J.J. Abrams Talks Shop About Filming Star Wars And Star Trek

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In a recent interview with Playboy Magazine, Director J.J. Abrams shares details on why he originally passed on the Star Wars job,changed his mind ,and his thoughts on Star Trek 3.I have to say,I never thought we would see the same director for both a Star Wars AND a Star trek films.However,I think he is the best man for the job for both franchises.This guy clearly has a passion for what he does.Enjoy the full interview below and let us know how you feel about a director filming the two most successful science fiction film franchises of all time. Join in the discussion after the JUMP!

(Source: Playboy)

ABRAMS: I mean, I get it. The worlds are vastly different. Honestly, that was why I passed on Star Wars to begin with. I couldn’t imagine doing both. But when I said that my loyalty was to Star Trek I was literally working on finishing this cut. I couldn’t even entertain another thought. It was like being on the most beautiful beach in the world and someone saying, “There’s this amazing mountain over here. Come take a look.” I couldn’t balance the two, so I passed on Star Wars.

Playboy Interview: J.J.Abrams

by David Hochman

Nobody in Hollywood today is as cool for so many uncool reasons as J.J. Abrams. A film and TV producer, screenwriter, director, designer, editor, composer and all-around geek god, Abrams is the bespectacled creative titan behind projects most likely to have fans sleeping outside box-office windows in itchy space costumes.

Star Trek Into Darkness, his second big-screen contribution to the unstoppable sci-fi franchise, arrives this month with a cast so young and sexy their parents barely remember the launch of the original 1966 series. A sequel to the 2009 prequel set when Kirk and Spock were still new to the Enterprise, this one brings the crew back to Earth to confront a force as devastating as a website full of Trek plot spoilers. A third feature film is already planned

In the meantime, Abrams has another to-do item: reboot Star Wars. He will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first in a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm, which Disney bought from George Lucas last year for $4.05 billion. At first the Twitterverse cried out that it was too much for one mortal to oversee both galaxies, but the blowback ended fast. Having helmed Trek, Mission: Impossible III and TV sensations including Lost, Fringe, Revolution and Alias, Abrams is probably better suited than anyone to juggle both phaser and lightsaber.

Jeffrey Jacob “J.J.” Abrams was born June 27, 1966 in New York City but grew up on the glitzier side of Los Angeles, where both parents produced TV movies. At the age of 13, young J.J.—“Only my father’s mother called me Jeffrey,” he says—first operated a Super 8 camera and by the age of 16 earned the notice of Steven Spielberg, whose office asked Abrams to edit Super 8 movies Spielberg had made when he was a teenager. (Many years later they collaborated on an action adventure called Super 8.) Abrams sold his first script in college and later earned his cred writing Regarding Henry and Forever Young. Felicity made Abrams a TV giant, and the script for Armageddon made him rich; they also show an unusual range and a talent for crossing genres.

Playboy Contributing Editor David Hochman, who last interviewed Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for the magazine, was the first journalist to sit down with Abrams in the aftermath of the Star Wars announcement. The two chatted all afternoon in a Santa Monica office complex as decidedly geek-forward as Abrams himself. Says Hochman, “J.J. maintains a shrine of vintage knickknacks from entertainment classics like Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters and the original Star Trek and Star Wars. I’m starting to think the J.J. Abrams collectibles might be worth even more one day.”

PLAYBOY: Let’s begin with Star Trek. How the hell can this franchise still go where no man has gone before?

ABRAMS: Well, I haven’t seen every episode of every version of every Star Trek series, but I’m sure there are many more places to go. What’s great about doing another origin story is that it’s all about anticipating the Star Trek world we know is to come. You can play with who Spock and Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise were before they were Spock and Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. It’s a kind of tease.

PLAYBOY: Considering what a thrill ride the first movie was, Into Darkness sounds like a bit of a downer.
ABRAMS: The first film was very much about these disparate orphans coming together and starting a family. The next step has to be about going deeper and, yes, as the title indicates, getting a little more intense. We’re testing these characters in ways they deserve to be tested: Kirk being cocky to a fault, Spock being so Vulcan that it raises the question of how he can possibly be a friend or lover when he’s that unemotional.

I learned so much doing the first Star Trek—a movie. I’d never done any kind of space adventure before or anything on that scale. We knew the second one had to be bigger and not just for bigger’s sake. It was where the story was taking us. We got really cool glimpses of the Enterprise in the first movie. This time we get to see areas of the ship nobody’s seen before. And the villain is more complex now. In our first film Eric Bana plays a wonderfully angry Romulan dude, pissed off and full of vengeance. In this one, the bad guy is still brutal and fierce, but he’s got a much more interesting and active story. We have to grapple with many layers of his character. He’s essentially a space terrorist, and Benedict Cumberbatch, whom people know from BBC’s Sherlock, is fucking kickass in the role. Kirk and the rest of the crew are figuring out how the hell to get an upper hand with this guy. The darkness is real in this movie, and it’s incredibly challenging and terrifying, and it can certainly be lethal. You need that edge, partly because Star Trek has been so relentlessly parodied over the years.

