J.J. Abrams Says Trek Will Avoid Greenscreen Fakeness

Illustration for article titled J.J. Abrams Says Trek Will Avoid Greenscreen Fakeness

J.J. Abrams and his Star Trek team answered canned questions in a "live" online chat today. They had to stop taking questions once they'd received over 600 queries, including hard-hitting investigative questions like "Do you like Phasers?" But they also let slip a few cool tidbits about the movie.


Abrams was doing the chat live, and running back and forth between setups. Just how much free time do these Hollywood directors have? He also had both Spocks, Quinto and Nimoy, standing over him. Nimoy was most likely saying "Get used to this," and Quinto was thinking "Good lord, is this what I signed up for?" Thankfully, everyone seems to have had a sense of humor (which is also has a presence in the film, see below) about the whole thing.

  • On the weight of responsibility from carrying the Trek torch:
  • J.J. Abrams: It's funny that you phrased it that way — carrying the torch — because that's exactly what it feels like. Trek means a great deal to many people, and I fully appreciate that responsibility. But I have never been overwhelmed by that burden. Quite the opposite. The fans have been part of the inspiration. This experience has felt, from the beginning, like a truly unbelievable opportunity. We're only half-way through principal photography, but the torch is burning bright and we're running hard!
  • On when a real trailer will be out, as opposed to a fanwank version:
  • Bryan Burk: Barring any thievery from our production office, we're working on our first trailer right now, which will hopefully be in theaters early to mid summer.
  • The greatest challenge faced when they first decided to take on the movie

    J.J. Abrams: This may not be a fair answer, but there were two greatest challenges: the first was getting a handle on the vision of the future. The fact that most of the tech that we use in our everyday lives seems modeled after — and actually more advanced than — TOS, made it tricky to find a way to make our movie's world far more advanced than where we currently are, and yet also consistent with the original show.
  • The other challenge was, obviously, casting. How in the world were we ever going to find actors who can fill the shoes of that remarkable original cast? It was tough in theory and harder in practice. We couldn't — and wouldn't have — gone into production with a cast that simply didn't WORK.
  • With the amazing efforts of April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg (our casting directors), we somehow did it. This cast is massively talented and smart as hell and funny and dedicated and completely inhabiting these roles. You will see. Kirk f'n LIVES. Spock is HERE, right now. I can see him. Uhura and Bones and Chekov and Sulu and Scotty are ON THE BRIDGE and they are wonderful.
  • For one of the cast members, what's been your favorite moment on set so far?:

    Zachary Quinto: Definitely the first time Leonard and I were both in costume at the same time for the wardrobe test.
  • Do they follow what fans are saying on the internet at all?:

    The Entire Crew: Not really. We never take time to find out what fans on the net are thinking. Thanks for asking.
  • Will there be comedy in the new movie?:

    J.J. Abrams: I'm afraid to answer this question, because The Haters will think that I'm looking at Trek as a comedy. I am not. But humor is hugely important. Humor and humanity go hand-in-hand — there is such wit in the screenplay (kudos, Kurtzman/Orci), and the actors bring such intelligence and humor, that my job is just to keep the thing REAL. Dramatic as hell, but also LAUGHS. Without comedy (my fave TOS eps had GREAT wit), the audience finds their own places to laugh. And in a world of humans and aliens, that could be disastrous. So the short answer? It's very important.
  • Is Greg Grunberg of Alias and Heroes fame going to be in this movie?:

    J.J. Abrams: I am so pissed at Grunberg. The guy was about to be in the movie — had a GREAT PART — but had to bow out because of some LAME OTHER MOVIE HE'S DOING.
  • All right, so I'm half-kidding and just disappointed: Grunny WAS gonna be in Trek, and he IS doing another movie, so he can't be in ours — but his movie isn't lame, it's funny, and he's producing and co-writing and long-time collaborator Larry Trilling is writing with him and directing, so I wish them all the best. Even though I hate Greg now. Who knows, maybe he'll be a tribble.
  • Do you have to pinch yourself to help believe this is real?:

