Last week, Daily Dead had the opportunity to attend the filmmaker press conference for Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek Beyond, where we heard from the likes of producer J.J. Abrams, co-writer Simon Pegg, director Justin Lin, producer Lindsey Weber and co-writer Doug Jung about the challenges of this latest installment in the highly successful Star Trek franchise, the importance of working with a team that’s highly passionate about the source material, the loss of Anton Yelchin, and more.
Here are some highlights from the Star Trek Beyond filmmakers press conference, and be sure to catch the film in theaters everywhere this weekend.
Simon Pegg on the challenges of creating something new that still respects “the old”:
It was a question of combining an existing mythology and embracing that mythology wholeheartedly, and also making sure nobody felt shut out. If you're coming to Star Trek for the first time, you didn't feel like you weren't in on some kind of joke or something. Not a joke, it's quite serious. It's a difficult tightrope to walk, really. If you fall to either side of it, you risk alienating a large portion of your audience. We were always aware of the fact we were walking across a gigantic precipice.
Lindsey Weber on finding the right team for the new Star Trek:
I think the best thing you can do as a producer is pick the right collaborators. This group, I was so fortunate to have these people who each have their own pre-existing relationship with the franchise. I was a longtime fan. I went to Star Trek conventions as a kid and had a card in my wallet in high school that said, “Member of Star Fleet Academy”, I will admit. It was really a privilege to work on this franchise. Justin obviously had his own vision for what he wanted this movie to be. [He] certainly has this incredible visual sense and long relationship with these characters. All I had to do was help them keep putting one foot in front of the other. They did a beautiful job.
Justin Lin on his lifelong love of Star Trek:
My family immigrated to the States when I was eight. They had a little fish and chips shop and they would close at 9, then we had dinner at 10, and at 11, Star Trek came on channel 13. My brothers and I would try to talk our way into hanging out with them. From eight to 18, that was our level of engagement. That was our family time. I remember moving to a new country. I felt like it was just the five of us. Watching Star Trek, it kind of instilled in me that family is not just by blood. It's through shared experiences. That's what Start Trek gave me. At the same time, every night, our engagement was through reruns. Every night it was a new adventure. It was new obstacles, new challenges. That sense of discovery and exploration was something that was a big part of growing up.
My friends, they all had the little Star Wars figures. We didn't have any of that. We had Star Trek. Now I have a seven-year-old. He's a big Star Wars [fan] and I can't wait until next week. I'm trying to convert him [laughs].
J.J. Abrams on handing the Star Trek reins over to Lin:
Honestly, it was a bittersweet thing. Far more sweet than bitter. The bitterness was only the jealousy that I felt that they all got to be together. When I was watching dailies and seeing what Justin was doing with the new cast and with the story, the truth is I felt a sort of odd fatherly pride that these people who I adore and who are like a family get to live on in a way. To see what Justin was doing, pushing the envelope in ways that I wouldn't and I couldn't. Doing things that have taught me lessons in action and in character. The fact that Justin cared so long and so deeply about Trek.
You could just see in every scene him putting that passion into the scenes. I knew that the story was in incredible hands. I couldn't help but envy all of you for the time you spent together.
Doug Jung on creating the perfect villain for Star Trek Beyond:
We were trying to find a villain that felt worthy of Kirk, but also could be a vehicle for breaking some of those great thematic things that Star Trek always does. To have this darker mirror of Kirk represented in Idris' character seemed like a real natural, fun place to go, that was in the spirit in some of those characters we've seen before without specifically addressing any particular episode. There is a backstory of Idris’ [character] that ties into the mythology of Star Trek in a really nice way. It kind of fell out organically. It seemed like a really good fit for what we were trying to accomplish.
Lin on what scenes may have been cut from Beyond:
I don't think there’s much. Personally, I always think I'm pretty relentless. Working with J.J. and Lindsey and everybody, the whole process, it was really cool. It felt like it was alive all the time, where we were just going and going. I do actually think we had sequences in mind where you saw much more of the backstory of Krall. We never got to shoot those, though. Because I am so relentless, it was a pretty tight schedule on this one and basically everything we shot is pretty much onscreen.
Pegg reflecting on the loss of Anton Yelchin:
Yeah, it still doesn't feel real. I can't find a way to process it, to be honest. It won't sink in. My heart goes out to anybody who loses anybody suddenly or prematurely. It's such a psychological blow. It's difficult to even contemplate. One thing I've said many times in the last few weeks is that there’s a joy that comes from watching the film and seeing Anton up there so alive and forever preserved, as he will be in all of his films. That's something we should be happy about. We're going to get to see him again.
I spent a lot of time with Anton in Vancouver this last year. He used to call me up in the middle of the night sometimes just to talk. He was an incredibly, incredibly intelligent man. Like the [cast] was saying, he was translating a Russian [novel]. He was still working on it in Vancouver. He went home to do it a couple times, making notes and translating his novel. He would talk about films so fluently and so maturely that he'd make us all look like dummies. I would have to engage my university brain just to talk to him about movies. He was encyclopedic. He had this ridiculous laugh that used to go [imitates laugh]. We used to laugh at him for it. He would laugh more. He was an incredible soul. He was a beautiful, beautiful boy. I loved him so much, we all did. It's not something that's easy to talk about. It's not something that we really want to be happy to talk about. Other than we miss him.
Lin on his experiences collaborating with Anton on Star Trek Beyond:
I actually went back, I think there was a group of us that were still finishing the film. We had a few weeks to go. I went back and went through all the footage again. The one thing that I noticed about Anton when I was going through it was that it's just so clear that when he showed up everyday, he did it for the right reasons. We're making movies. Sometimes you make movies and all this weird, stupid stuff happens. Anton just showed up with a smile on his face and just had ideas.
I always looked forward to every day he was on set. We'd huddle up, and he'd throw 100 ideas at me, even though maybe he's in the background. It's the way it should be. I know for a fact that he'll live on with me. He'll live on with me and I know that’s the same for everybody that he's worked with or he's interacted with.
Pegg on building the ultimate finale for Star Trek Beyond:
The scene that was probably the most troublesome was obviously the final showdown between Kirk and Krall. We didn't just want it to be a “Kirk kicks the bad guy's ass” kind of thing. It needed to have “something.” We shot it in Dubai and we had to figure out a lot with that moment, aside from all the practical craziness of everyone hanging off ropes as they fought. That black eye on Chris at the end is real, by the way. Doug and I were trying to figure out ways to make it more interesting.
Lindsey was always saying to us, "Look, if you're going to do this finale, it has to be earned." We were trying to find this way to make it work and thank you Lindsey for so doggedly saying, “Don't do something which is going to feel unearned.” That's just an example of how collaborative this job was. Lindsey was always there for all three of us. Justin was for Doug and I. Doug and I were for each other—just there to make sure we stayed on the right track.
Lin on the challenging nature of Beyond:
I think it's a good sign that every day was a challenge. Logistically, the amount of time that we had, I think we were all very ambitious. I actually really kind of enjoy that. Every time we showed up in the morning, it was going to be a rough day. It was going to be a tough day, but in the best possible way. I think you want that. Plus, to have this group of people who are there for the right reasons, to bring that to life, I just felt like we were shooting a big indie movie. That was the best feeling, for me.