PLAYBOY: It’s hard to be a Trekkie.

ABRAMS: It can be. The key in everything we did was to embrace the spirit with which Star Trek was approached in the 1960s. So the design of the props, the locations and certainly the characters themselves couldn’t be mockeries or impersonations but had to be as deeply felt as Leonard Nimoy felt and applied to his interpretation of the character in his time. Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock, had to do his own version of that, just as we never wanted Chris Pine to do a Shatner parody. Audiences pick up on that stuff. Not only are we post–Star Trek the series and movies, but we’re post–Galaxy Quest, post–Saturday Night Live spoofs. We were coming at this post–Trek satire, so we needed to be earnest in the right places and funny in the right places or people would have made fun of us.

PLAYBOY: One of the things people make fun of is the sex scenes. Is there any interspecies sex?

ABRAMS: Star Trek has to be sexy. That’s in keeping with the original spirit of the series. In the 1960s they were limited because of the time, but so much was insinuated. Part of the fun of our first movie was playing with the idea that Uhura and Spock were a couple. This movie takes that further and asks how that’s possible. Why would she be interested in that kind of guy, and why would she put up with him? It’s obvious what he would like about her. I mean, it’s fucking Zoë Saldana.

And it’s always fun playing the womanizing card with Kirk and seeing him in bed with girls who might not be completely human—you know, green skin or whatever. Nobody’s going to force Kirk to be a romantic and settle down. That would feel forced and silly. Kirk’s a player. We like him that way.

We also have Alice Eve joining us; she’s an incredibly wonderful, versatile actress and definitely in the sexy category. She’s a great complement to Uhura. Hey, it wouldn’t be Star Trek if there weren’t some hot young actors, women and men, in various moments of either undress or flirtation.

PLAYBOY: Did Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner drop by the set?

ABRAMS: Leonard did. I love him; he’s always a joy. The cast and crew got to applaud him and give a fraction of the thanks he deserves. He’s just an absolute gentleman. Shatner? [sighs] I haven’t spoken with him in a long time, but I did read something where he gave me a fantastic underhanded compliment. Something like our movie was a fun action ride and maybe one day it’ll have heart. A great compliment only to pull the rug out in a way that only Shatner can do. I adore him.

PLAYBOY: It’s hard to explain the enduring love for this franchise that has been around almost 50 years. Is it true you screened an early cut of Into Darkness for a terminally ill Trek fan whose dying wish was to see it?

ABRAMS: Yes. That was such a tragic moment and so sad. It’s incredibly touching that the stuff we happen to be working on means enough to people that in those extreme, ultimate moments a movie like ours would even be a consideration. But it reminds you that these entertainments, these characters can and do touch people on the deepest level. Somehow their existence is made to make some sense or given an order they might not otherwise feel. You certainly don’t make movies for people who are sick or in real trouble. You just make movies. But people take these stories and characters to heart and believe they matter on some larger level.

PLAYBOY: Nothing matters more to moviegoers than the stories and characters from Star Wars. In your wildest, geekiest fantasies, did you ever imagine yourself helming the two biggest sci-fi franchises in the universe?

ABRAMS: It is preposterous. Ridiculous. Completely insane. It really is.

PLAYBOY: Star Wars and Star Trek are church and state in Hollywood. Can you really be loyal to both? Star Trek fans cried out on Twitter that you were cheating on them.

ABRAMS: I mean, I get it. The worlds are vastly different. Honestly, that was why I passed on Star Wars to begin with. I couldn’t imagine doing both. But when I said that my loyalty was to Star Trek I was literally working on finishing this cut. I couldn’t even entertain another thought. It was like being on the most beautiful beach in the world and someone saying, “There’s this amazing mountain over here. Come take a look.” I couldn’t balance the two, so I passed on Star Wars

PLAYBOY: What happened between saying no and saying yes?

ABRAMS: It was a wild time. I was near the light at the end of the tunnel with my work on Star Trek. I felt I needed a bit of a breather, actually. But then Kathleen Kennedy [the new Lucasfilm head who oversees Star Wars] called again. I’ve known her for years. We had a great conversation, and the idea of working with her on this suddenly went from being theoretical and easy to deny to being a real, tangible, thrilling possibility. In the end it was my wife, Katie, who said if it was something that really interested me, I had to consider it.

PLAYBOY: There’s much to discuss, such as the rumors of old cast members returning.

