Ashley Hillard at the Star Trek Press Conference in Los Angeles – Pine, Yelchin, Bana, Cho, Collins
Paramount invited Moviehole to be part of the “Star Trek” junket this past weekend. We caught up with Chris Pine, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, John Cho and Clifton Collins Jr.
Q: Chris, the scene with the green girl brings down the house, and youâ€™re probably only the second actor in history to have a love scene with a green girl. What was that like? Did the make-up come off on you? Were there accidents?
Chris: Were there accidents? It brought the house down, and I donâ€™t think I had anything to do with it. It wasnâ€™t my acting ability. I think itâ€™s because the green girls have a certain place in the Star Trek cannon. I remember that day being very long and, yes, that poor girl, Rachel Nichols, was in the make-up chair for two hours getting painted, so there was a lot of green paint on my nose after many a take. It wasnâ€™t as fun as it looked. It was a long day and, yes, the make-up proved to kill any buzz that I might have gotten otherwise.
Q: J.J. said that you had the liberty to recreate the character, but what kind of qualities did you think that you had to capture for William Shatnerâ€™s character?
Chris: There are certain things that are just very inherent to the character. I used the script that Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci wrote as kind of my bible, and that gave me my back story, in the sense of who this guy was and why he was who he was. And, going back and watching the series, what I was able to take away from it, or what appealed to me about Mr. Shatnerâ€™s performance and things that I felt that I could use without hitting people over the head with a bad impersonation, were little physical characteristics. What really appealed to me was the way that he moved about the deck of the ship. Heâ€™s got a very theatrical quality, just with his physicality, that just made my smile every time I watched it. There were things about how he sits in the chair that are very small. I felt less is more, in my case, at least. At the end of the day, it really was a conversation between me and J.J. On any given day, it would be, â€œSo, what do you think about this? Do you think it would work now?â€ It would just be very small things, but it wasnâ€™t anything conscious, as far as characteristics I must take from Mr. Shatner. It was way more of an ever-changing thing.
Q: Have you talked with him?
Chris: Yeah, I saw him last night, for the first time, in the flesh and shook hands. He was very busy last night. It was a charity event for him, and he raises money for all these wonderful childrenâ€™s charities, so I was there more to support him, in the great work that he does. But, it was great to finally meet him and I hope to have more of a chance to sit down with him, for a longer period, and actually talk to him about his experiences.
Q: Can you talk about your Star Trek experiences in the past? Were you big fans? Have you watched the old shows and movies? Did you ever think you would play these characters?
Anton: I thought I was born to be this character. No. I actually wasnâ€™t a fan. Iâ€™m a fan now. I watched a lot of the original series, and thereâ€™s just something so great about it that you canâ€™t help but really love it.
John: Although I wasnâ€™t a Trekkie, my primary connection to the show was just being excited about George Takei being on television, and just yelling across the house, â€œThereâ€™s an Asian guy on TV! Thereâ€™s an Asian guy on TV! Come quick! Come quick! He may disappear! He may disappear! Hurry up! Come now!â€ But, yeah, it was just a dream come true for me. What I did in this movie, flying a spaceship and having a sword fight, is exactly what my young brother and I would do for hours and hours as children, so itâ€™s weird to get paid to do that. We received no payment, oddly enough, as children, to do that.
Chris: I was not a fan growing up. I kind of knew of the series through my grandmother, whoâ€™s a big William Shatner fan, but I was more of a Star Wars kid, and only gained a greater appreciation for Star Trek once I started watching the series, after I got the part.
Q: Eric and Clifton, can you talk about the make-up? How much did it help you in creating the character? What is the mind-set you have to get into to play bad guys?
Clifton: Iâ€™m pretty much Eric Banaâ€™s bitch. I go and do his dirty work. I carjack spaceships. â€œYou want the USS Enterprise? Letâ€™s go get it.â€ â€œYou want me to chalk out Captain Kirk? All right, Iâ€™ll do it.â€ With the make-up, I knew they were revamping the characters, and that was really exciting, especially with J.J. and his team surrounding it. The first time it was longer. We got it down, on a real good day, to about two and a half hours. On a bad day, it might have been four. When I saw myself for the first time, it was pretty frightening. I looked in the mirror and I was like, â€œWow, this is scary! Who the fuck am I going to kill now?â€
Eric: I wasnâ€™t as scared as my agent was, when he came to the set to visit me. He freaked out. â€œWhereâ€™s my actor gone?â€ It was a weird thing, at first. I was really excited. It was actually one of the reasons why I wanted to play the part. I could tell, in the script, that I would be unrecognizable, and those opportunities in Hollywood are so rare. It was amazing. The first time you put it on, you realize that you canâ€™t read facial expressions. It just stays still, so initially, as actor, youâ€™re recalibrating. Everything youâ€™ve done before is in the bin because otherwise the audience wonâ€™t see your face move at all. You have to push through the prosthetics, as amazing and cutting-edge as they are. The advancements in prosthetics have changed, but they also havenâ€™t. Itâ€™s a piece of latex glued onto your head. It was fun. Each morning weâ€™d sit there and get high off the chemicals and, after three hours, go onto the set. We donâ€™t recall much that happened before lunch on the film, but after lunch, I remember some things. It was interesting.
