The cast © Paramount Pictures

JJ Abrams take the Star Trek saga back to the beginning, telling the story of how the young crew of the Starship Enterprise first met, following their maiden voyage to defeat their first nemesis, Romulan leader Nero, who is determined to destroy Earth.

We talk to the director and cast…


Director JJ Abrams © Paramount Pictures
Director JJ Abrams © Paramount Pictures

Casting the movie was a huge challenge and we were incredibly luck to find these actors. I’ve never had to cast something that pre-existed it, where the actors have to take over these iconic roles.

I said to all the actors, ‘Please do not do impersonations of any of these actors. This is all about you owning it, and the only way it’s going to work is if you are free to do your own thing.’


Anton Yelchin © Paramount Pictures
Anton Yelchin © Paramount Pictures

I thought I was born to be this character. (he laughs) No, I actually wasn’t a fan of the series, but I’m a fan now. I watched a lot of the original series, there’s just something so great about it, you can’t help but love it.

I was worried about meeting Walter Koenig [the original Chekov] during the actual shooting of the scenes.

He came on the set once I was done with the majority of them, and he was very kind and wonderful and complimentary, and it meant a lot to me to meet him and hear what he had to say and what he thought.


John Cho © Paramount Pictures
John Cho © Paramount Pictures

Although I wasn’t a Trekkie, my primary connection to the show was just being excited about George Takei being on television, yelling across the house, ‘There’s an Asian guy on TV, come quick, he may disappear.’

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 sweet. I was a little nervous and I told him so, because he casts a pretty large shadow, and he said, ‘Hey, John, relax, they are going to be calling me the old guy who played John Cho in a few years.’


Karl Urban & Chris Pine © Paramount Pictures
Karl Urban & Chris Pine © Paramount Pictures

I would define myself as a long-time fan of the original series. I watched it as a boy religiously every Saturday morning. About two years before I found out that they were making this new Star Trek I bought the entire DVD box set and watch them with my son.

So, when they started casting, I didn’t necessarily need to go back and study up. I felt that I knew the characters and the archetypes and the relationships really well.

I had such a huge admiration and respect for the wonderful contribution that DeForest Kelley donated to Star Trek in developing his character so well for forty years.

It was a real privilege to be given the opportunity to develop a younger version of the character.


Zoe Saldana © Paramount Pictures
Zoe Saldana © Paramount Pictures

I spoke with Nichelle Nichols a couple of times, and the response was completely overwhelming. I meet Nichelle and there was this overall excitement that Star Trek was coming back and that we were stepping into the family.

We felt completely supported, and the pressure was just removed the moment Mr Nimoy stepped on the set. It made it easier for us to approach these characters, not only remembering the fundamental essences of all of them, but also not being afraid to add any innovation.

That’s where JJ comes in. I thought it was incredibly witty to make it the beginning and show them as young people that are not comfortable in their own skin.

They’re meeting for the first time and they’re starting off with a clean palette. And sometimes knowing the end can give you a better perspective on where to start.


Eric Bana © Paramount Pictures
Eric Bana © Paramount Pictures

I cockily thought that I would the free-est because I was playing a villain who’d never been seen before, and the other actors were going to have all the baggage and pressure, but I was completely wrong.

I think the reality is the pressure is there on every movie. But all the crew of the Starship Enterprise have done the most comprehensive, respectful, re-imagining of the characters.

I think all of them had the hardest job in Hollywood this year, and they’ve done an incredible job.


Zachary Quinto’s [who plays the young Spock] choices in his performance often surprised me, in a very positive way.

I often thought, ‘I would never have thought to do that, and I think that’s a wonderful idea.’ Everyone in the cast is very talented, they found their own way to bring that talent and intelligence to this movie and I think it shows. When Karl Urban introduced himself as Leonard McCoy and shook hands with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, I burst into tears.

Karl’s performance is so moving, touching and powerful that I think DeForest Kelley would be smiling, and maybe in tears as well.

by Judy Sloane

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.