ABRAMS: [Smiles]

PLAYBOY: Will this be a distinct new trilogy?

ABRAMS: [Smiles]

PLAYBOY: Can you do away with Jar Jar Binks?

ABRAMS: You won’t like this answer, but it’s so early it would be insane to discuss details or get into plot points about what this unfilmed movie will be. And I’m not going to give my opinion on the original movies or characters.

PLAYBOY: But as a lifelong Star Wars fan, surely you have broad ideas about what needs to happen going forward. Three quarters of planet Earth came down on George Lucas for practically ruining Star Wars in Episode I. The Star Wars universe revolted.

ABRAMS: Here’s the thing. I try to approach a project from what it’s asking. What does it need to be? What is it demanding? With Star Wars, one has to take into account what has preceded it, what worked, what didn’t. There are cautionary tales for anything you take on that has a legacy—things you look at and think, I want to avoid this or that, or I want to do more of something. But even that feels like an outside-in approach, and it’s not how I work. For me, the key is when you have a script; it’s telling you what it wants to be.

PLAYBOY: Star Wars needs to look different from Star Trek, certainly.

ABRAMS: As with anything, because these are very different worlds, they shouldn’t feel the same aesthetically. They can’t. You’re right. But again, I don’t apply aesthetics first and fit a movie into that aesthetic. If I had come into Star Trek with those eyes, I would probably have been paralyzed. The advantage here is that we still have George Lucas with us to go to and ask questions and get his feedback on things, which I certainly will do. With Star Trek it was harder because I wasn’t a Star Trek fan; I didn’t have the same emotional feeling, and I didn’t have Gene Roddenberry to go to. But I came to understand the world of Star Trek, and I appreciated what fans felt and believed about this universe and this franchise.

PLAYBOY: As recently as last fall you said that directing a new Star Wars comes with a burden of “almost fatal sacrilege.” Do you feel that?

ABRAMS: I meant if I viewed this from a fan’s point of view—and no one’s a bigger Star Wars fan than I am—or from a legacy standpoint, it would scare the hell out of me. But instead of trying to climb this mountain in one giant leap, I’m just enjoying the opportunity and looking to the people I’m working with. I’ve known Kathy for years. I’ve worked with the screenwriter, Michael Arndt, for a long time. I’ve known George for a number of years and he’s now a friend. Even if this wasn’t Star Wars, I’d be enormously fortunate to work with them.

PLAYBOY: How much of your personal vision can you put on this?

ABRAMS: For me to talk to you about what the big themes or ideas are before they exist is disingenuous, but naturally I have a big say in how this gets put together. When I get involved with something, I own it and carry the responsibility of the job.

PLAYBOY: Star Wars, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible—you’re the king of the reboot. Don’t you want to make something original again?

ABRAMS: I have to say, as someone who almost to a point of embarrassment has associated himself with a number of projects that preexisted, I’m not looking to do another reboot. There’s one project, which I can’t talk about yet, that we are going to do in the TV space that is an exception. But the truth is, one of the reasons I at first easily said no to the notion of Star Wars was the thought that I had to do something original again. I mean, it’s what I’ve done on TV with Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe and everything else. It’s the thing I was looking forward to doing next. The best-laid plans, you can say—but when something like Star Wars comes along, you either roll with it or not.

PLAYBOY: What’s the spirit of an original project you’d want to do?

ABRAMS: I’m open. My favorite movie is The Philadelphia Story. I love Hitchcock movies. I’m a huge fan of Spielberg, and I love David Cronenberg. I’m all over the place in terms of stuff I like. There’s an amazing book called Let the Great World Spin that we’ve been developing with Colum McCann, the writer, and I’d love to do that. Not because of anything other than I feel the characters are beautiful and alive and have incredible heart and soul. But I’m open to anything.

PLAYBOY: How do you juggle your various responsibilities? In addition to the movies, you’re executive producer on Revolution and Person of Interest on TV. Earlier this year you wrapped Fringe after five seasons. You have a wife and three kids. You write music, you design things, you’ve given a TED talk. Presumably you eat and sleep too.

ABRAMS: I like to work hard, and I surround myself with people who are better at what they do than I am at what I do. And as much as we say yes to many things, we say no to almost everything. We’re very selective. We know how to get things done. For Star Trek it was Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Bob Orci and me. With Jonathan Nolan on Person of Interest, he was someone we were dying to work with. He came in with a great idea, but he had never done TV before. He and [co–executive producer] Greg Plageman have been running that show beautifully. Eric Kripke is running Revolution. We had a team of talented producers on Fringe. So it’s not like I’m in the room and running operations on these shows.

PLAYBOY: So in the final days of Fringe you weren’t bounding into the writers’ room, yelling, “We have to explain who those creepy people chasing Peter were in the first season!”