Q: For Anton and John, have you guys had a chance to meet the original actors that did your roles?
John: I wrote George a letter, after I got the role, and asked if we could sit down and have a meal, and he was very, very sweet. I was a little nervous and I told him so, just â€˜cause he casts a pretty large shadow, and he said, â€œHey, John, relax, theyâ€™re going to be calling me â€˜the old guy who played John Choâ€™ in a few years, so go forward and be cool.â€ It put me in the right frame of mind.
Anton: Walter came on set, thankfully, because I was just really worried about meeting him during the actual shooting of the scenes. He came on set once I was done with the majority of them, and he was just very kind and wonderful and, actually, complimentary. It meant a lot to me to meet him and hear what he had to say and what he thought. I was really kind of honored by his presence there.
Q: With this being expected to restart the franchise, how much of the power of the franchise did you feel was on your shoulders?
Eric: I think the reality is that, every time you do a film, as an actor, thereâ€™s crazy pressure, and I think that pressure comes from within. It comes from yourself, and taking on external pressure is the biggest creative killer. When I read this script, not only did I want to get involved immediately, but I turned to my wife and I said, â€œThe crew of the Starship Enterprise have got the coolest roles for coming-out character performances, ever. I hope they cast these roles well because thereâ€™s amazing potential in all of these characters.â€ I cockily thought that I would be the free-est because I was playing a villain whoâ€™d never been seen before, and the other guys had all this baggage and weight and pressure, and I was completely wrong. All of the crew of the Starship Enterprise have done the most comprehensive, respectful, re-imagining of characters. I think all of them had the hardest job in Hollywood this year, without a doubt, and theyâ€™ve done the most incredible job. By the end of the film, I was like, â€œThatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s them.â€ Itâ€™s an amazing thing that theyâ€™ve done, that theyâ€™ve been able to just brush that pressure off, but the reality is that itâ€™s there on every movie.
Q: Weâ€™ve heard that a sequel is already being thought of. Have you talked about it already?
Chris: I think itâ€™s presumptuous to start talking about future installments before the movie has come out. Weâ€™re very excited about this one. I think people will enjoy this, whether theyâ€™re fans or non-fans. I know that Bob and Alex, and Damon Lindelof, the producer from Lost and a friend of J.J.â€™s for a long time, are now attached to write a second one, if there is, in fact, going to be a second one. But, I know that I loved making this and I loved the team behind it, who were my fellow crew mates, so if I were to be asked, I know that I would sign up.
John: Iâ€™m in, yeah. If the opportunity presented itself, yes.
Anton: Yeah. Iâ€™m with Chris. We all worked really hard to make this film the best it could be and, hopefully, people appreciate it. And then, weâ€™ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Q: Star Trek fans have historically been of a different kind. Are you guys ready for the onslaught of personal attention?
Anton: Oh, yeah. I donâ€™t know.
John: Iâ€™m not sure that Iâ€™ve really even thought that much about it. I have, in the sense that Iâ€™ve decided, â€œLetâ€™s be surprised by what comes.â€ Who knows what itâ€™s really going to be like. Theyâ€™ve been caricatured so much, itâ€™s hard to know what the experience will be like. My decision has been just to enjoy myself and be surprised, step by step.
Anton: Also, the biggest part of this experience for me was just the characters are so great. Iâ€™ve had so much joy playing this character, and thatâ€™s been the most important thing to me. Everything else is secondary.
Chris: I really couldnâ€™t say it better. Iâ€™ll cross the bridge when I come to it. It hasnâ€™t happened yet.
Q: Eric, why do you think we love villains so much?
Eric: I think we only love them when theyâ€™re good. Hopefully, Nero is a worthwhile adversary for the crew of the Starship Enterprise. That was all that I was interested in â€˜cause I realized, very early on, that this really is a heroâ€™s movie, not a villainâ€™s movie, but you also need the villain to be strong enough to pose a threat. I think we have to be interested in them because it just makes the drama more dramatic and makes the peril more perilous, and so forth. I think we only love them if theyâ€™re good and, if they donâ€™t work, they can just be a bit of a thorn. Hopefully, Neroâ€™s not a thorn.
