Written by Judy Sloane Wednesday, 06 May 2009 13:25
Star Trek is finally on general release! To celebrate, we chat with stars Chris Pine, Eric Bana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin...
"It’s a very scary thing doing a fight scene with Eric Bana when he’s running at you at full speed" Chris Pine
Chris, you obviously had to take the mantle of Captain Kirk from William Shatner; what qualities did you take for the character?
CHRIS PINE 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, why he was who he was. Going back and watching the series, what I was able to take away from it [were] things that I felt that I could use without hitting people over the head with a bad impersonation. What really appealed to me was the way that he moved about the deck of the ship, how he sits in the chair. I felt less is more in my case at least.
Were you fans of Star Trek, and how do you feel about playing such beloved characters?
ANTON YELCHIN I thought I was born to be this character! No, I actually wasn’t a fan, I mean 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 really love it.
JOHN CHO Although I wasn’t a Trekkie, my primary connection to the show was just being excited about George [Takai] being on television. Yelling across the house, ‘There’s an Asian guy on TV, there’s an Asian guy on TV, come quick, come quick, he may disappear, he may disappear, hurry up. Come now!’ It was just a dream come true for me, what I did in this movie, which was fly a spaceship and have a sword fight, is exactly what my young brother and I would do for hours and hours as children, so it’s weird to get paid to do that!
Eric, you wore a lot of makeup playing Nero; did that help you get into the mindset of the bag guy?
ERIC BANA I wasn’t as scared as my agent was when he came to the set to visit me! 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 and you realize that you can’t read facial expressions. So initially as actor you’re recalibrating, everything you’ve done before is in the bin because if you do that the audience won’t see your face move at all. So you’re sort of having to push through the prosthetics, as amazing and cutting-edge as they were.
Did you feel any pressure about having this massive franchise on your shoulders?
BANA I think the reality is that every time you do a film as an actor there’s crazy pressure, and I think that pressure comes from within, comes from yourself. I think taking on external pressure is like 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, ‘The crew of the Starship Enterprise have got the coolest roles for like coming out character performances ever. I mean, I hope they cast these roles well, because there’s amazing potential in all of these characters.’ All of the crew of the Enterprise have done the most comprehensive, respectful, reimagining of characters and I think all of them had the hardest job in Hollywood this year without a doubt, and I think they’ve done the most incredible job.
Are you thinking about a sequel yet?
PINE I think it’s presumptuous to start talking about future installments before the movie has come out, and we’re very excited about this one, I think people will enjoy this whether they’re fans or non-fans, I know that Bob and Alex are now attached to write a second one if there is going to be a second one. But I know from my part that I loved making this, and I loved the team behind it, my fellow crew mates, so if I were to be asked I know that I would sign up.
YELCHIN Yeah, but I’m with Chris, we all worked really hard to make this one the best there could be, and hopefully people appreciate it and then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it I think.
How did you cope with the physical challenges of your roles?
PINE It’s a very scary thing doing a fight scene with Eric Bana when he’s running at you at full speed; the fight of flight kicks in quite quickly! I was not prepared for it at all. It’s one thing to read the script and skim through the pages and say, ‘Oh, I’ll get back to that later. Oh, that’s a fight sequence stunt, let’s get back to the scenes,’ 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 was the bar scene in the beginning of the movie and I ended up breaking a stunt guy’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. And the next take after that, that big stunt guy kicked me in the stomach, he said it wasn’t on purpose but I don’t know.
You did a lot of work with green screen and CGI – how did you feel when you saw the finished film?
YELCHIN I thought everything outside of the ships in space I thought was just beautiful, just stunning, and I walked out of the movie thinking that it was so great and I had such a great time, and just seeing how beautiful it was, I think it’s really stunning.
CHO Although you’d be surprised at how much set there was for us to work with. The Enterprise is pretty much as you see it, that’s what we saw every day. There was less CGI than there could have been.
Chris, there’s a scene near the end of the film where you put on the Captain’s gold shirt. Was then when you felt the role of Kirk had become yours?
PINE 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. 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, I think it’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, and this one just happened to be named James Kirk, and so for the time being in this movie I’m playing James Kirk. But I think as many other people will always forever connect Mr. Shatner to that role.
Interviews by Judy Sloane
Star Trek is released today, May 8th. Read the full review here
And, as an added bonus, below you'll find a video interview with Kirk and Spock, aka Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto...