The former Data talks to us about his role in the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence.
brent Spiner’s back to save the planet in independence day: resurgence. Nick Setchfield digs his cosmic groove, man
No, they don’t attach electrodes to me,” says Brent Spiner, miraculously resurrected as Dr Brackish Okun, acid-fried brain-box of Area 51. “And no one cries, ‘It’s aliiive!’” Best known as Data, the android innocent of Star Trek: The
Next Generation, Spiner’s making an unexpected encore in his other geek friendly franchise as Earth prepares for sequelicious devastation in Independence Day: Resurgence. Sorry, alien scum: seems the long-haired loon’s as unkillable as the hippy dream…
Everybody assumed Okun was dead at the end of the first film. Was that your take too? Did you feel like you were playing a death scene back then?
I wasn’t really sure. I’ll tell you the truth – Adam Baldwin played the military guy who came to see how I was doing. He had the line “He’s dead.” Before the film was released they decided to cut that line because they might one day do a sequel and they would like to have me back. So I’m lying there with my eyes open. And there’s no telling what one goes through when one’s been inhabited by an alien, so who’s to say if I’m dead or alive, right? So indeed I am alive, and probably no one is more pleased about that than I am. How does it feel to go back to a character after 20 years? Do you have a muscle memory of how you played him?
I had to watch the film to remember what I did but it all came back really quickly. I also feel really grateful to be doing a character that I did 20 years ago. I feel like I’m in a club with Harrison and Carrie and Mark and Schwarzenegger. Maybe we should all have dinner one night. Or maybe you could do a sci-fi Expendables.
Oh, that would be interesting. I love that idea! I’m writing that down. And you will not get credit for it [laughs]... Did you like what you did 20 years ago, when you went back to watch it?
Did I like what I did? I think that’s an understatement. I loved what I did [laughs]! There are very few characters you have licence to take to a place where there is no top. Most of the time we like to come from a place of truth and understatement but this character really allowed me to go full out. Twenty years ago I had just come out of Star Trek, playing a very contained character. So it allowed me to break loose and that was really fun. I’ve been very contained for the last 20 years so once again I get to break loose. It just builds up inside you, does it? In 20-year cycles?
Exactly. And it explodes on the screen! Has he changed in 20 years?
I have changed. The character has not. He was already stuck in time in the first film. This was a guy who had gone to Berkeley and dropped a lot of acid. Maybe too much. He’s still this long-haired hippy from the ’60s. Was he inspired by anybody?
It came out of myself, really, because I went to college in the ’60s. I didn’t do that many drugs to that degree but if I had that’s who I would be. How hippy were you?
Oh, I was a hippy. I had long hair. But everyone did. This is a franchise that’s been resurrected after 20 years. We’ve also seen the return of Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Do you think it’s healthy for our culture to keep revisiting these things?
I’m not sure whether it is or it isn’t. I’m certainly not smart enough to determine that. I think there’s value in it if people enjoy it and are entertained by it. Obviously now there’s been a shift where television is where the serious work is being done, for the most part, and features are for the masses, for entertainment. And I think that’s fine. I think the more successful films in this genre are the ones where the audience can identify with the characters because ultimately special effects are only so satisfying – you have to connect with the characters. Those are the franchises that keep going. There’s a new Star Trek show coming in 2017. What does it need to do to work in the 21st century?
I just think it needs to be there [laughs]. And just be entertaining. All anyone wants from their entertainment is to be entertained by it. And I think there’s a good chance it’ll work. There’s a really great bunch of people attached to that project, really talented people. I have no doubt that’s going to be a really huge success. Shatner said it was strange to see Chris Pine playing Kirk. Do you think you would feel proprietorial if they ever recast Data?
I don’t think I’ll get proprietorial about it. I’d like to see Tilda Swinton play Data. Don’t you think that’d be cool?
Independence Day: Resurgence opens on 23 June.
Getting peaced with director Roland Emmerich.