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Exclusive: JJ Abrams On Trek Lessons For Star Wars + How New Director Could Make Next Star Trek Better

Speaking exclusively with TrekMovie.com Star Trek Into Darkness director JJ Abrams talked about lessons he learned from Star Trek that he can apply to Star Wars, his hopes for a 2016 Star Trek movie, and how he thinks a new director could do it better, and more. Watch the interview and read full transcript below.

 

JJ Abrams

Saving the best of the junket videos for last, here is my exclusive interview with Star Trek Into Darkness producer/director JJ Abrams.


Transcript

TrekMovie: Would you say it is a fair comment to say you brought a little bit of Star Wars to Star Trek?

JJ Abrams: Yeah. I think you can look at it that way and say the action, some of the more dynamic visceral stuff, was influenced by movies that I have loved including Star Wars. But I wouldn’t say it was literally a conscious decision, with the exception of maybe having some white walls and black shiny floors in some scenes. But for me the Star Wars and Star Trek universes are still pretty disparate.

TrekMovie: Can you see yourself brining something from Star Trek into Star Wars? What is something you learned from Star Trek that you think Star Wars can benefit from?

JJ Abrams: The experience of doing Star Trek was such an education. I am still realizing what I have learned from it and will continue to. I certainly feel like the scope and scale of something like Star Trek which is so epic, so huge, that you realize in terms of scale that establishing shots can’t be a building or a town or a continent, it has to be a planet. It’s almost like being in Las Vegas and you say "I’m just going to walk over to that hotel" and half an hour later you are still walking towards it "I’m not getting any closer, it is still far away!" There is a weird thing that happens with the scale of a movie like this. But I will tell you working with the actors, the crew, the visual effects people–I learned countless lessons and hope to take all of those into the next project.  

TrekMovie: [fan submitted question from 14-year old Malle from France] Are you happy that young people like me have become Star Trek fans thanks to you and the actors?

JJ Abrams: I will fist say that is an incredibly sweet question. I am of course thrilled that because of what we have all done and it is certainly a testament to the actors who bring these characters to life yet again. The idea that there are people young or old who were never really Star Trek fans who checked this out and connect to it and feel its that thing you might have felt when you were a kid and you saw Star Trek and you were like "oh my god! That is cool. That inspires me." I always know there will always be those people who will be somehow offended by the fact that we started to work on something that they love so dearly and anything we do is somehow sacrilege. But I will say to people like [Malle], I am more grateful to them than I think they are to us.

TrekMovie: So it is confirmed that you are definitely producing [the next Star Trek movie]?

JJ Abrams: I would be producing it if one were to exist.

TrekMovie: Let’s assume it. [Paramount vice-chairman] Rob Moore said they definitely want to do another one. If that happens, do you feel that 2016 is the right time because of the 50th anniversary? Or does that conflict with a 2015 Star Wars movie? Are you that far into thinking about it?

JJ Abrams: Despite reports of what Rob Moore said, there have been no formal discussions about a third film. What I would say is that it feels like 2016 would be a great year given the celebration of the anniversary. But again I am open to whatever is the best possible version of the movie. Meaning if there is a great script and the story is there and it’s possible to release that movie in 2015, then great. If we don’t figure it out until a release for 2017–we don’t want a bad movie to come out just because there is a release date. That is true with everything. I would hope the right movie would come out in the right time.

TrekMovie: Well then with simple logistics, if you do a Star Wars movie in 2015 and they want 2016, is it logistically possible? You said to Playboy it is possible you might direct the next Star Trek?  Doing the math, how can you possibly do that?

JJ Abrams: If they want in that period of time and if Star Wars goes forward as planned, it would obviously be a conflict. It depends when this movie would happen. And again as no formal discussions have started it is impossible to know.  But in all likelihood if there is a movie sooner, there will be a different director on the film. It would be something we would all get together and agree on. We love this and care about it too much and want to make sure it is handled correctly. But I would say that having directed pilots and movies and then having seen subsequent directors work on those shows or do their own versions of those films – time and again I have seen it done better. And so I’m looking forward–if there is another director–it will be interesting to see. I am certain I will learn lessons watching their work.

