Master of Mystery J.J. Abrams Talks 'Trek' & 'Star Wars' with Playboy
"It all begins with the story." As everyone knows, J.J. Abrams doesn't reveal much when he talks in public about his projects and movies. There's always an air of mystery to him, but Playboy took a crack at getting the filmmaker/media maven to open up and tell his story in an interview they just published today. It's one of the best interviews with him yet and covers quite a few fascinating topics about everything from Star Trek Into Darkness to Star Wars to "Lost" to Cloverfield and so much more. The entire piece is worth reading in full, but there are a couple of quotes pertaining to the two sci-fi franchises he's working on worth featuring.
First up, while we've seen plenty of footage and have a general idea where Star Trek Into Darkness is going to go, Abrams confirms: "The next step has to be about going deeper and, yes, as the title indicates, getting a little more intense. We're testing these characters in ways they deserve to be tested." While we wait another 23 days for that to hit theaters, we're all wondering about Star Wars: Episode 7. Will he say anything? Not really, but here's one of the exchanges that starts regarding going from passing on to taking the offer.
PLAYBOY: What happened between saying no and saying yes?
ABRAMS: It was a wild time. 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.
PLAYBOY: There's much to discuss, such as the rumors of old cast members returning.
PLAYBOY: Will this be a distinct new trilogy?
PLAYBOY: Can you do away with Jar Jar Binks?
ABRAMS: You won't like this answer, but it's so early it would be insane to discuss details or get into plot points about what this unfilmed movie will be. And I'm not going to give my opinion on the original movies or characters.
PLAYBOY: But as a lifelong Star Wars fan, surely you have broad ideas about what needs to happen going forward. Three quarters of planet Earth came down on George Lucas for practically ruining Star Wars in Episode I. The Star Wars universe revolted.
ABRAMS: Here's the thing. I try to approach a project from what it's asking. What does it need to be? What is it demanding? With Star Wars, one has to take into account what has preceded it, what worked, what didn't. There are cautionary tales for anything you take on that has a legacy—things you look at and think, I want to avoid this or that, or I want to do more of something. But even that feels like an outside-in approach, and it's not how I work. For me, the key is when you have a script; it's telling you what it wants to be.
PLAYBOY: Star Wars needs to look different from Star Trek, certainly.
ABRAMS: 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.
They cover a lot of ground regarding his interests, working on "Lost" and "Alias", and everything inbetween, plus his current and future plans. That's where a few interesting bits are revealed, including this exchange:
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk sequels for a minute. Since you’re doing Star Wars, does that put you out of the running to direct the third Star Trek movie?
ABRAMS: No. 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.
PLAYBOY: What about an Alias movie?
ABRAMS: We discuss it. In the right circumstance and situation I would definitely be open to it.
PLAYBOY: Cloverfield II?
ABRAMS: Part of me just wants to let it go, though we’ve had a couple of discussions about cool ways to do it. I’m looking forward to seeing Pacific Rim this summer. It feels like there are some really big monsters coming down the pike that could inspire something we do.
For the full J.J. Abrams interview, head to Playboy.com (it's mostly SFW to read the entire 4-page article). Impressive interview, I think he gets J.J. to talk more about certain details than anyone else has before. One of his favorite answers is when he's asked about "Who's an up-and-coming director to keep an eye on?" His answer, one of our favorites: Rian Johnson. "I love what he did with Looper, the scope of the movie and the emotion—and that moment when we discover who the Rainmaker is is one of the most chilling, awesome moments I’ve seen in movies in a long time. He has a big career ahead of him." Indeed, as we've been saying. I'm excited to also follow J.J.'s career, not only with Star Trek and Star Wars, but anything Bad Robot does.