Star Trek’s crew comes to town – but they’re all a bit tongue-tied.

When the mak­ers of Star Trek Be­yond went search­ing for a fu­tur­is­tic set­ting, they found it right here in Dubai. Colin Drury met the stel­lar cast and crew, who were more than a lit­tle tongue-tied

Friday - - Contents -

One of the best things about a press con­fer­ence like this is the food.

When it’s a re­ally big one – like the one at Burj Al Arab to an­nounce that Star Trek

Be­yond has started film­ing in Dubai – you’re look­ing at proper five-star fare.

Baked seafood en­chi­ladas, chicken pas­tries and open-top salmon sand­wiches are on the menu. You’ve got rel­ishes and a range of juices, and for the sweet of tooth, brown­ies and lemon driz­zle cake. For the healthy, fresh fruits are among the spread. It’s all pre­sented on fine china with sil­ver cut­lery. A cou­ple of chefs – in whites and toques – stand nearby. Oc­ca­sion­ally, they ex­plain their cre­ations to an on­looker.

I take my pick, then round it off with a cup of Amer­i­cano.

The sec­ond-best thing about a press con­fer­ence like this is the venue. This one is in the ball­room of the world’s most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel com­plete with gild­ing, deep car­pets, pol­ished mir­rors and staff wear­ing crisp uni­forms and wide smiles.

Th­ese press con­fer­ences are ba­si­cally great – right up un­til the stars come in and you have to sit down and lis­ten to what they say. Be­cause they don’t re­ally say any­thing.

Who have we got here to­day? A whole gal­axy of Star Trek Be­yond stars, nine in all. There are Cap­tain Kirk (Chris Pine who will play Steve Trevor op­po­site Gal Gadot in Won­der Woman); Spock (Zachary Quinto, most re­cently seen in Hit­man: Agent 47); Scotty (Si­mon Pegg, who was in Mis­sion:

Im­pos­si­ble – Rogue Na­tion); and a new vil­lain who might not be a vil­lain be­cause we’re not al­lowed to know at this stage.

That’s Idris Elba, who gets a very big cheer when he ap­pears be­cause a lot of Dubai’s me­dia types are fe­male and there’s no deny­ing that he’s a hand­some chap. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jef­frey Chernov also makes an ap­pear­ance – he was ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost Pro­to­col (2011). It’s he who kicks things off by say­ing what a great lo­ca­tion for a movie Dubai is. ‘We came look­ing for the fu­ture and we found Dubai,’ he says.

That gets an­other cheer from the mass me­dia ranks and makes head­lines in all the pa­pers the next day. In any case, see­ing the pos­i­tive re­ac­tion, the rest of the cast riff on the theme.

Chris Pine: ‘I woke up this morn­ing and opened up the blinds and looked out and it looks like what­ever to­mor­row will be. It’s fu­ture land.’

Amer­i­can film and tele­vi­sion ac­tor An­ton Yelchin, who plays Chekov, adds: ‘I’m so fas­ci­nated by the city and – this is go­ing to sound pre­ten­tious – but as a stu­dent of ar­chi­tec­ture I’m fas­ci­nated by the place. It’s mag­i­cal.’

While all that sounds great, we are also wait­ing for them to tell us more

The EX­EC­U­TIVE pro­ducer who also did Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble - Ghost Pro­to­col KICKS off with what ev­ery­one wants to hear: ‘We came look­ing for the FU­TURE and found Dubai.’

about the movie. But it turns out that’s not re­ally go­ing to hap­pen. They’ve just wrapped up film­ing, with the last sched­ule shot here in Dubai – and, rea­son­ably enough, they don’t want to let slip any spoil­ers ahead of the July 2016 re­lease.

That means no talk of plot, char­ac­ter or film­ing. With that in mind, Idris seems a lit­tle con­fused about why he’s even here. ‘This is the first time I’ve done a press con­fer­ence half­way through film­ing a movie, so it’s a lit­tle un­usual for me,’ he says.