ABRAMS: By the time we got to the fifth season my involvement was zero. It’s like with Lost. Damon and Carlton Cuse were running that show spectacularly and deserved to end the series as they saw fit. If I saw something really objectionable, I might jump in, but they knew what they were doing.

PLAYBOY: Were you satisfied with how Fringe ended? There were certain questions that never got answered, such as, if the Observers were wiped out, why was Peter still in our universe?

ABRAMS: Right. [Fringe co–executive producer] Joel Wyman and I had long discussions about points like that. But I don’t know of any movie, including Back to the Future, despite the clarity of that film, that deals with time travel or, in this case, an alternate universe and time travel, that doesn’t have issues with such paradoxes. And given the enormity of the issues Fringe was dealing with, it was an amazing finale. After everything that transpired in that last season, for Peter to swoop up Etta at the end and have that moment with her and see that couple with their kid, there was a kind of profundity and emotional satisfaction. Walter’s sacrifice allowed for his son’s and Olivia’s ultimate happiness to come true. That was a far more meaningful ending than explaining how the Observers work into that time frame. What exactly happened with amber, and does it make sense? These are questions you could ask, but I would hope the audience is smart enough to figure things out for themselves and allow for unexplainable situations.

PLAYBOY: Your biggest TV hit, Lost, got some groans at the end for leaving things open-ended. People are still arguing over it. What was the “sideways” world? Were the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 actually dead the whole time? Looking back, do you think Lost fans deserved a less ambiguous ending?

ABRAMS: No. I loved the ending. I thought it definitely provided an emotional conclusion to that show. There may have been specific technical things people felt they wanted to understand, like what the island was exactly or why it was. But it’s like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. If you show me what’s in there, I promise you it will disappoint me.

PLAYBOY: It’s like the mysterious pendant in Revolution that’s the key to explaining what disabled electricity on the planet.

ABRAMS: Yes. If you’re looking for the thing that ultimately explains what the answer is, or, let’s say, what God is, no matter what physical manifestation you see or hear, you’ll never be satisfied. Could our shows answer every question people have? Maybe, but I’m guessing the answers won’t be as satisfying as trying to figure out the answers.

PLAYBOY: Do you actually believe there are alternate universes?

ABRAMS: I’m definitely fascinated by the possibility. Whether it’s alternate universes or time travel, the idea that reality isn’t exactly what we assume it is is the sort of primordial ooze of any great out-there story, certainly in sci-fi and arguably in non-sci-fi as well. The idea that just around the corner something unbelievable might exist, that behind that door might be something you could never imagine. I’ve always been obsessed with the feeling that there’s another level of understanding in the world, whether it’s something as fantastical and fanciful as The Wizard of Oz, as dark and freaky as The Ring or as wild and thrilling as The Matrix. The idea that this world we know isn’t just this world we know but that a package might arrive at your door or a phone call might come in, and suddenly you’re in a portal to a different realm.

PLAYBOY: Paranoia also figures into your work. Do you really think the government or corporations are watching us in ways we should be concerned about?

ABRAMS: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m not saying in this instant they are. But I defy anyone who lives in any size metropolis to travel 20 minutes and not see a bunch of surveillance cameras. Those cameras aren’t there to ignore you; they’re there to see you, and all that information is going into banks of digital recorders and oftentimes facial-recognition software. We’re all being tracked. When you have a fairly average life and you’re not doing anything particularly interesting or illegal or wrong, why should that bother you? Well, it means we’re all being recorded, our activities are being watched, and our privacy is being compromised. I think that’s something to be aware of, at the very least. It’s the premise behind Person of Interest, which is a show about being observed. On the positive side, the heroes of that show are good guys, since it’s also a show about wish fulfillment.

PLAYBOY: You’re certainly cautious about sharing information. It’s not just Star Wars you don’t want to talk about. You famously withhold almost all spoiler information on your projects. What prompted that?

ABRAMS: That’s a paranoia I’ve developed since the Superman script I wrote years ago was reviewed online. I always had a sense of how I enjoyed entertainment, which was to sit down in front of a TV or inside a darkened movie theater and be surprised by everything that happened on the screen. It used to be that to get a spoiler you had to really seek it out. Now you have to work to avoid it. If something happens on Downton Abbey or Homeland, you practically can’t speak to another human being or you’ll hear what happened. The truth is, people don’t like spoilers. When we were doing Lost, fans would ask me what was going to happen. Before I could even open my mouth, often they would say, “Don’t tell me.” Would I have wanted to hear from Rod Serling what was going to happen on each episode of The Twilight Zone? No way! The buy-in with entertainment like that—or with any great thrill—is that you’re going on an adventure and you don’t know where you’re heading. That’s the stuff of show-business magic.

          
 
 
  

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