More exclusive TrekMovie.com interviews

This is the final TrekMovie.com exclusive juket interview. Watch the others…

Stay tuned for more exclusive Star Trek Into Darkness interviews from the Hollywood premiere Karl Urban, Bob Orci/Alex Kurtzman, Neville Page, Roger Guyett, Michael Giacchino, and even JJ Abrams again (briefly). Plus we have text interviews talking spoilers with Damon Lindelof and Orci again (but those have spoilers so have to wait to week after release). 

 

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Pete Christian
May 17, 2013 7:38 pm

Nice

May 17, 2013 7:39 pm

My ideas for Trek 3 directors :

1.Brad Bird – M:I 4 was pretty good – but less punch ups please. MI4 had way too many.

2.Duncan Jones – Source Code & Moon were both great.

3.Joss Whedon. Firefly was a western in space -much like TOS.

4.Edgar Wright. He can do kitsch and cool like there’s no tomorrow and hasn’t done a bad project yet.

5.James Cameron – the master of entertaining scifi.

spock69
May 17, 2013 7:40 pm

First at last.
Anthony, you have been and always shall be our friend!
You have surpassed everything you did for Trek 2009
Live long and prosper!

spock69
May 17, 2013 7:41 pm

Ok 3rd!

Emperor Mike of the Alternate Empire
May 17, 2013 7:54 pm

WTG Anthony. A great Interview.

Steve Johnson
May 17, 2013 7:56 pm

@3 spock69

Really. Truly. Nobody cares if someone posts first on the internet. It just makes people think the person shouting in their post is missing a few brain cells too many.

Rumor has it JJ has parted ways with Paramount under less than stellar circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see if anything bares out from those rumors and true or not.

pock speared
May 17, 2013 7:59 pm

Thirst!

(I need a drink)

Flux Conundrum
May 17, 2013 8:01 pm

Abrams go do Star Wars. Please, leave Star Trek alone and go concentrate on Star Wars. Don’t let him, Bob or anyone else touch Star Trek again after STID. I was hoping to see something new but it was just a rehash. Star Trek deserves better!

Spock/Uhura Admirer
May 17, 2013 8:01 pm

I was going to leave, but I saw this and had to look at it. JJ always does great interviews. I liked him on Jon Stewart. Here’s to wishing him the best.

May 17, 2013 8:03 pm

Jonathan Frakes! First Contact is my fave ST film.

Clinton
May 17, 2013 8:06 pm

Yay, Anthony! Of all the folks I’d love to sit and chat with, J.J. would be my choice (not slight to Bob Orci and the rest of the gang implied. love you all, too).

By the way, I thought the “rear view mirror” picture-in-picture on these was cool. Great to see you in there.

NCC-73515
May 17, 2013 8:07 pm

No matter what you like or dislike about the movie, he really is a nice guy!

Snugglepuff
May 17, 2013 8:11 pm

Into Darkness was great! Keep up the great work J.J.!

Commodore Redshirt
May 17, 2013 8:15 pm

The best way to make the next Trek better is to have our crew and ship face an unknown danger in the Galaxy that is NOT a “Bad Guy”… the idea that drama has to be “Good Vs. Evil” is false.

Man Vs. Nature stories… overcoming the elements and dangers inherent in deep space travel was a core story line in TOS… The true conflict and drama was the vast unknown!
In The Naked Time/Deadly Years/Blink of an Eye/Alternative Factor/City on the Edge of Forever/Mirror Mirror/This Side of Paradise/Day of the Dove… and in many more, the story had to do with overcoming an obstacle that was unimaginable and often out of the context of our understanding.
Perhaps a misunderstanding led one to think there was an antagonist causing the conflict, but by the end, through force of will, peace was achieved, a colony was saved, and/or our crew survived and maybe gained a new friend or at least a new understanding.
“Man Vs. Nature” stories are always potentially exciting and filled with life-or-death struggles that test the nature of our heros skill and resolve.

So next time, forget a “villain” and show us what you can do with a unique set of problems that threaten our crew and maybe even life in our whole galaxy!

TerranGuy93
May 17, 2013 8:16 pm

I am happy he revitalized the franchise with Trek 09, wish he had left for someone else to do Into Darkness.

Happy to see him go to a project he actually really wanted to do, instead of his side project.

Kenji
May 17, 2013 8:16 pm

While movies are thought of as director projects per Sarris, I feel that tent pole action franchises are a producer’s medium; the Supreme Court will pick a director based on their skill, hunger, aptitudes and compatibility with the established vision. You’re not likely to see an A list director working under those strictures, but more of a guy in a position of a Shane Black — immensely gifted but very appreciative of being brought to a greenlit project.

It may well be Kurtzman you know.

Commodore Redshirt
May 17, 2013 8:17 pm

BTW nice work Anthony!

May 17, 2013 8:17 pm

@2.

Good list.

Not so sure about Cameron though. I thought Avatar was not as good as Dancing with Wolves.

But I only saw firefly at the movies so had no history with it and remember thinking that this is the movie that Star Wars could have been.

I would add Nolan and Tarantino to the list as well.

@6. Right on!

@8 You are in the minority there. Into Darkness will make a ton of money and a ton of new fans. I know the minority don’t feel that way but remember that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Torlek Chang
May 17, 2013 8:22 pm

Walt Disney will change his mind and stop JJ from doing StarWars. It won’t happen. With an objective look at each of his movies one may come to realize that they are just not that great. Just not that at all. I’m not giving you the money to do it. Leave R2D2 alone.

Bhill170167
May 17, 2013 9:24 pm

two words JOHNATHAN FRAKES,… And STAR WARS is dead.

bringbacktrekagain
May 17, 2013 9:40 pm

I saw the movie earlier today, the re-hashing that I came to expect via spoiler’s was actually well done. My ‘9 years younger’ fiancée and her twin sister went with me, they hadn’t seen the earlier star trek’s. And they loved it.
I have no doubt in mind there’s a third one coming.

Pizza
May 17, 2013 9:52 pm

2009 and 2013, two popcorn movies that I found entertaining.

HOWEVER….

1. JJ and his lens flares

2. 2x “This is not your daddy’s Star Trek”

i have this feeling in my gut that keeps yearning for my daddy’s Star Trek.

How about any of the following directors”

Steven Speilberg
Clint Eastwood
Ridley Scott
Peter Jackson
James Cameron

Hey Anthony, what about taking a poll with the above names?

Mitchell
May 17, 2013 9:56 pm

Guillermo Del Toro

May 17, 2013 9:59 pm

@23.

Clint Eastwood. now there is a good call.

If he were into it Eastwood would bring his style of a substance story that was in no hurry to be told.

That would be expected by new movie goers if his name were attached and very much appeal to many of the older fans as well.

Could be a great choice

May 17, 2013 10:00 pm

He could even make a cameo playing Admiral Archer.

Mitchell
May 17, 2013 10:12 pm

@26. chrisfawkes.com:

lol at Eastwood Archer… Gran Torino Star Trek?
“a klingon, a romulan and a vulcan all walk into a bar…”
“go ahead ridge head, pull that Bat’leth, make my day”

Moputo Jones
May 17, 2013 10:33 pm

I have not been impressed with any of JJ’s movies, except for Super 8, until now. STID has really changed my opinion of JJ – for the better. It has character development, action, and the morality play/think episode aspects. Good job!

planetaryexile
May 17, 2013 10:53 pm

A name I have yet to hear anyone mention yet…how about Kenneth Branagh?

Captain, USS Northstar
May 17, 2013 11:14 pm

Clint Eastwood in Star Trek:

“In the all the excitement, I can’t remember if I fired five photon torpedoes or six. Well, do you feel lucky?”

“There’s nothing like a good piece of hickory…unless you have a fully-charged phaser instead.”

“This used to be a great neighborhood until they let all the ridge-heads and pointy-ears move in.”

Oh yes: that would be classic.

As far as a third movie — you have to be kidding me? There’s a question about that? This movie (STID) is about to make money hand-over-fist. I saw it last night and plan on seeing it again before the weekend is through (first in 2D, next in 3D). And after they bring in the money by the shuttle bay full, Paramount is going to say: “Eh…a third movie? Not this time.”

That’ll be the day.