Q: Chris, what were the physical challenges for your role?
Chris: Well, one of the major difficulties was that itâ€™s a very scary thing, doing a fight scene with Eric Bana, when heâ€™s running at you at full speed and promises you beforehand that nothing bad will happen, but fight-or-flight kicks in, quite quickly. I was not prepared for it, at all. Itâ€™s one thing to read the script and skim through the pages and say, â€œOh, Iâ€™ll get back to that later. Oh, thatâ€™s a fight sequence stunt. Okay, letâ€™s get back to the scenes,â€ failing to realize that those four or five pages take about a month and a half to actually shoot. But, we had a great stunt team behind us. I guess the only anecdote worth mentioning is that, on my first day of shooting, it was the bar scene, in the beginning of the movie, and I ended up breaking a stunt guyâ€™s nose on the second take. A word of caution to any young actor out there, do not hurt stuntmen because they will pay you back in kind. The next take after that, this big stunt guy kicked me in the stomach. He said it wasnâ€™t on purpose, but I donâ€™t know. But, it was a lot of fun, and way harder than I ever expected it would be.
Q: For Chris, do you feel the pressure, waiting for the reaction of the Trekkers to see you in this role?
Chris: I have no control over what people think and, if I were to spend energy on that, I would be a lifeless, deadened human being. So, I hope that they like it, but I just simply have no control, once itâ€™s in the can. Weâ€™ve done a good job, I think. Iâ€™m proud of it. I hope theyâ€™ll accept these changes to their cannon that they hold so dear, which are definitely changes, but I donâ€™t think I do anything other than tell a great story differently.
Q: You worked with a lot of CG and special effects on set. Was there anything when you saw the final film that just blew you away and made you go, â€œWow, thatâ€™s absolutely amazingâ€?
Anton: I thought everything outside of the ships in space was just beautiful and just stunning. I walked out of the movie thinking that it was so great and I had such a great time, just seeing how beautiful it was. Itâ€™s really stunning.
John: Youâ€™d be surprised at how much set there was for us to work with. The Enterprise is pretty much as you see it. Thatâ€™s what we saw every day. A lot of stuff was shot on location that you might not think was, like the engine room was at the Budweiser plant. So, there was a lot less CGI than there could have been.
Q: Eric, youâ€™re now in a big franchise that the world loves. Can you talk about what the reaction was to you playing this role?
Eric: I think rabid fans are a bit of a myth, really. Iâ€™ve only ever encountered pretty calm, reasonable fans. The Star Trek fans that weâ€™ve come in contact with, the last few weeks, have been unbelievably polite and very excited. I see all that stuff as nothing but a positive. When you go into a film and thereâ€™s already an established awareness and fans, whether theyâ€™re saying good things or bad things, all that energy is just great. Itâ€™s a walk up start for a production to have, that you canâ€™t take for granted, so I see all that stuff as a huge positive. Obviously, the dream come true for us is if, at the end of the second week, theyâ€™re all thrilled.
Q: Chris, once you put on that gold shirt, was there a real feeling that the role had become yours?
Chris: That was a fun day, when we shot that scene, because it was towards the end of the process and we were finally friends in the story and everybody was together. But, in terms of feeling that the part was mine, in my mind, Captain Kirk will always be William Shatner, and William Shatner will always be Captain Kirk. Itâ€™s just an inextricable connection and the relationship between those two men. This was a great role and, as an actor, you search for great roles. This one just happened to be named James Kirk. And so, for the time being, in this movie, Iâ€™m playing James Kirk. But, I look at it from part to part and from story to story, so as for the part being mine, I think people will always and forever connect Mr. Shatner to that role.
Q: Anton, youâ€™re in Star Trek and Terminator Salvation, which are two big sci fi franchises. How do you feel about the fact that youâ€™re being sought for this kind of movie?
Anton: Itâ€™s bizarre. My past experience has been working on movies that take a month and a half to shoot. Then, suddenly, Iâ€™m there for six or seven months. But, I look at them as really interesting, great characters. Both of these characters — Chekov and Kyle Reese — are challenges because they have been these iconic, previous characters and previous performance that were great, and that established this legacy. So, the challenge was to work with that legacy and to see how I could use it to inform my performance. It was just really interesting, and they were just really great characters to play, and I feel like Iâ€™ve been lucky to play them.