J.J. Abrams Talks Star Wars and Star Trek

J.J. Abrams is hard at work promoting Star Trek Into Darkness while simultaneously preparing the new Star Wars film. Some fans are excited to have him on board both projects while others are less than enthusiastic. Abrams on the other hand seems to be handling it all very well. In an extensive interview with Playboy, the director spoke about both franchises, what he learned, and what the future holds.

“I learned so much doing the first Star Trek—a movie. I’d never done any kind of space adventure before or anything on that scale. We knew the second one had to be bigger and not just for bigger’s sake. It was where the story was taking us. We got really cool glimpses of the Enterprise in the first movie. This time we get to see areas of the ship nobody’s seen before. And the villain is more complex now. In our first film Eric Bana plays a wonderfully angry Romulan dude, pissed off and full of vengeance. In this one, the bad guy is still brutal and fierce, but he’s got a much more interesting and active story. We have to grapple with many layers of his character. He’s essentially a space terrorist, and Benedict Cumberbatch, whom people know from BBC’s Sherlock, is kickass in the role. Kirk and the rest of the crew are figuring out how the hell to get an upper hand with this guy. The darkness is real in this movie, and it’s incredibly challenging and terrifying, and it can certainly be lethal. You need that edge, partly because Star Trek has been so relentlessly parodied over the years.”

When the subject of being loyal to both Star Wars and Star Trek was brought up, Abrams told the events that lead to initially turning down the job.

“The worlds are vastly different. Honestly, that was why I passed on Star Wars to begin with. I couldn’t imagine doing both. But when I said that my loyalty was to Star Trek I was literally working on finishing this cut. I couldn’t even entertain another thought. It was like being on the most beautiful beach in the world and someone saying, “There’s this amazing mountain over here. Come take a look.” I couldn’t balance the two, so I passed on Star Wars.”

That didn’t sway Kathleen Kennedy though as she persisted in trying to get Abrams as he recalls.

“I was near the light at the end of the tunnel with my work on Star Trek. I felt I needed a bit of a breather, actually. But then Kathleen Kennedy [the new Lucasfilm head who oversees Star Wars] called again. I’ve known her for years. We had a great conversation, and the idea of working with her on this suddenly went from being theoretical and easy to deny to being a real, tangible, thrilling possibility. In the end it was my wife, Katie, who said if it was something that really interested me, I had to consider it.”

Though many have said that Abrams turned Star Trek into Star Wars, he maintains that the films will still be visually different.

“As with anything, because these are very different worlds, they shouldn’t feel the same aesthetically. They can’t. You’re right. But again, I don’t apply aesthetics first and fit a movie into that aesthetic. If I had come into Star Trek with those eyes, I would probably have been paralyzed. The advantage here is that we still have George Lucas with us to go to and ask questions and get his feedback on things, which I certainly will do. With Star Trek it was harder because I wasn’t a Star Trek fan; I didn’t have the same emotional feeling, and I didn’t have Gene Roddenberry to go to. But I came to understand the world of Star Trek, and I appreciated what fans felt and believed about this universe and this franchise.”

Disney has slated Star Wars: Episode VII for a summer 2015 release date with its follow-up already scheduled for a 2017 release. With all that in mind, Abrams still seems optimistic about doing a third Star Trek film.

“I would say it’s a possibility. We’re trying to figure out the next step. But it’s like anything: It all begins with the story.”

Star Trek Into Darkness opens in IMAX theaters domestically on May 15 before expanding to conventional theaters on May 17.

(Photo Credit: LJPhotoCorp/WENN.com)