What really needs to happen is these folks have to get jumping on that 3rd movie right now — I was hoping for a surprise “It’s already in the can” announcement, but I guess that won’t happen. At the same time, the Paramount lawyers need to get up to their brass in galactic conference with the CBS lawyers and figure out how to bring this back to television (an HBO or Showtime original series would be great!) also in time for the 50th Anniversary.

LOL — not asking for much am I?

mateo
May 17, 2013 11:16 pm

“establishing shots can’t be a building or a town or a continent, it has to be a planet. It’s almost like being in Las Vegas and you say “I’m just going to walk over to that hotel” and half an hour later you are still walking towards it “I’m not getting any closer, it is still far away!””

Um…I’m sorry, he is so full of crap. He just SAYS things instead of DOING things. Kronos was about 8 minutes from Earth! Vulcan was 5 minutes away! Into Darkness was LAUGHABLE in terms of its “realness”. I can’t stand all the butt kissing that is going on with JJ Abrams…he is by far the most overrated person in the entertainment industry. He just does the same thing over & over & over & over & over, and BS’s you and tells you what you want to hear. It’s insulting. He is taking ALL OF YOU FOR SUCKERS. I, for one, am done with him and Star Trek while he is creating it.

Mitchell
May 17, 2013 11:18 pm

@29. planetaryexile:
a very interesting choice. If Branagh is enough of a fan and had a good supporting cast helping him write and produce the film i’d be fascinated to see his effort.

Thor is my favorite marvel movie.

Kirk Nelson
May 17, 2013 11:19 pm

Werner Herzog for new Star Trek! Lol!!!

Sci-Fiddy
May 17, 2013 11:19 pm

29.

Naa, Kenneth Branagh would want to star in the movie and I don’t think he has the CHOPS to play Ron Tracy

Mitchell
May 17, 2013 11:28 pm

@30. Captain, USS Northstar:
Biggest missed opportunity ever in Trek history was not making Countdown into an HBO Mini Series. To set up the ’09 film, flesh out Nero and send off TNG on a much better farewell? TOO EPIC to not see the potential there, shame on Paramount/CBS.
but they can make up for it now on the back end and expand the Trek brand, so you really are not asking for much.

@31. mateo:
I Agree. Agree with the sentiment totally. It’s going to take a lot get me in the theater if they’re all together making it. but they can win me over again if they stop trolling, an trolling where they don’t belong.

May 17, 2013 11:32 pm

@30

You forgot:

“Go ahead, make my stardate!”

“Get off my planet!”

I highly doubt many of the names bandied about would actually be considered, save for Duncan Jones.

Jones is kinda at the same point in his directing career that Christopher Nolan was before he took on Batman: An up-and-comer, with a well-received indie and mid-level Hollywood movie under his belt.

Dr. Fridgehead
May 18, 2013 12:20 am

Is JJ replacing Mel Brooks?

I think Peteh Jecksin (Peter Jackson) could probably take JJ’s place…probably. If he could put out a trilogy in two and a half years (I think it was), he could probably put out a Star Trek movie within the three year deadline. Y’know, in theory.

CmdrR
May 18, 2013 12:28 am

Help me out someone…
Where in the movie was Del Trame? (possibly BND)?

Buzz Cagney
May 18, 2013 12:30 am

JJ says much but ultimately very little of any worth.

fubamushu
May 18, 2013 12:53 am

A new director couldn’t do any worse. Maybe they could find one that actually gets what Star Trek is and is confused or overwhelmed by its philosophical nature.

Kirk Actual
May 18, 2013 12:56 am
C’mon guys, where are the legitimate Director suggestions? I’m looking at you #2. Joss is tied up with Avengers & SHIELD for, well, ever. If JJ can’t be back, Joss sure couldn’t. Eastwood wouldn’t do it; wouldn’t get it. I wouldn’t want Cameron within 2 Parsecs of Trek – didn’t you see Avatar? People have been complaining (wrongly) that STID’s story was weak – can you even imagine what Cameron would do? Might as well tap Baz Luhrman. Nolan, Bird, Wright, all wrong. Can we all agree that we want a Trekkie at the helm? Orci is as big a Trekkie as any of us, & I thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy that he’s been on this. We need another Trekkie – at the helm. There are only 2 names that are Trekkies, good & competent directors, and most importantly AVAILABLE to have a new Trek movie out in 2016 if JJ can’t be back (spoiler alert: he won’t be). Whoever it is can & must work well with Orci. They are: BRYAN SINGER & JONATHAN FRAKES First Contact (Frakes) was one of the very best Trek movies, and let’s don’t forget, he was hired by Roddenberry himself (As an actor, I know). But he knew him. His only knock is that he hasn’t directed a summer tent-pole yet, but TV ain’t easy either. Singer has done his share of clunkers, but is back to X-men after it was injected with new blood. He’s been working on getting… Read more »
May 18, 2013 1:12 am

