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NY Times Mag Profile Of JJ Abrams Provides Insights Into His Focus & Relationship With Paramount

This weekend the New York Times Magazine has an extensive feature on Star Trek producer/director JJ Abrams. While there isn’t anything new about the Star Trek sequel in the article, there are some interesting insights into his life, his process, and why Paramount Pictures is willing to change schedules around to accommodate him. It also offers a glimpse into the mysterious new offices for Abrams’ Bad Robot production company.

 

NYT profile offers insights on JJ Abrams’ focus and Paramount relationship

The 4600-word feature story in the New York Times Magazine is worth reading in full. The hook is the release of JJ Abrams new film, Super 8, and how it is the culmination of his long-time collaboration (and fandom) of Steven Spielberg and how it all ties into his "mystery box" of secrecy, but the article covers Abrams whole life and career. The feature may also offer some insights into the path towards Star Trek sequel.

As we have recently reported, Roberto Orci says that he and his fellow Star Trek writers have been meeting with Abrams while he has been making Super 8, but they are still "waiting" for him to make some decisions so they can finish the script. The New York Times article can explain why Abrams has been hard to nail down, describing how his new movie has taken over his life (and that of many of his regular collaborators who would also be working on the Star Trek sequel):

Abrams struck me as focused to the point of obsession on “Super 8.” Friends and collaborators say that when he homes in on a project dear to him, he can be a relentless perfectionist. That was certainly the case on the early May day when I watched him carom between the scoring stage where a 104-piece orchestra was recording the movie’s music and an office suite, just three doors down, into which he had temporarily moved the final editing of “Super 8.” He would huddle with the movie’s composer, Michael Giacchino, over whether there should be an earlier swell of strings here, something more sinister-sounding there. Then he would spend 10 minutes with one of the movie’s two editors, Mary Jo Markey, on a detail as small as how long the camera should dwell on one actor during his dialogue in one scene.

Abrams himself, seems to be aware of how the many calls for his attention can impact his many projects, again from the NYT feature:

For all his success, two recent TV shows from the Bad Robot empire, “Six Degrees” and “Undercovers,” were canceled after one season, and his explanation for the failure of “Undercovers,” which he directed and helped to write at the start, makes it sound as if he sometimes spreads himself too thin. He says that at any given moment, he’s forgetting a few of the dozens of storytelling principles he lives by — and sometimes they’re the wrong ones. In “Undercovers,” about married spies, he was so fixated on making it “fun, sexy, frothy” that he neglected to give viewers any real reason to care. “There wasn’t any conflict,” he says. “There weren’t any secrets.”

Earlier this month Abrams promised that as soon as Super 8 is released he will be able to turn his focus to the Star Trek sequel. It is hoped that there will still be time for him to deliver a film that meets his more perfectionist standards. If, as rumors suggest, the Star Trek sequel ends up being moved to a new release date, the New York Times article reminds us that this would not be the first time Paramount Pictures has shuffled its schedule around to accommodate Abrams. The studio moved forward Steven Spielberg’s "War of the Worlds" to the summer of 2005, allowing Abrams time to direct Mission: Impossible III for Tom Cruise. And the article also makes it clear that the studio is happy to accommodate Abrams:

Paramount Pictures, with which he has a movie production deal, considers him one of its brightest lights. Its chief executive, Brad Grey, says he has told Abrams that he wants to promote and nurture him the way the movie moguls Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg nurtured Spielberg in decades past at Universal Pictures.


JJ Abrams in recording session for "Super 8" (Photo: NYT)

Bad Robot: "Death Star" of Mystery

One of the interesting elements of the article also deals with how Abrams’ love for mystery has worked its way into his new offices for Bad Robot in Santa Monica. Here is an interesting excerpt.

The Santa Monica building that houses Abrams’s production company, Bad Robot, is a literal, physical reflection of his sensibility. The big sign on the outside doesn’t say Bad Robot but instead National Typewriter Co., and that’s not because the building used to house such an enterprise. It’s because Abrams likes typewriters — and misdirection. Near the doorbell, which is a glowing green light, a smaller sign asks, “Are you ready?”

Abrams’s personal suite of offices is on the second floor, and the befuddlements persist there. A green phone with no dial face or digits to press connects him directly to his wife’s BlackBerry. To get to his bathroom, you have to walk up to a wall of bookshelves beside his desk and tug on a copy of “Louis Tannen’s Catalog of Magic” (named for the same Manhattan magic shop, still around today, where he got his childhood mystery box). Abracadabra: the wall opens. The toilet is revealed.

….

“Bad Robot is its own self-contained Death Star,” says the screenwriter and producer Damon Lindelof, referring to the gargantuan space station in “Star Wars,” one of Abrams’s formative movies. Lindelof co-wrote the “Lost” pilot and was a producer of “Star Trek.” “Whenever I’m in that building, I have the sense that there are at least 30 different projects being worked on at that moment, and J. J. will only let you know about two of them, because secrecy is part of the fun."

By the way, JJ Abrams appeared on last week’s episode of American Idol, where he invited the final four contestants to Bad Robot and gave them a little tour and preview of Super 8. Check it out.

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
rm10019
May 26, 2011 3:13 pm

Lets hope the creativity continues and that the next Trek is ready to go soon!

Phil
May 26, 2011 3:28 pm

I’d love a little tour…..

Harry Ballz
May 26, 2011 3:29 pm

Abrams is obviously brilliant enough, it’s just a question of spreading himself too thin. There are, after all, only 24 hours in each day for ANY of us.

Leo
May 26, 2011 3:40 pm

JJ isn’t a true Trekker, it isn’t going to be his priority. Betting that we don’t see the sequel until summer 2013 at the soonest.

May 26, 2011 3:42 pm

JJ sounds like…me!

This guy is the man to direct the sequel.

Keachick (rose pinenut)
May 26, 2011 3:50 pm
I hope that JJ Abrams will be able to focus fully on the Star Trek sequel in much the same way as he has focused on Super 8. Clearly he needs to take a deep breath occasionally and not stretch himself so thinly, as he himself admits he has done sometimes. Sometimes it is good to be able flit around a butterfly but he has to settle, slow down eventually, lest he burn out completely and that would be a shameful and terrible waste of talent. Please, JJ Abrams, be Star Trek’s director again and concentrate just on Star Trek. You have been given a fantastic opportunity to make a wonderful movie belonging to a franchise that is older than Star Wars, the same franchise that actually helped inspire George Lucas to make the Star Wars movies. You owe it to Star Trek (45 years old). Much is owed to that original Star Trek series. It brought a top quality scifi drama television series in colour to people’s screens worldwide, whether those in Hollywood wish to admit it or not. It also brought with it a loyal interactive fanbase, which, I doubt, any other series has seen the likes of. I’m not sure how many fans of other movies or television series are inspired to write stories involving Trek characters, even though they may never have considered themselves being capable of writing any kind of story at all. With Star Trek though, suddenly writing one’s creative fiction became possible. It… Read more »
Commodore Mike of the Terram Empire.
May 26, 2011 3:51 pm

When J.J get’s to Star Trek he will give it the same attention he did back in 09 and like he is for Super 8. He will make Trek 12 much better then 09 and make it an even bigger hit. If indeed he is on a one track mind set for Trek 12 then we are all going to be in for one hell of a ride.

Dee - lvs moon' surface
May 26, 2011 4:06 pm

And who was talking about toilets? … LOL … are you ready? … for Trek 2, of course!

Keachick (rose pinenut)
May 26, 2011 4:07 pm

Edit: “I’m not sure how many fans of other movies or television series are inspired to write stories involving Trek characters,”

Should read, “I’m not sure how many fans of other movies or television series are inspired to write stories about their favourite shows, but clearly hundreds/thousands(?) of Star Trek fans have been inspired enough to write stories involving Trek characters. They may never have…”

“suddenly writing one’s creative…” should read, “one’s own…”

“little that it meets…” should read, “little if it…”

Sorry about typos. If only there were an edit or delete option. Oh well.

