In a new podcast interview, Star Trek producer/director JJ Abrams talks about why he took on the Trek project and how his views on the franchise changed during the process. JJ also dove into the thorny issue of the alternative timeline and what it means for the original "prime" timeline of Star Trek lore. See excerpts below.
JJ Abrams on Star Trek becoming ‘dream project’
Star Trek producer/director JJ Abrams was the guest on this Nerdist podcast. Abrams and host Chris Hardwick covered a lot of topics from Lost to Abrams love of The Twilight Zone. There was also some talk about Star Trek. JJ didn’t get into the sequel, but did talk about his experiences with the first film.
Abrams on taking on Star Trek and growing to appreciate the original series:
I was never really a fan. I never really got it. Most of my friends who loved it were, without question, smarter than I was. I couldn’t get it. It felt stilted. It is ironic because a lot tone and techniques and some of the writers were from the Twilight Zone. When you watch it there is that same kind of melodramatic vibe. You think that someone who loved the Twilight Zone as much as I did would find a kinship to [Star Trek], but I couldn’t do it. I enjoyed the movies and the early films, but I never really looked forward to them. So when I was mixing Mission: Impossible: III…I was asked if I was interested in producing a Star Trek movie. When I said yes – I had never thought of it – but what occurred to me was that there was a version of it that I could see getting interested in. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but I knew that if Star Trek were done in a certain way – with an approach that let me in more. I was being given the opportunity to attempt what I wished had existed as a kid trying to get into it, which is an emotional way in. It wasn’t about the Enterprise or Starfleet or the Prime Directive or any of that stuff, but was completely emotional. If that had existed, I would have probably found a way in. Maybe I had seen the wrong episodes, maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind as a kid. I have since watched them and actually have come to really appreciate the show.
…on why he directed Star Trek.
The reason I wanted to direct [Star Trek], was because I thought "when in the world ever am I going to get a chance to do a space movie…that’s cool." And I loved the script that Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] wrote. I thought "there is a version of this movie that is surprising intimate and emotional and about these two men who are displaced and kind of orphans in a way and they find a family." And I thought that is kind of a cool story. It happens to be called "Star Trek" and it happens to be Kirk and Spock, but it’s cool. The whole experience was kind of bizarre – working on something that I never thought in a million years I would be working on and doing it with people I would love to work with in any capacity. Getting to things that as a kid filmmaker cliché you want to do – spaceships and planets exploding. Stuff you could only dream of doing. It became a dream project.
JJ Abrams directing the 2009 "Star Trek" movie – says it became a "dream project"
Abrams on his connection to Star Trek II/Star Trek VI director Nicolas Meyer:
The weirdest thing was that as a kid my parents knew Nick Meyer, who directed the best one – Wrath of Khan. And at my bar mitzvah, Nick Meyer came and I remember he came over for dinner. I used to make radio shows as a kid and Nick came to my room and did the show with me and he was the sweetest guy and I still have the annotated Sherlock Holmes book he gave me as a kid. Years later he directed a Star Trek movie and so did I. It is strange to see that movie and have this kind of sense "oh god, that was that guy." The connection to me for Star Trek was always through appreciating that my friends loved it and knowing someone who had been involved in it, but never thinking of being involved in it.
Abrams on the alternate timeline.
The notion that when this one character arrived – Nero – that basically the timeline is altered at that moment. So everything forward is essentially an alternative timeline. That is not to say that everything that happened in the original series doesn’t exist. I think as a fan the movies and shows, if someone told me that as a beloved thing for me was gone, I would be upset. But we didn’t do that. We are not saying that what happened in that original series wasn’t good, true, valid, righteous and real. We are not rejecting that. That to me would have been a big mistake. We are simply saying that from this moment in the opening scene of the movie, that everything people knew of Star Trek splits off into another timeline.
Abrams says that Narada only split Star Trek’s timelines – didn’t erase anything
You can listen to the full podcast at nerdist.com.