Well, we’ve got part one of a three part Star Trek press conference for you to start out with. Check out what Bruce Greenwood (Capt. Christopher Pike), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Old Spock), and Zachery Quinto (Young Spock) have to say about JJ Abrams new Star Trek, coming to theaters May 6th…
I know that you had a chance to appear in Star Trek: Generations and that didn’t work out. Why was this the ideal chance to bridge the old Star Trek with the new Star Trek?
Leonard Nimoy: The makers of this film, I think, re-awakened in me the passion I had when we made the original film and series. I was put back in touch with what I cared about; what I like about Star Trek and why I enjoyed being involved in Star Trek. So, it was an easy way to come on home.
So, the other opportunities did not spark that passion?
LN: Yeah, it went off in a direction that I didn’t relate to very well, that’s the simplest way to put it. They said things and showed me things, and demonstrated the sensibility that I was very comfortable with and I think that shows in the movie. I like it. Did you like it?
Zachary, when you were young did people tell you, you looked like Spock and what was it like working with Mr. Nimoy?
Zachary Quinto: Uh, no. I never really heard it, although I certainly was sporting a Spock bowl cut when I was 12. I have pictures to prove it, I might dig them out at some point. And working with Leonard was an incredible honor and the whole experience for me was so fulfilling beyond my wildest expectations; in terms of just getting to know him and understanding how this character has formed his creative processes and life and it was great fun. I got asked a lot if there was pressure because of Leonard’s involvement, and my response is always to the contrary, actually. Having him as a resource and such a generous available support system made it much easier for me to step into the experience.
Did you study how to move and everything?
ZQ: I didn’t really. I mean, in preparation for production, I did not go back and watch the original series or films. Leonard and I watched a couple episodes together and talked about his experience shooting those episodes, but aside from that, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to determine my own relationship with this character. That was the mandate that JJ set forth very early on in the process. We were expected to use the foundation as a point of entry into our own experiences with the characters.
LN: He sounds like Spock doesn’t he?
Karl, I was really impressed with your performance as the character (Dr. Bones). Where you a fan of the original series? When you look back at the old shows, how did you find that rhythm to play him?
Karl Urban: Yes, I would define myself as a long time fan of the original series. I watched it as a boy, religiously, every Saturday morning. About 2 years before I found out that they were making this new Star Trek, I bought the entire DVD box set and watched it with my son. So, you know, sort of about the time that they started casting, I didn’t necessarily need to go back and study up. I felt that I knew the characters and the archetypes and the relationships really really well. And, so, for me, I feel a little bit like one of the lunatics that gets to drive the bus in the asylum. So, it was a wonderful experience.
ZQ: If I may just follow up on that. Karl actually stole his son’s model Enterprise and carried it with him on tour.
KU: I did.
ZQ: He didn’t steal it, but he did have it with him.
KU: And it broke, so I need to get a new one. But, it was mine, it was my Star Trek toy when I was a kid, and I took it around to all these locations around the world that we went to and we put it in photographs with all the cast members…you had to be there.
Mr. Nimoy, do you miss William Shatner while on set?
LN: Bill and I are very very close friends, and we have been for a very, very long time. Uh, did I miss him? I can’t honestly say that, that’s the right word to describe my feelings about this process and him not being in the movie. I was aware that he wanted to be in the movie. I was aware, I think, that the filmmakers, JJ Abrams, and the writers spent time with him to try to find a process where he could be involved. But, it didn’t work out, I don’t know exactly why. I wasn’t involved in those discussions and meetings; I didn’t see the material presented to him, if they did. I pointed out to him that we’re even now, because he acted in one of the Star Trek movies that I was not in, and he had to admit that that was true. And, we’re over it. I think it’s history. I think he genuinely wants the movie to be a success. He spent time with all of us last night at his charity event in Burbank. I admire him a lot. I think he’s done a great job with his career. He was a handsome leading man and became a very good character actor; very successful character actor. And, we have a great friendship and it continues to be a great friendship.
Did you give some tips about Spock to Zachary, since you’ve played this character for years? Did you learn anything new about the character?
LN: I think that he (Zachary) made some choices that I thought were wonderful surprises to me, in playing the Spock that he played in this film. We did not talk about specifics, like, “Do this,” or “don’t do that.” We had very general conversations about the philosophy of the character, the psychology of the character, the philosophy of Star Trek, the fans’ reactions to various aspects of Star Trek. But, there were no specific instructions; there was no need for that, there was no call for that. But, watching him in the film, I’m very proud of what he did. I loved the idea that he is doing the character, that he did it so well. And I think we have book-ended the character; he has created a Spock that comes before the Spock that I portrayed in the series, and I’m playing a Spock that comes much much later and much more resolved, and is, I think, much closer to who I actually am today. So, I think it works extremely well, and I admire his talent.
For the actors, I think you managed to get the essence of the characters without making caricatures. I wondered if you could talk about that a little bit. Zoe, did you talk to Nichelle or I just wondered how much research, how much you watched it, how much you forgot it to do your own way?
