If Batman and Superman can be reborn, why not Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock? On Christmas Day 2008, the storied “Star Trek” franchise will begin anew on the big screen, and its creators are almost as ecstatic as the series’ famously obsessive fans.
“We just got the green light! We have a release date and everything,” said Alex Kurtzman, co-screenwriter of the eagerly anticipated new “Trek” adventure. Kurtzman and collaborator Roberto Orci, who are also executive producers of the project — and veterans of “Transformers” and “Mission: Impossible III” — spoke exclusively to MTV about the film Trekkies and Trekkers alike are salivating for any information on (see “An Open Letter To ‘Star Trek’ Director J.J. Abrams” ).
First things first: From the sound of it, fans can rest assured that subtitles about undiscovered countries and insurrections are a thing of the past. Kurtzman and Orci told MTV that their film is titled, quite simply, “Star Trek.” “That’s the intended title. I don’t think we want to put any colons or anything on it,” Orci said.
Thus far details have been few and far between on the film, the first since Picard and company starred in the much-maligned 2002 flick “Star Trek: Nemesis.” In addition to the 2008 release date Paramount recently announced, it has been confirmed that “Lost” co-creator and “M:i:III” director J.J. Abrams will direct. Orci says he was relieved that Abrams agreed to helm the project after reading the very first draft (recent rumors indicated he would only produce).
“When we finally turned in the script I started lining up other directors, and that really got [Abrams] going,” Orci joked. Rumors that the film would center on an early adventure of the crew or even on Kirk and Spock’s Starfleet Academy days — unlikely, though no doubt provoked by a long-dormant “Trek” movie idea — have yet to be addressed directly.
While Kurtzman and Orci were reluctant to reveal much about the top-secret film, they did offer some hints. “There will be more action in this movie than any ‘Trek’ that’s preceded it,” Kurtzman promised. Orci, without discussing a specific budget, added, “It’ll be the biggest one. The economic models of the other [films] were very much based on the fans out there and their purchasing power. With this one we’re going for the broad audience to bring people into ‘Trek’ for the first time.”
Indeed, broadening the “Trek” base seems to be foremost on the filmmakers’ minds. “The challenge of the movie is to be 100 percent true to the fanbase but also to bring in a whole new group of people who’ve never seen ‘Trek’ before,” Kurtzman said.
Casting has not yet officially begun on the flick, which is scheduled to film in the fall. The writers won’t even confirm which characters appear. (“We never said Bones was in it,” Orci seemed to joke.) As for recent rumors that Matt Damon, Adrien Brody and Gary Sinise were being considered to play the storied Kirk, Spock and McCoy trio, the duo were reluctant to spill the beans. Asked if they would be happy if Kirk were played by Damon, a long pause followed. Finally Kurtzman allowed, “I’m the hugest Matt Damon fan ever. If he became [Kirk], great.”
The mantra of “Who can say?” became Kurtzman and Orci’s standard deflection. Will William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy appear? “Really, who can say?” Is the film, as rumors suggest, focused on Kirk and Spock, with supporting characters relegated to the background? “Really, who can say?” Is the old “Trek” plot device of time travel involved? You can guess the answer: “Really, who can say?”
What they will say, however, is that the film will be a starship-based adventure. “I don’t know how you make ‘Star Trek’ without a starship,” Orci laughed. “You have to trek through the stars, so you need a ship for that. There, you got something out of us!”
Orci and Kurtzman also confirmed that the film is not in any way a prequel but a reimagining of the franchise. Whether that means a whole new look for “Trek” remains in question. “We’re not going to start totally from scratch,” Orci said. “We want it to feel like it’s updated and of the now. That’s actually the discussions we’re having now: how to keep the look of the universe yet have it not look like nothing’s new. It’s tricky.”
The duo added that the same production team that assisted them and Abrams on “Alias” and “M:i:III” will join them for “Star Trek,” including production designer Scott Chambliss and director of photography Daniel Mindel.
Of course any “Trek” fan worth his salt knows this is a huge change of direction for the franchise in every respect. Since “Star Trek: The Next Generation” premiered in 1987, the brand has been watched over by vets like Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, neither of whom is involved with the new film. Orci and Kurtzman have nothing but praise for the “Next Generation” years, calling it some of the best writing on television. “We just hope they bless us,” Kurtzman said.
Speaking of the old guard, Shatner and Nimoy recently visited with Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams. According to the writers, the meetings went well. “It was pretty much the most stressful thing ever, but it was wonderful,” Kurtzman said. “They were amazing.”
For the longtime friends and collaborators the “Trek” assignment has been both weighty and exciting. While both claim to be big fans of all things “Trek,” Orci clearly is the senior Trekker of the team. “I am a crazy fan,” Orci said.
“Here’s a frame of reference for you,” Kurtzman added. “When I first met Bob, he had an Enterprise phone.”
All of which made Paramount’s offer of no limits and no stipulations too good to pass up. “They were just like, what would you do with ‘Star Trek’?” Orci recalled. “We’ve been watching [‘Trek’] all our lives. I’ve even read the books. It was all about, what have I always wanted to see in ‘Trek’?”
Orci and Kurtzman believe their script adheres to the original vision put forth by creator Gene Roddenberry more than 40 years ago. ” ‘Trek,’ more than anything, has always been about the human interactions,” Orci said. “It’s all about the human soul.”
“And the friendships,” Kurtzman added. “And everyone being a family. Whatever the story was, we always knew what it had to feel like.”
And if all else failed, there was one “Trek” staple to fall back on. So fear not, fans of photon torpedoes and dilithium crystals, Kurtzman’s got your back. “I actually love the technobabble!” he said. “I don’t think you can do ‘Trek’ without technobabble.”
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