Dee - lvs moon' surface
May 26, 2011 5:11 pm

interesting video …. JJ Abrams & Steven Spielberg On Super 8 …

source:

http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=31101

Commodore Mike of the Terram Empire.
May 26, 2011 6:14 pm

No matter what. Please!!!! Give us a real Engine Room. That would make Trek 12 much better. So come on J,.J Direct it and give Trek 12 all of your attention and a new Engine Room!!!!!!.

Odkin
May 26, 2011 7:14 pm

To whom much is given, of him much will be required.

Abrams has directed how many movies that have been released? Oh yeah – TWO. Both of which got pretty mixed reviews.

I never understood how some people in Hollywood get annointed as “chosen” before they’ve actually delivered any goods.

In the meantime, 95% of Americans have no idea who Frank Capra and Billy Wilder were.

Dee - lvs moon' surface
May 26, 2011 7:35 pm

#11

Ok… but it was not me who did it … this time! LOL

:-) ;-)

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 8:30 pm

In my opinion, J.J Abrams has earned the right to do whatever he wants, when he wants. That goes for “Star Trek”. If he doesn’t feel like directing the sequel right now, and decides that the “Mission Impossible IV” movie is higher on his “want-to-do” list then that is his right and his business. Paramount understands this. They know he is the ONLY director they can trust with “Star Trek” right now.

The days of getting Trek whenever we demand it are over. Over for good. We just have to accept the fact that the sequel will come out when it’s ready, whether it be next year, the year after or five years from now. The “Supreme Court” has EARNED the right to pursue othe projects, despite objections from many impatient, needy, self-entitled “fans”.

The sooner that some fans realize this, the better off WE WILL ALL BE.

MJ
May 26, 2011 8:30 pm

Memo to JJ:

Dude, you are a genius, no doubt, and I loved Trek 09. But it is also important as a leader to let the great people working for you do their jobs and be innovative in their own right. Nobody does their best work under a “micro-manager.”

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 8:52 pm

Memo to MJ:

You’re not a movie director. You have never made movies that have earned hundreds of millions of dollars for Paramount. Your calling J.J Abrams a “micro-manager” is uncalled for.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
May 26, 2011 9:22 pm

Remember everyone. If not for J.J we would not have a Star Trek Movie.

Bobby
May 26, 2011 9:26 pm

#16-MJ – re-read that article. There’s nothing written that confirms your assessment or implies Abrams’ as a micro-manager. It’s a maelstrom of activity at Bad Robot that swirls around Abrams because it’s his name supporting the ventures in TV and movies, and they’re doing very well. The success of LOST was mainly, for example, because of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s oversight as showrunners. FRINGE’s success is due to Jeff Pinkner & J.H. Wyman’s creative rule of the show. They are talented people being allowed to do their jobs under the banner JJ Abrams built.

SIP
May 26, 2011 9:30 pm

“Then he would spend 10 minutes with one of the movie’s two editors, Mary Jo Markey, on a detail as small as how long the camera should dwell on one actor during his dialogue in one scene.”

Hardly a “small” detail!

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 9:44 pm

18.
….

Exactly! Without J.J Abrams, this site WOULD NOT exist! Something the anti-J.J fundamentalists and Talifans seem to not realize!

MJ
May 26, 2011 10:04 pm

Sheesh, I am one of JJ’s biggest backers, and I can’t even comment that the article makes it sound like he is micromanaging without people getting super defensive? I love the guy, but he is not perfect folks. For me, the article makes it sound like he is taking the tunnel vision/absolute control thing a bit too far on Super 8.

MJ
May 26, 2011 10:09 pm

RDR, I didn’t write the damn article — please criticize the author of article, not me. I didn’t use phrases like “focused to the point of obsession,” “relentless perfectionist,” and “on a detail as small as how long the camera should dwell on one actor.”

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 10:14 pm

23.
….