Singer is not very good and Frakes is even less so.

First Contact was still very b grade. Great if you were into Trek but the Borg were not really threatening unless you loved the franchise enough to pretend that they were.

I don’t think they will give Trek over to an up and comer now as they did with Abrams a few years back. Not now it is hot property.

Singer could get a look in by the powers that be, though I hope not. Frakes will never be considered.

I wonder if Spielberg and Lucas would team up for the anniversary.

Red Dead Ryan
May 18, 2013 1:17 am

#31.

“I, for one, am done with him and Star Trek while he is creating it.”

Hopefully you’re done with posting on this site.

Red Dead Ryan
May 18, 2013 1:23 am

#40.

“A new director couldn’t do any worse. Maybe they could find one that actually gets what Star Trek is and is confused and or overwhelmed by its philosophical nature.”

Well, if a new director is confused and/or overwhelmed by the philosophical nature of Trek, then actually he’d be worse, not better than J.J Abrams. Whoops!

:-)

Marja
May 18, 2013 1:32 am

haha Chris Fawkes, good catch, since Avatar was a rehash of Dances with Wolves. Avatar was pretty and I loved Zoe Saldana in it, and I loved the Na’avi, but Zoe’s co-star was pretty much a bust, and the plot whew! We think STID had problems!

My wish is Whedon, because he puts a lot of emphasis on *characters*. And characters are the strong core of Star Trek.

Except for “KHAAANN!”, the casting of Khan, or the misnomer for Cumby [I could have accepted him quite well as plain ol’ Harrison, and he was terrific], the short distances traveled [maybe it’s that warp speed, who knows], and the time-saving device of having Spock and Uhura discuss their relationship in front of Kirk, I had very few quibbles with the movie. Oh yeah, and a few of the shots of Enterprise just showing giant bits without the picture, and I would have loved a little more of her rising from the waves, getting into position and shooting skyward. As others have said, the ship battles went by incredibly fast [but they would, wouldn’t they?] and didn’t make sense in the event until one had time to think about it.

Curse Paramount for not letting Abrams do 2D IMAX. But they’ll make a bundle on this.

So I’d keep Orci and Kurtzman (and Lindelof) and get a director familiar or wise with summer movie budgets. Who’s very talented.

May 18, 2013 2:42 am

I say we give Seth McFarlane a try…..

spock69
May 18, 2013 2:54 am

#6.  Steve Johnson – May 17, 2013 @3 spock69 Really. Truly. Nobody cares if someone posts first on the internet. It just makes people think the person shouting in their post is missing a few brain cells too many.

You cared enough to write the post!

Star Trek: Nemesis blows, is the point
May 18, 2013 2:55 am

Anthony

“TrekMovie: Well then with simple logistics, if you do a Star Wars movie in 2015 and they want 2106, is it logistically possible?”

2106 is a typo? I don’t think 2106 would be logistically possible for JJ. :-)

Star Trek: Nemesis blows, is the point
May 18, 2013 2:56 am

@40. “A new director couldn’t do any worse. Maybe they could find one that actually gets what Star Trek is and is confused or overwhelmed by its philosophical nature.”

Yeah, a new director could do quite a bit worse. See Star Trek: Nemesis, for example.

David b
May 18, 2013 3:15 am

Please not Bryan Singer he almost ended one Superhero with Superman Returns. Look how long it has taken to get Man of Steel. Star Trek doesn’t need another 7 year hiattus if he screws up Star Trek as well.

I’d consider someone like Joe Johnston who did Captain America, I can easily see some similarities with CA and Kirk.

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