“JJ said, ‘I don’t want you just to make a movie’”

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Na­ture, as a cer­tain Vul­can once ob­served, ab­hors a vac­uum.

So does Para­mount Pic­tures. So when JJ Abrams – who re­booted the voy­ages of the star­ship En­ter­prise with 2009’s Star Trek and its 2013 se­quel Into Dark­ness – warped to an­other fran­chise galaxy to di­rect Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, he needed to ap­point a successor. When he ul­ti­mately chose Justin Lin, long­time Trek fans scratched their heads. Lin, they cried, was an ac­tion helmer, best known for the high-oc­tane thrills he brought to four Fast & Fu­ri­ous movies. Sure, he could tell a well-paced story with an en­sem­ble cast. But would he have what it takes to im­bue the 50th an­niver­sary ad­ven­ture with Trek’s es­sen­tial philo­soph­i­cal side? Could he of­fer food for thought as well as the eyes? Would Lin’s Star Trek go, well, be­yond?

When SFX sits down to speak with Lin in a posh Bev­erly Hills ho­tel room, the morn­ing after he’s fin­ished edit­ing Star Trek Be­yond, any con­cerns we may have had slowly start to dis­si­pate. De­spite hav­ing just birthed a new cin­e­matic baby, Lin – who is, un­like Abrams, a life­long Trekker – im­me­di­ately be­gins dis­cussing his de­liv­ery, start­ing with the day he re­ceived a phone call from Abrams, ask­ing him if he’d like to chart a new course for the En­ter­prise.

“It was a part of my life,” says Lin, “but I never thought I’d be mak­ing Star Trek. All these feel­ings were com­ing back. I was ac­tu­ally ready to go shoot an­other movie, and that call was a re­ally fan­tas­tic de­tour. It was prob­a­bly the best de­tour of my life. Be­cause it took me back to when I was a kid, watch­ing Star Trek with my par­ents. So I just called my par­ents and said, ‘Can I have din­ner with you?’ I went to their house and we hung out, and that’s when I thought, ‘I wanna see if I can con­trib­ute to the legacy of this fran­chise. It’s been around for 50 years and I want to see if I can help in hope­fully build­ing it for an­other 50 years.’

“I sat down with JJ and he said, ‘Look, I don’t want you just to make a movie. I want you to be bold and I want you to take this and make it your own.’ That meant a lot to me. It was

This job took me back to when I was a kid watch­ing Star Trek

kind of the per­fect fuel, to be able to have that kind of set up and that kind of re­spect.”

Lin met with Si­mon Pegg and Doug Jung, the film’s newly ap­pointed writ­ers who Abrams had en­listed to re­place Roberto Orci, orig­i­nally slated to write and di­rect Star Trek Be­yond. The three were given only three and a half months to prep a script and en­ter pre-pro­duc­tion be­fore shoot­ing be­gan in Van­cou­ver in June of 2015. Lin, Pegg, and Jung thought back to what made them first fall in love with the 23rd cen­tury, and de­cided the best way to hon­our Star Trek on its golden an­niver­sary was to boldly go where no Trek film had gone be­fore – into de­con­struc­tion.

“I felt like, ‘Okay, on the 50th an­niver­sary, let’s re­ally try to de­con­struct Star Trek. On what­ever level. And hope­fully by the end of the movie it will reaf­firm why we love it… What was so great about Star Trek in the last 50 years was not only the char­ac­ters, the sense of ex­plo­ration, and these themes that con­nect to us as hu­man be­ings, it also had the ul­ti­mate mis­sion state­ment – which is to try new things. I think some­times that gets lost. Let’s some­times go to places where we’re not that com­fort­able. If any­thing, this is the one fran­chise where you can do that.

“Part of the de­con­struc­tion was that we needed to take the se­cu­rity blan­ket away, which is the En­ter­prise,” Lin con­tin­ues. “That’s al­ways been there and I felt like we should just take it away pretty early on. Not in a dis­re­spect­ful way, but let’s find a way of

Hope­fully by the end of the movie it will reaf­firm why we love Trek

do­ing it so that it launches our char­ac­ters into their most un­com­fort­able places, with­out their ship.”

Though the tight sched­ule pre­vented the cast from see­ing a fin­ished script un­til two weeks be­fore shoot­ing, their re­la­tion­ships with their char­ac­ters and each other al­lowed them to hit the ground run­ning.