He just happens to CARE about the QUALITY of his movie. Plus he was working with the living legend Steven Spielberg. It’s understandable (and quite expected) that Abrams would be so deeply involved. He also loves what he does.

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 10:19 pm

MJ

Why would I criticize Anthony? He obviously knows a ton more than the rest of us! And it is quite arrogant of you to suggest that I do just because you seem to have misinterpreted the article.

Phil
May 26, 2011 10:24 pm

25. Never had an issue with JJ and crew, came in with the expectation that there would be some differences in artistic interpetation, and was not dissapointed. A lot of people seem to loose sight of the fact it took decades to build the SW franchise into the powerhouse it is today, and one snould not expect anything different from Trek. On the other hand, there have been a vocal minority who have attacked JJ’s effort, and they will grab this bit of news to insist that JJ has to go. While they are entitled to their opinion we need to be mindful, as you put it, that JJ wants to do this right.
Good luck, guys!!

Red Dead Ryan
May 26, 2011 10:30 pm

28.
….

It took “Star Wars” only one movie–“Star Wars”–for it to become what it is today! George Lucas really hit it out of the ballpark back in 1977.

Bill Peters
May 26, 2011 10:45 pm

I figure that movie will be out on time, JJ has got super 8 out in time, so I figure he will get Star Trek 2012 out on time and do it just right so that it meets his standards.

Keachick (rose pinenut)
May 26, 2011 11:45 pm

#11 Anthony – Is there a change in policy here? After all, Dee admitted that she had been doing exactly what I had done. Just wondering.

May 26, 2011 11:50 pm

My first thought is: Who does this guy think he is, Bruce Wayne?? I mean… A bookshelf door? How Batman is that?!

Keachick (rose pinenut)
May 26, 2011 11:58 pm

I love the story about how to find the toilet at Abrams’ place. Interesting. I hope new people are told how to get there, in case they have an urgent call of nature and don’t know which book to tug on.

MJ
May 27, 2011 12:08 am

@27. “Why would I criticize Anthony? He obviously knows a ton more than the rest of us! And it is quite arrogant of you to suggest that I do just because you seem to have misinterpreted the article.”

OK dude, I am going to chalk this one up to you simply not paying attention to the article. The article was WRITTEN FOR THE NY TIMES MAGAZINE, not by Anthony. Man, its like you didn’t even read this piece closely enough to know it wasn’t a Trekmovie.com sourced piece and then went off on me half-cocked.

MJ
May 27, 2011 12:11 am

@25 “Ironically the fact that Abrams is not phoning in preproductin on STAR TREK 2012 is a sign he wants to do it right (like he is doing on Super 8)”

Agreed!

The 76th Distillation of Blue
May 27, 2011 2:05 am

“his explanation for the failure of “Undercovers,” which he directed and helped to write at the start, makes it sound as if he sometimes spreads himself too thin. He says that at any given moment, he’s forgetting a few of the dozens of storytelling principles he lives by — and sometimes they’re the wrong ones. In “Undercovers,” about married spies, he was so fixated on making it “fun, sexy, frothy” that he neglected to give viewers any real reason to care. “There wasn’t any conflict,” he says. “There weren’t any secrets.”

That quote above is what makes me worried.

May 27, 2011 2:41 am

#13 Regardless of what anyone personally thought of the film, Star Trek did not receive mixed reviews, it has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.1/10. Similarly, MI3 has a fresh rating on RT. Don’t try to rewrite history.

Star Trek Sequel Fan Already
May 27, 2011 3:11 am

I wish JJ gave me a Super 8 camera….

Those kids in that Super 8 clip are exactly what I was like….and maybe still am….

trekker 5
May 27, 2011 6:48 am

I love J.J.!! Always have,he just sounds so fun!! Would love to meet him!! I’v said it before,and i’ll keep on sayin’ it,I think Trek12 will be awesome!

