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
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