“One of the gifts from JJ was this all-star cast. By the time I got there, Zack had al­ready crafted an amaz­ing Spock with Leonard [Ni­moy]. Chris [Pine] had Kirk… On a per­sonal note, with Karl [Ur­ban] I had so much fun. Be­cause Bones was my favourite grow­ing up. So to be able to re-engi­neer Bones, and to see where he is to­day but then at the same time how he would in­ter­act with new chal­lenges and how that would shape who he is and evolve him… That was part of the joy.”

new faces

The two sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tions to the cast are

Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice femme fa­tale Sofia Boutella as Jay­lah – Kirk and co’s new alien ally – and the uber-hot Idris Elba as prin­ci­pal an­tag­o­nist Krall. Each char­ac­ter be­longs to an alien race hereto­fore un­seen in Star Trek, just two of the 50 in­cluded in the film; one for each year of

Trek’s ex­is­tence. Though Lin can’t di­vulge the de­tails of Boutella’s char­ac­ter, he refers to Jay­lah when ex­plain­ing the im­pro­vi­sa­tion Pegg and Jung af­forded the pro­duc­tion.

“The scene in the trailer where Sofia sits in the Cap­tain’s chair – that hap­pened dur­ing re­hearsal. It was not scripted. We hadn’t re­hearsed it. The cam­era was set up, she came in and sat down, and she said, ‘This is my house.’ I looked at Si­mon and said, ‘This has to be the scene. Si­mon and Doug, let’s go.’ So we re-crafted it. But the cast was so great we were able to play it and we didn’t lose a beat, and now it’s one of my favourite mo­ments in the movie.

“It was about cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment and em­brac­ing what we had,” says Lin of the spirit that per­me­ated the film’s set. “In a per­fect world we would have had more time. We had a script fully done and re­hearsed, but we didn’t have that. So we could ei­ther com­plain about it or say, ‘Hey, man, let’s go.’ I know every­body’s tal­ented and they all are pas­sion­ate. It’s my job to make sure that we play and we cre­ate the right en­vi­ron­ment for play.”

As for the film’s Big Bad, Lin ex­plains why Elba was the per­fect choice for Krall…

“When I talk about de­con­struct­ing the Fed­er­a­tion, ob­vi­ously a big part of that is to have an op­pos­ing view. So I wanted to cre­ate an an­tag­o­nist that had not only that view but a valid view. Idris was my top choice by far. Be­cause a lot of times an­tag­o­nists don’t re­ally have a lot of screen time. So you need some­one who can com­mand a pres­ence and be able to fully com­mit and carry that through very sur­gi­cally. We had a great first con­ver­sa­tion. But at the very end he paused. I was like, ‘Aw, shit.’ He goes, ‘It’s gonna be four hours of make-up ev­ery morn­ing, right?’ I said, ‘Yup…’ It was four hours ev­ery morn­ing, and he was awe­some. He’s de­liv­er­ing a 100% ev­ery time.”

Brain and Brawn

As to the chal­lenge of bal­anc­ing the cere­bral spirit of Trek with the de­mands of to­day’s block­buster film­mak­ing, Lin says, “I knew why they came to me. They know I can make big-bud­get movies. But at the same time I had to find the ap­pro­pri­ate jour­ney for this movie. So yeah, there is a lot of ac­tion. But it can’t be ac­tion for ac­tion’s sake. In a very short amount of time I had to make sure that they un­der­stood that I know that that’s where com­merce and art col­lide. But it’s my job to make sure that the ac­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate, it’s or­ganic, it’s some­thing that can be em­braced by peo­ple who like Star Trek. “Star Trek is, I think, the only fran­chise that’s been able to cross over from TV with a lim­ited bud­get to mega-fran­chise. That’s part of the

DNA of Star Trek. So for Si­mon and Doug and I, our chal­lenge was to bring that. We know this is a big-bud­get movie, but at the same time let’s not for­get that we can have two char­ac­ters in a room talk­ing, and if we do our job right it’s equally com­pelling. That’s some­thing that we def­i­nitely took to heart.”

While a 50-year legacy might weigh heav­ily on the shoul­ders of most film­mak­ers, Lin says his time on Uni­ver­sal’s Fast & Fu­ri­ous fran­chise pre­pared him for the de­mands of hard­core fans.

“I didn’t know cars when I signed up for it,” ad­mits the di­rec­tor, “and I still don’t know cars. I might know a lit­tle bit more. But one thing I wanted to make sure when I made those movies was that I was re­spect­ing peo­ple’s pas­sion. I have friends who are diehard Trek fans. If they saw the movie that I made and it wasn’t up to their stan­dards, they would let me know. I ap­pre­ci­ate that.

“I had Si­mon and I had Doug and I had JJ,” adds Lin. “It was a great team. But when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, if you watch a movie and you hate it, it’s on me.”

Star Trek Be­yond opens on 22 July.

Idris had four hours’ make-up ev­ery morn­ing, and he was awe­some

Now that’s cheeky!

Idris Elba’s Krall is a real pain in the neck. The big ques­tion: will Si­mon Pegg give him­self all the best lines?

Spock: a man you could trust with your PC.

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