With projects like “Lost,” “Alias,” Mission: Impossible III and “Fringe” on his resume, J.J. Abrams clearly knows the value of keeping secrets and maintaining an air of mystery. But the producer-writer-director also knows the value of a tantalizing tease.
To that end he recently indulged in some intriguing details regarding his highly anticipated future projects, including a sequel to his blockbuster re-imagining of the “Star Trek” franchise, a fourth “Mission: Impossible” film and Leonard Nimoy’s ongoing involvement in “Fringe.”
ComingSoon.net was there to hear just what Abrams was willing to reveal.
On whether he’s in for shepherding the “Star Trek” franchise for the long haul, or planning a movie-by-movie involvement: J.J. Abrams: That’s a wonderfully optimistic question and I appreciate that, but the answer is that it’s obviously just movie-to-movie. The fact that we are now actively discussing the second film is surreal and very nice, and I’m thrilled. I hope that that results in something worthy of your time. But it’s one of those things that you just don’t know. And so I cannot presume it’s gonna be a series that goes beyond those. Do we have ideas for a few movies and have we discussed them? Of course. You can’t help but go “Oh, it would be really cool if we could do this or if we can set that up there!” You throw those things around. But we can’t presume it’s going to be anything more than now another film that we’re lucky enough to do.
On whether he plans to bring further elements of established “Star Trek” lore into the re-imagined franchise: Abrams: Going forward, the fun of this movie series is that we will have the opportunity – given its alternate timeline – to cross paths with any of the experiences, places and characters that existed in the original series. We have to be really careful, obviously, doing that. I don’t want to do something that is so inside that only die-hard fans will appreciate. We’re just now working on the script and just beginning the process of story-breaking, but I guarantee you whatever the story is and whatever the final movie ends up being, I know it will be something that will work on its own terms and be something that you don’t need to know and study “Star Trek” to get. But if you are a fan, there will hopefully be gift after gift of connections, references, characters that you hold near and dear. At least, that’s the intent.
On the possibility of shooting the “Star Trek” sequel in 3-D: Abrams: Paramount talked to me about doing the first one in 3-D and, having it only be my second film, I was petrified just at the addition of it. I thought it would be another dimension of pain-in-the-ass. I was just like, “I want to make a decent 2-D movie.” I was so worried that instead of being a decent 2-D movie it would have been a bad 3-D one. I’m open to looking at it because now I feel a little bit more comfortable. And, if I, in fact, direct the “Star Trek” sequel, 3-D could be really fun, so I’m open to it. What I’ve seen of “Avatar” makes me want to do it because it’s so crazy-cool looking.
On revisiting the notion of including William Shatner in the sequel: Abrams: The Shatner thing comes up quite a bit. As someone who was a William Shatner fan, in a huge way, just because of “The Twilight Zone” episodes he did, and then completely appreciating what he did in “Star Trek,” but not really becoming a fan until I started working on this movie, it was a foregone conclusion that we wanted Shatner in the movie. The problem was that his character died on screen in one of the “Trek” films, and because we decided very early on, that we wanted to adhere to “Trek” canon as best we could – which was a huge challenge, because even the original series in many ways didn’t always adhere to “Trek” canon – the required machinations to get Shatner into the movie would have been very difficult to do, given the story we wanted to tell, and also to give him the kind of part that he would be happy with. It was this thing where it would have felt like a gimmick, in order to get Shatner in the movie, which would have honestly, to me, been distracting. Having said that, would it have been fun to have him in the movie? Of course. Would it be great to work with him? No doubt. I was as excited to work with him as I was Mr. Nimoy, who we luckily did have in the film In terms of moving forward, I am open to anything. I would love to figure out something, given the challenge of introducing these new characters and given the burden of having to cast these people. I feel like the first movie did some of the heavy lifting that needed to be done, in order to free us to continue, going forward. Maybe there’s less of a burden and there’s going to be more opportunity to work with him again. I would love to work with him. We speak. We actually have a lunch date planned. I’m a fan. I’m a friend of his. Or, he’s at least a friend of mine. He may say otherwise on his blog today. I have no idea. But, I really couldn’t like him more and would love to work with him.
On the potential for incorporating “Star Trek’s” tradition of current events allegories and philosophical metaphors into the storyline of the sequel: Abrams: It’s hard to give a blanket answer to that question. I do think that, whether it’s “Star Trek” or anything – whatever is being investigated, created or produced now, in movies or TV needs to consider the context in which it is being distributed. It’s not a vacuum. There are certain universal themes of love, conflict, loyalty or family that are everlasting and that need to be presented in a way that makes it feel relevant, even if it’s a period piece. You need to consider what context that film, that story and those characters are being seen in. But having said that, with “Star Trek” it’s not like we’re looking to make the second movie some kind of heavy political allegory. I think that it’s important that there is metaphor to what we know and that there is relevance, and I think allegory is the thing that made shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek” resonate and still be vital today. But because the first movie was so much about introducing these people and it was very much a premise movie about how to bring these people together, it made it difficult to also have the film go as deep as it could, about certain conflict, certain relationships and the heart of who some of these characters are. I think it was successful in what it needed to do to introduce these people, but I feel like now that we’ve done that, it is the job of the next film to go a little bit deeper. It shouldn’t be any less fun or take itself too seriously, but consider who these people are now and grow with them, and just examine them a little more closer, now that we’ve gotten through the pleasantries and introductions.
On Leonard Nimoy’s recent suggestion that future “Star Trek” films just might not need him anymore: Abrams: I can’t imagine a “Star Trek” movie not needing him. I’m sure that what he’s saying is a combination of modesty and honesty. He may actually feel that way. But, the truth is, we could never have made this movie without him, and working with him again would be a joy. It is clearly too early, given that we are just now talking story, to conclude whether or not Spock Prime is in the film or not. Do I want to work with him again? Of course, one hundred percent. I’d love to.
On what to expect from Nimoy in his role on the Abrams-produced TV series “Fringe”: Abrams: In terms of his role as William Bell, none of us could believe our luck that we convinced him to say yes to being on the show. He is wonderful on the show. And, I will say that this is not the last you will see of his character I don’t want to give anything away, but this is not the last you’ll see of him. He is so good and so wonderful to work with that I wouldn’t limit the possibilities of what he’ll get to do.
On the notion of having Nimoy reprise his ’60s TV role of Paris in a fourth “Mission: Impossible” film and possibly other original cast members as well: Abrams: How cool would that be? I just got a call that Peter Graves is in great shape, which would be a very bizarre bend in the space-time continuum, for obvious reasons. I almost feel like you could make him serious again and bring him back. Whether it’s Nimoy, who I have an incredible affinity for, or Graves or anyone, we’ll see. I actually tried to get Martin Landau in “Mission 3,” in a very small little moment just for fun, and was told that he had no interest in doing it. But then, when I met him, after the movie came out, it was the greatest thing. We were at this restaurant in New York for one of the TV Upfront parties, and someone introduced me to Landau. They took me over and Martin Landau came over to me, extended his hand, and [pretended to lift a false face off]. That was the greatest thing I’d ever seen!
On the rest of his future plans in film and TV: Abrams: Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman are running “Fringe” very well. We’re still very involved in that, but they’re running that. We have a new series that we just sold to NBC that we’re going to be producing. It’s a pilot. And there’s a movie that I’m writing that I would love to direct, early next year, so we’ll see if that comes to fruition. There’s a movie [I’m producing] called “Morning Glory” that’s coming out next year with Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton that’s being edited now. Roger Michell directed that. And we’re obviously hard at work on “Star Trek 2” and “Mission: Impossible 4.” There’s a LOT that we’re working on.