did come up. Here are some excerpts.
On the setting of the sequel:
Orci: We would never do a remake….it will be some time in the five year mission. But that is a question. Should we pick them up immediately the next day or should it be later, we are still discussing that.
On how villains are more important in second films than first franchise films
Kurtzman: I think our idea on this is that the first of any series is about them coming together or the formation. I couldn’t really tell you what Jeff Bridges was doing in Iron Man, but it doesn’t matter at all because it is all about Iron Man becoming Iron Man. Whereas I think sequels are very much about the villain. Because while [in the first one] the villain serves to bring the crew together, the second one I think has to be a true challenging of what that family is about. That is why Wrath of Khan was so amazing. Khan tested each one of them and ultimate asked for the ultimately sacrifice, and that is why that movie held up so well.
On the pressure of the sequel versus the first film:
Orci: Frankly I feel more pressure because we were so confident when we came up with the idea of how to bridge canon, and yet free ourselves from canon. Now we have no excuses for anything, now we are free. Now we don’t have the benefit of low expectations.
Kurtzman: It is true, I feel much more pressure.
On what would be their dream project (besides Trek) to be involved with:
Kurtzman: I would like to take a run at Indiana Jones, but that is a pretty closed door, so not sure that is ever going to happen.
Orci: We would like to remake Star Wars [laughs]
Bob and Alex spend extra time after the panel chatting with attendees
More to come
After the event Bob Orci did a video interview for TrekMovie, look for that soon.