In­ci­den­tally, no one asks him if he may be the next James Bond. It’s prob­a­bly the ques­tion that fol­lows him every­where th­ese days, but there’s a com­père to­day who has warned us all to keep the ques­tions to Star Trek only. So...what do we learn about Star Trek

Be­yond? Does any­one end up boldly go­ing past the terms of the non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment they’ve signed? Not re­ally.

‘This has to be a new Star Trek movie,’ says Si­mon, which, frankly, is the very least you’d hope for. There would be se­ri­ous dis­ap­point­ment if af­ter all this fuss the fran­chise was just rere­leas­ing 1993’s TV se­ries Deep Space Nine or some­thing.

The most ex­cit­ing mo­ment of the day comes when Ja­mal Al Sharif, chair­man of the Dubai Film and TV Com­mis­sion and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Dubai Stu­dio City, stands up to talk.

He re­veals that it was 10 years ago – in March 2005 – in this very room that the idea for Dubai Stu­dio City was first an­nounced. ‘Peo­ple asked me who will come here to make films, it’s so far from Hol­ly­wood and Bol­ly­wood,’ he says. ‘They said it couldn’t be done. We said, ‘Let’s see, let’s try’.’

It says some­thing of the sheer skill, tal­ent, de­ter­mi­na­tion and hard work in­volved that within five years of that an­nounce­ment,

Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost Pro­to­col was filmed in the city. Now, af­ter an­other five years, it’s won one of the big­gest movie fran­chises in the world. Any way you think about that, it’s some warp speed progress.

‘Our lead­ers have al­ways en­cour­aged us to aim big­ger,’ he adds. ‘And when Mis­sion:

Im­pos­si­ble fin­ished, they asked, ‘What is big­ger?’ It took me a cou­ple of years, but we got the right one.’

Star Trek is huge, isn’t it? It’s one of the few film fran­chises – Star Wars and Bond are the oth­ers – that peo­ple have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for. They want some de­tails, how­ever small or in­signif­i­cant. They clam­our for them across the planet.

So here’s an­other snip­pet from Si­mon: ‘The real chal­lenge,’ he says, ‘was to marry the tra­di­tional Star Trek that ev­ery­one grew up watch­ing and our Star Trek.’

Things don’t get much more tra­di­tional in Star Trek terms than Spock, the lov­able Vul­can. For more than 40 years, he was played by Leonard Ni­moy, who died last year, and Zachary finds time to pay a heart­felt trib­ute. ‘He was re­ally like a fa­ther fig­ure to me, and for the past eight years, it was a pro­found ex­pe­ri­ence for me per­son­ally to be in touch with Leonard and his fam­ily,’ he says.

‘Leonard had such a pro­found and pos­i­tive im­pact on peo­ple around the world be­cause of the role.’ This may also be the over­rid­ing mes­sage of the event. Th­ese stars can’t re­ally say any­thing about the film, but what they can ex­press is an ap­par­ent hope that Star Trek can help break down cul­tural bar­ri­ers around the world.

‘Whether you’re look­ing at a paint­ing or [watch­ing] a con­cert or in a movie theatre, what we see in front of us is our hu­man­ity,’ says Chris.

‘Art is a won­der­ful equaliser. We can al­ways rely on art to re­mind us of our same­ness rather than our oth­er­ness.’

Si­mon takes up the theme, cer­tain that this movie can build bridges be­tween peo­ple. ‘One of the rea­sons that Star Trek is so beloved by peo­ple is that it gives us this utopian ideal that we can all just live to­gether, and there is no prej­u­dice,’ he says to­wards the end.

‘It’s a won­der­ful thing. It’s an as­pi­ra­tional uni­verse. Imag­ine that. Imag­ine if we could all get along.’

‘One of the rea­sons that STAR TREK is so BELOVED is that it gives us this UTOPIAN ideal that we can all just LIVE to­gether and there is no PREJ­U­DICE. It’s in­spi­ra­tional’

The Star Trek Be­yond set in DIFC

Leonard Ni­may, who played Spock in the ear­lier edi­tions of Star Trek, has in­spired gen­er­a­tions with his por­trayal

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