Zoe Saldana: I did speak with Nichelle a couple of times and the response was completely overwhelming and we would talk about that on set. We felt completely supported and the pressure was just removed the moment Mr. Nimoy stepped on set. And Nichelle, I was able to meet her, and there was this overall happiness and excitement that Star Trek was coming back and that we were stepping into the family. It made it much easier for us to approach this character, not only remembering the fundamental essences of all of them, but also not to be afraid to add any innovation. That’s where JJ comes in. I thought it was incredibly witty on his behalf, to make the beginning; to show them as young people, that they’re not comfortable in their own skin, they’re meeting for the first time and they’re kind of starting off with a clean palette. And you know that they need to end up the way that they are in the series, but it’s completely different. It says nothing about how they’re going to start. They could be lost, they could be found, they could have all these battles with themselves and relationships with each other and they’re still going to complete these missions on the Enterprise. So, sometimes knowing the end can give you a better perspectiveve on where to start.
What did you think of the relationship with Spock?
ZS: If there was a camera showing you guys when I was in that office…they locked us in the office at Bad Robot and we had to read the script and I dropped it and I grabbed my Blackberry and I kept saying, “This man’s crazy! JJ’s out of his mind. I’m not that aware about Star Trek, but I do know that they never mingled. It’s crazy!” And then, once I finished the script, it made so much sense. They have the most similar characteristics. Their personalities were…I almost feel that she had this sort of admiration for Spock because he was older and sort of this teacher; that it was this crush or a platonic infatuation with someone that’s wiser, wittier, handsome, pointy ears…it’s just, “why not?”
Mr. Nimoy, you were in this movie now, and you just did some participation on “Fringe.” Can we expect more of you on TV and movies from now on? Are you going to be part of the show The Big Bang Theory, it has a great (muffled) in there?
LN: I have done one scene in what will be the final episode of Fringe for this season. Introduced as the character named William Bell, who was talked about in earlier episodes. I have agreed to do 2 more in the next season, we’ll see where it goes from there. It’s a wonderful opportunity because it’s a blank canvas. The characters are still being developed and discovered, so I’m looking forward to that. But, I have no plans to do a series. Maybe an occasional episode of Fringe.
Is there any relation to the fact that JJ Abrams is involved with “Fringe”?
LN: When they tell me JJ Abrams is on the phone, I have to take the call.
Zachary, tell us about that fine line of playing a character that is supposed to be emotionless but does has some emotion?
ZQ: Well, I think it’s a common misconception that Spock doesn’t feel emotion. I think he feels emotion very deeply, but he’s restricted in the ways that he can express it. I think actually, to speak on the earlier question about the relationship between Spock and Uhura, that dynamic provides a lot of levity and humor between Kirk and Spock, between Kirk and Uhura, but between Spock and Uhura, I think it actually represents a depth, whereby Uhura is a canvas on to which Spock can project the emotion that he is not able to express himself. For me, it was about cultivating a deeply rooted inner life and not being able to do much other than to hold on to it. Which can be frustrating as an actor, especially when around me, my fellow actors are emoting and running about; having a good time. Obviously, it’s a formidable challenge, and one that I was really excited to be faced with.
For the newbies, you got an instant legion of fans before you shot a frame of film. Have you already had some memorable or outrageous fan encounters because of your Trek fan ship?
KU: I think after the second day I found out I was given the opportunity to be in this film, I was driving down the road in Santa Monica and stopped at a random set of lights and a gentleman in a Star Trek outfit crossed the road. And I think it was just on a random day! It struck me at that point: the effect of this wonderful series has had in our popular culture. I personally feel very very grateful that there is an entity of fans out there that have such a deep admiration, respect, and love for Star Trek . We’re very blessed to have them. And, indeed, if it wasn’t for them, the original series would have been canceled after the second series, so we hope this movie that we have made, that we are proud of, that we love, that we had such fun making, is received and appreciated and loved by a those fans, because there’s a lot in there for them. At the same point, though, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen a Star Trek movie or TV series before, you can go along to this movie and enjoy the phenomenal ride, and the wonderful characters, and really get in on the ground level. So, kudos to JJ.
Zoe, as an actress, did you feel that you were the only woman in an all boys’ club?
ZS: Of course… and I loved it!
Bruce, I wanted to know if you could talk a little about playing Captain Pike and what preparation you did?
Bruce Greenwood: Yeah, I went back and watched the Cage and the Menagerie, of course. Then, I went back and watched the whole series, all 3 years, you know, soup to nuts. And, I realized pretty quickly that the dilemma that Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike faces is very different from what Greenwood’s Pike faces. He’s conflicted over whether or not he will remain with Starfleet. And, the Pike that I play has no such dilemma. My Pike’s dilemma is more about whether or not to trust the young Kirk, so there was some latitude there for me.
Are you drawn to commanding roles?