Bruce Banner
May 27, 2011 7:12 am

#33 I’m sure the sliding bookcase toilet is JJ’s private domain. Other people in the office must open the Grandfather clock door and pull a lever, this opens another bookcase revealing two “firehouse polls”. You must then slide down the poll landing directly on a cushioned toilet seat with pants down and magazine in hand.

Dee - lvs moon' surface
May 27, 2011 8:08 am

#40 – Bruce Banner ….

Is not it great to be teenager forever? … with a lot of money, of course … to play what you want! LOL

:-) :-)

Red Dead Ryan
May 27, 2011 10:42 am

43.
….

You didn’t specify which article.

Red Dead Ryan
May 27, 2011 10:44 am

mean’t:

34.
….

That’s because you didn’t specify which article!

MJ
May 27, 2011 2:54 pm

yea, right! ;-)

Red Dead Ryan
May 27, 2011 7:50 pm

Thanks! :-)

AJ
May 30, 2011 11:46 am

Well, now I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and accept JJ’s delay, if necessary, to do the best job possible on “Super 8,” “MI-IV” (Cruise desperately needs a “win” right now) and then the Trek.

Let’s hope “Super 8” is a win, because it is impossible to find anything out there that is not selling a product or prolonging a franchise. The fact that admitted garbage like “Revenge of the Fallen” and (not yet admitted) “Pirates IV” are sucking up hundreds of millions is tragic.

If “Super 8” can uncork that whole Spielbergian ‘sense of wonder’ for my kids’ generation, well that would be more than swell.

MJ
May 30, 2011 2:22 pm

@46 “Revenge of the Fallen”? Dude you are way out of date — that movie was back in 2009?????

Red Dead Ryan
May 30, 2011 2:27 pm

47.
….

Yes, but the stench of “Revenge Of The Fallen” still hangs in the air as if it had come out just yesterday!

Keachick (rose pinenut)
May 30, 2011 2:45 pm

#48 Oh please. Get over it. I have a solution for you. No need to suffer any longer.

Buy a good antibacterial/deodorant house spray (in NZ there is Dettol or Oust that I could recommend) and spray into every nook and cranny and that should remove any stench. Application may need repeating, but in my experience, it is very rarely necessary.

In terms of those “sucky” movies sucking up the millions of dollars, you should be grateful that they are, because it is that money and success that allow movies like Star Trek to get made. Anyway, it is a matter of opinion as to what constitutes good, great, bad, lousy. For me, sometimes it can simply be a matter of how I am feeling on the day. Perhaps this may sound shallow to some. SO?

Red Dead Ryan
May 30, 2011 2:57 pm

49.
….

You get over it! A $hitty movie like “Transformers 2” will always remain $hitty. Even Michael Bay has admitted that “Revenge Of The Fallen” stinks!

And I don’t know how you got the impression that that bad movies like ROTF allow “Star Trek” to be made. Those two are completely unrelated, aside from the facts that both are owned by Paramount and both were written by Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, both of whom decided not to write the third movie. The financial success of the first “Transformers” allowed the second movie to be made, which in turn became even more financially successful to allow for a third to be produced. “Transformers” are two different franchises. Neither has any bearing on the other.

It was “Batman Begins” and “Casino Royale” that inspired Paramount to reboot “Star Trek”.

And about my comment: I was telling it like it is, while also having a sense of humor!

GROW UP!

Red Dead Ryan
May 30, 2011 3:00 pm

that should read…..”Star Trek and “Transformers” are two different franchises.”

Also, if the first “Transformers” movie had bombed, “Star Trek” would still have been made.

MJ
May 30, 2011 4:26 pm

@50. Yea, Transformers 2 sucked, but it didn’t hang with me for years like Dune, Starship Troopers and Highlander 2 — The Quickening did. Those movies were truly awful, especially given my expectations of each based on the source material or previous movies.

Red Dead Ryan
May 30, 2011 7:05 pm

“Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection” still reek in my books. “Alien 3” killed the best characters, especially Ripley, and when they brought her back as a clone with Xenomorph DNA, “Resurrection” was the final insult. Both movies are a total disgrace.

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