(Far left) Capt. Kirk (Christopher Pine) and
Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. (Above) The
U.S.S. Enterprise struggles to stay together.
(Below) Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Mr.
Spock (Zachary Quinto) share a moment.
(Right) Benedict Cumberbatch as Captain
Kirk’s mysterious nemesis.
gest families reach out to try and better the
rest of the world. There is an honor and
respect that comes from having a family you
connect with and respect. That’s definitely
true for the Star Trek family, and it makes a lot
of sense to me personally. My family means
everything to me. We’re better together.
CC: It’s well known that you were not, particularly, a Star Trek fan growing up. Why
board the Enterprise at all?
JJA: Part of why I chose to do Star Trek is
because it felt like a chance to take on a
challenging, rich, exciting world that was
full of potential.
I didn’t really think of it as a franchise. I
didn’t really think of it as a sacrilege or as anything dangerous to do. It felt like an amazing
chance to make something that I never quite
connected with into something that was fun,
We did the best we could to
respect what came before,
but at the same time we
didn’t feel especially
beholden to every literal
and arcane detail of the
canon. That would produce
a literal redundancy. We
wanted to approach this from
the perspective, this is not your
father’s Star Trek, this is not your
grandfather’s Star Trek.
We wanted this to be a breath of fresh air,
while bringing back characters that are beloved,
and to honor the elements that made those
characters so special.
CC: Is there a Star Trek character that you
really identify with? Is that an “in” to the Star
Trek universe for you?
JJA: I’ve gotta say, I feel like I connect with all
of them. In some ways, working on a movie
requires being a little bit of Kirk and a little bit
of Spock. They really are the yin-yang of
those stories. That is to say, when you are cap-
taining a ship or running a movie set, you
have to be the impulsive and instinctive
shoot-from-the-hip guy, but you also have to
be logical, organized and practical too. Part of
the fun of those two characters is they sort of
complete each other. So I have to say, I really
do feel like a little bit of each of them.
CC: You’ve got an extraordinary villain in
Into Darkness, and a tremendous perfor-
mance from Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s often
said that a hero is only as good as the villain
he faces. What’s the key to a great villain?
JJA: First of all, Benedict Cumberbatch. That
doesn’t hurt. (Laughs) But you also want
to have a character who is relatable.
It’s the most unexpected thing
from a villain. Anyone can
do intense or intimidating
or scary or malevolent.
But to do relatable is the
What we were able to
do with Benedict was create
a character who was familiar to those who know the
character he’s playing, but also
give him sides you would not
expect or anticipate. The beauty of
having Benedict is he’s such a nuanced, brilliant guy that he allowed us to find moments of
detail and emotion and vulnerability that
change his character from being merely a villain into a fully realized human being.
CC: We’ve got Tribbles in Into Darkness.
Everyone wants to know if the Tribbles will be
back for Star Trek 3, and if you’ll be back too.
JJA: (Laughs) I would say that it’s unknown
yet about the Tribbles, but it would be fun to
have some trouble with them, and in terms of
myself, I will hopefully be on board for a third
Star Trek film. I would be back as a producer,
but not as a director.
CC: Last summer, George Lucas and Steven
Spielberg made headlines by declaring the
“imminent implosion” of the movie industry.
What are your thoughts on that? How much
will moviegoing as we know it change in the
years to come?
JJA: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are
two very smart gentlemen, and I’m sure that
they have very cogent and well-thought-out
arguments on the subject. I would argue that
movies, which continue to cost more and
more, will need to check their costs, and I say
that as someone who’s producing a $5 million
movie right now and someone who’s been a
part of movies that cost $200 million to make.
I know how much things cost. The distribution and making of movies needs to work better than it does.
While there may be special-event movies
and ticket-price increases and things like that,
the key thing to me is the community of it—
the actual physical community aspect of going
to the movies and sitting together in the dark
and having a story told to you, the campfire
element. We need that. I hope that despite the
ubiquity and high quality of home entertainment systems, seeing a film in a nice theater
with an audience is an experience unparalleled. It’s something I hope will be around for
a long, long time.
CC: You are well known for keeping secrets
about the projects with which you’re involved,
but we need at least one true thing about your
upcoming Star Wars film.
JJA: (Long pause, followed by laughter) I
would say that it is true that Han shot first. C
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based writer.
Tablet or smartphone?
Scan or click to hear more
from J.J. Abrams in an interview. (See page 5 for scanning instructions.)