BG: I suppose I am. I don’t know that I’m inordinately draw to playing people with authority, and if I am, it’s probably because I have so little of my own! But, yeah, I’m just generally drawn to story. And, I’m at an age where if the story is good, often there is a strong character of my age.
What was the best part about your Pike? What attracted you to this?
BG: What attracted me to the whole process was JJ’s enthusiasm and strength of his spirit and once we got on the set, there was so much positive energy. It was a terrific experience from beginning to end.
JJ knew exactly what he wanted, did he give you any tips or words of wisdom starting out that really stuck out to you? About the roles or filming or anything?
ZQ: I remember when I first talked to JJ about playing the role. I was in there for 45 minutes, and I think he spoke for 43 of them. There was such an overwhelming vision and enthusiasm and clarity about hat he wanted this to be, and almost, more importantly, what he didn’t want it to be. And that, for me, set a really solid framework in which we were all allowed to play and explore and discover on our own. It was a very collaborative spirit, a very optimistic spirit, in terms of the kind of story he wanted to tell. And the people that fell in line with that really gave one hundred percent to make sure that that happened. Actors, designers, musicians, all the people that were involved. Almost a thousand people were involved and worked on this film. And that, for me, is a testament to him and his vision.
You mentioned that you had conversations with Leonard about the role. I wondered what kind of actor he is on set?
ZQ: (Joking) Well Leonard if you don’t mind me talking about your presence…
LN: I can leave the room…
ZQ: What I came to discover about Leonard is him as more than just an actor, an artist, really. I feel like, getting to know him personally and to understand the totality of this process, not just the experience of playing Spock, but what then presents to him in terms of opportunities and terms of restrictions and challenges and how met those. What impressed me the most about Leonard is how he faced the potential obstacles of playing Spock. Science fiction is a different thing 40 years ago than it is today, and watching him re-define his creative journey, becoming an amazing director, photographer, writer, and a genius art collector. These are things that define someone’s life as more than just being an actor. And that was the most inspiring thing about getting to know him; seeing into his life a little bit. He’s a phenomenal actor, as evidenced by his work in this film. It’s so moving and exciting, but he’s so much more than that. And that was the hook, line, and sinker for me.
You used a lot CG/green screen moments. What was that like and were you surprised at the final version of the film?
ZS: There are perks in things that are technical and kind of a drag sometimes. The perks about green screen is that you get to go back to remembering what it was like to play with your dolls when you were 5 years old, when your imagination was completely and utterly infinite. The bad thing about it, sometimes, are the technicality of failures that you’ll have. Let’s say we’re shooting a scene and there’s 7 of us looking out on a green screen and it’s (near a ship?) and JJ is on the sidelines, shouting “It’s (near a ship? Neo’s ship?)Gory, gory!” And we’re all looking and he’ll stop us because we’re all looking in different directions. To Zach, “near a ship” is over there, and to me it’s here, to Bruce it’s there. And it’s like, ‘what is going on?” And sometimes JJ would have to get up from his chair and grab a big orange piece of tape and make a big X and say, “That’s (near a?) ship!” Those are the kinds of things that make you laugh when you’re asked questions like that. It’s like, “Oh, that day with (Neo’s ship?) We just couldn’t find it.” It’s hard.
Did you talk with JJ or the screenwriters about Spock’s character?
LN: I had no input on writing the character or the script, none. My first meeting with Mr. Abrams and Orci and Kurtzman was would I be interested based on their feelings about Star Trek and their feelings about the Spock character and I was interested enough that I would read the script and be ready. I read the script and I agreed to do the film. I mentioned earlier, I thought Zachary’s choices in his performance often surprised me, in a very positive way. I often thought, “I would never have thought to do that! That’s a wonderful idea.” I was, frankly, extremely jealous of his scenes and I think it’s totally unfair that (he got to do them? Muffled because of laughter) and I will never forgive the writers and the director for having put me in this position: that I have to be watching them instead of participating. Let me take the opportunity to say this: everyone at this table is very very talented and intelligent. They found their own way to bring that talent and intelligence to this movie, and I think it shows. If Chris Pine could do anything other than joining Starfleet after Bruce Greenwood told him what his life should be about, I would be shocked. I mean, the guy just had to what Bruce Greenwood told him to! When Karl Urban introduced himself as Leonard McCoy and shook hands with Chris Pine, I burst into tears. I thought that performance of his would be so moving, so touching, so powerful, as Doctor McCoy that I think De-Kelly would be smiling, and maybe in tears as well. And these two, I think, were wonderful together and this is such a passionate performance by Zoe, that I was so pleased to be a part of this movie, with all these good people.
If you liked that you then check out the following Star Trek highlights:
- Video of Leonard Nemoy at Star Trek Screening
- Star Trek early review roundup (no spoilers!)
- Star Trek posters
- The third Star Trek TV Spot
- The most recent Star Trek trailer
- Star Trek sequel announcement
- New models of the Enterprise
- Another Star Trek Clip with Kirk, Spock and Scotty