Star Trek Beyond opens this weekend. Recently the cast and creative team of the film sat down to talk to press about the latest installment of the series.
In the new Star Trek film we see the crew of the Starship Enterprise being challenged in a way they have never been challenged before — in the Kelvin timeline, that is. Separated from one another on a dangerous planet after their ship is destroyed, they deepen their bonds to get back to one another and stop the evil forces that threaten the Federation.
Participating in the press day were cast members Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Chris Pine, John Cho, Zachary Quinto, and Simon Pegg.
Absent but not forgotten was Anton Yelchin, who recently passed, but lives on on screen, so the cast sees the film as a celebration of their fallen brother:
Karl Urban: Itâ€™s devastating to lose a family member. Weâ€™re at a point where we should be celebrating, not only this film, but this beautiful man, this talented man. For all of us, itâ€™s almost incomprehensible to be at a point where we have to talk about him in the past. The pain of his loss is still very raw.
Zoe Saldana: Weâ€™re mourning. Weâ€™re grieving the loss of a great friend and a great human being, and he can never be replaced.
Chris Pine: I remember one of the first times I met him, like nine years ago or whatever, he was 17. I invited him back to my trailer to play guitar because I knew he played guitar, and he played guitar really, really, really well. And he said, “I canâ€™t man, Iâ€™ve got to go back to my trailer.” I was like, “Okay, why?” He was translating, like, an esoteric Russian novel into English, just because thatâ€™s what he wanted to do. Eight, nine years later I talked to him and he was still translating it.
The film itself also remembers another lost cast member, Leonard Nimoy, who’s character in the film gets a wonderfully touching send-off and becomes a part of Spock’s arc:
Zachary Quinto: It became important for all of us to honor his legacy, and I thought Simon [Pegg] and [co-writer Doug Jung] did a beautiful job to incorporate it in the narrative of the film.
Simon Pegg: We wanted to make it part of Spockâ€™s arc because thatâ€™s Spockâ€™s arc, itâ€™s just not a reference to Spock dying or what we did eventually, dedicate the film to him. We wanted to have it inspire our Spock to move on. It became an integral part of the story.
Unable to make the interviews was actress Sofia Boutella (currently shooting The Mummy), who plays Jaylah, the film’s standout new addition to the cast. Simon Pegg reveals the inspiration for the character is one of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies:
Simon Pegg: We were trying to create this very independent character, but we didnâ€™t have a name for it. So we just called it “Jennifer Lawrence in â€˜Winterâ€™s Bone.â€™ Thatâ€™s a long name.” So it started getting tiring always saying, “Well, Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Winterâ€™s Bone’ is fighting here,” so then we started calling her J-Law. And then she became Jaylah. So Jaylah’s actually named after Jennifer Lawrence.
In response to both Simon Pegg and George Takei’s progressive and friendly dialogue about the sexuality of the Kelvin timeline’s Sulu, John Cho shared his thoughts on the choice for it to be a part of the film:
John Cho: [Star Trek creator Gene] Roddenbery did set up a world that was incredibly progressive, but it was tempered by the social morals of the era. I feel like we can go further in 2016 than he was able to do at the time. I feel like our version can give more to women and people of color than Roddenberry was originally able to. It was really the handling of it that was most important to me. Having seen the film, its nonchalant posture towards it is the best thing about it. That itâ€™s normalized. Itâ€™s news now, but if you re-watch the movie in ten years, you wonâ€™t think anything of it. Itâ€™ll just go right by you. Thatâ€™s the best thing about it.
Director Justin Lin and executive producer J.J. Abrams also talked a bit about restructuring the Trek creative team for Beyond. Lin takes over Abrams’ directing duties and shared his life-long dedication to the fandom:
Justin Lin: My family, we immigrated to the States when I was 8. They had a little fish and chip shop and they would close at 9 and we would have dinner at 10 and at 11 [Star Trek: The Original Series] came on channel 13. My brothers and I would talk our way into hanging out with them. So from 8 to 18 [years old] that was our level of engagement. That was out family time. I remember moving to a new country and it felt like it was the five of us. Watching Star Trek it instilled in me that family is not just blood, it’s through shared experience. That’s what Star Trek gave me. Our engagement was through reruns so every night it was a new adventure. It was new obstacles. New challenges and that sense of discovery and exploration. It was a big part of growing up.
Abrams added that it was nice to see the new crew take the reigns while he was working on a little competitive sci-fi flick [Star Wars!] and shared that it gave him new perspective:
J.J. Abrams: The story of Star Trek, of facing crazy odds as a group, everyone is critical to survive it. A little bit what of the experience was making the movie, everybody was absolutely critical and they all pulled together to get this thing going in the right direction. It was a wonderful thing to see and because I was involved in a couple of the movies prior, it was sort of fun not be have to be in the fray.
Star Trek Beyond opens in theaters this Friday, July 22, 2016.