    Roberto Orci: No kidding. I think I speak for many of us when I say that we pinch oursleves every day, and it still doesn't work. I'd ask Quinto or Nimoy to "pinch" me, but I just think that would make it more surreal...
  • Random script question... what is the 10th word on the 10th page of the ST script?:

    Bryan Burk: "...and..."
  • The Trek teaser trailer was very American focused, with all the sound bites from American space program (and none from anywhere else). Star Trek often seemed overly American. How will you make sure that Star Trek is a global film that appeals in Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc?:

    Bryan Burk: There were different versions around the world of the teaser trailer around the world to deal with exactly that.
  • How many visual effects shots will there be in the new movie?:

    Roger Guyett, Visual Effects Supervisor: We're anticipating about 1000.
  • Has there been a particular moment for any cast member while filming that has caught you off-guard and made you stand back and say "wow" or just made you think "how cool is this"?

    Chris Pine, Captain James T. Kirk: For me, I still get the chills every time I sit in "the" chair, and every time I say who I am in the movie.
  • Is there anything I can say to my girlfriend to convince her to go see a movie with me that is titled Star Trek?:

    J.J. Abrams: First of all, I'm relieved you have a girlfriend. Secondly, this movie is not being made solely for Trekkers — that is not to say we aren't giving the true believers the fix they want — but we're also making a movie for people (men AND women) who have never seen Trek once in any incarnation.
  • What finally pushed me over the edge to direct and not just produce Star Trek was my wife, Katie's, reaction. She loved the characters. She confirmed my deep suspicions that I should direct this movie. The story is dramatic and funny and emotional and romantic and full of adventure. I know I'm biased — but I think people are going to love this experience. For some, perhaps, DESPITE the fact that it's called Star Trek. Who knows? Maybe your girlfriend will see the movie and become a fan of the show.
  • ILM is doing the effects for the film. Will it all be CGI or have they built a physical model of the New Enterprise?:

    J.J. Abrams: I was lucky enough to work with ILM on Mission: Impossible III. Roger Guyette and Sherri Hanson are geniuses who are also a true joy to work with. ILM has always been the best — but in recent years they have — remarkably — gotten even better, making the virtual photo-real.
  • Having said that, my goal is to make Trek REAL — that is to say, not have it be camp — not have it be phony — not have it look like a scrap of green screen was used anywhere. Of course, this is Star Trek. We're using every trick in the book. But WHEREVER WE CAN, we are shooting on sets — either built on sound stages or expanding upon found locations. This is important. What this means is that the movie won't have that "actors performing in a blue or green void then placed in front of a spaceship set" feeling that makes me insane. One of our really talented designers recently commented online how we shot on a green screen set and what a shame that was, since we could have built something incredible. And she was right — for that one scene, which will last for maybe thirty seconds on screen, we built only pieces and were surrounded by green. But that is the exception. We can't build EVERYTHING, and need to make this film on a budget (partly because that's the $ we have, and partly because I want the studio to see Trek as viable!).
  • The Enterprise will be a combo of the physical and the virtual. A photo is forthcoming!
  • Will the doors go swoosh when they open?:

    J.J. Abrams: Dude. Will they ever.




@NefariousNewt: You would very much be right. You have little further to look than the original Pilot episode to see the intention was a almost a completely different series than the one we got in many ways. The ship was much more realistically colored (veto'd by NBC who at the time had a copyright on color TV and wanted to show it off) The crew and captain, much more serious with god forbid a WOMAN XO (Number 1, the character whos traits where eventually moved to Spock, who in the pilot was not the logical no emotion character he became.) Even Spock NBC tried to cut out and eliminate, because he looked too much like "the devil" with those pointed ears.

If you want to see a much closer representation of Roddenberry's intentions for the TOS crew, you should pick up the novelization of the first movie. Much of the tech and crew interactions in the novel are more in line to what he intended for the series as a whole. Some of it is VERY far from what we even got in the movie. If you can get your hands on the Phase II skripts (and I mean the originals, not the TNG rewrites) those too point at some very different intentions for a lot of whats considered current Trek "canon," going so far as to even change completely the intended Klingon backstory.

As nutty as he got in the end, between the womanizing, the drugs, and eventually his failing health, he had some very interesting and hard core Sci Fi intentions for his "western" space opera.