Arriving in Los Angeles after a six-and-a-half-hour flight from Boston doesn't quite compete with warping through galaxies in a matter of minutes, but on entering the lobby of the Four Seasons, the line between reality and that strange universe known as Hollywood quickly begins to blur. Here on a press junket for Lost wunderkind J.J. Abrams's big-budget, big-screen reboot of that never-say-die cultural landmark Star Trek, I haven't even checked in, and already I've run into John Cho (the Harold & Kumar stoner who plays Hikaru Sulu, a role originated by George Takei) and Zoe Saldana (taking over as Nyota Uhura from Nichelle Nichols), who at first glance seems to be all legs. Hollywood, all right.
WARPING INTO THE 21ST CENTURY J.J. Abrams’s action-packed update keeps the original’s sensibilty intact.
Stepping into the hotel's elevator, I'm joined by Bruce Greenwood, most recently seen playing the president in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and now inheriting Jeffrey Hunter's role as the first captain of the USS Enterprise, Christopher Pike. What next? Will the elevator doors open to reveal a starship bridge?
Alas, my room's mini-bar will have to suffice. Given enough alcohol, I might even mistake the shuttle bus that takes me to a press screening of the film on the Paramount lot later that evening for a shuttlecraft. Too bad I don't drink.
Sober, I marvel at the movie being projected on the massive screen in the studio's majestic theater. Speaking as someone who grew up watching endless reruns of all 79 episodes of the original series (1966-'69) on TV, I'd venture to guess that Paramount's sitting on a substantial hit. Wolverine who?
Okay, it's clear I'm a fan. But what of the young actors who fill out the iconic jumpsuits of Abrams's action-packed take on the late Gene Roddenberry's creation?
At our press conference the next morning, Chris Pine, the newly minted Captain James T. Kirk, identifies himself as part of a generation that grew up with a different space-faring saga. "There was something kind of visceral and fun about the Star Wars world" the 28-year-old actor muses, "that's got more to do with the effects than Trek, which deals with this grand allegory and all these big social things. As a kid, I had not a concept or a clue as to what was going on." Nevertheless, he was very familiar with Kirk's inimitable originator. "My grandmother was a huge William Shatner fan. She made me sit through reruns of T.J. Hooker." Poor lad.
"I didn't grow up a Trekkie," echoes the Korean-born Cho, "but I was very impressed with the multi-ethnic cast." He took particular note of, no surprise, the Japanese-American Takei.
Russian-born Anton Yelchin hadn't seen any of the episodes before being cast as Pavel Chekov, but he's since viewed them all. He tried to remain true to the character's accent, but he notes that Walter Koenig's original "isn't so much a Russian accent as it is a Cold War stereotype of a Russian accent."
The new Spock, Zachary Quinto (until now best known as Sylar on TV's Heroes), points out, "I was the first one cast in the movie." That gave him the chance to get to know Boston-born Leonard Nimoy — who reprises his role in this film as a much older version of the beloved Vulcan — and seek his input in the months leading up to the shoot. Still, sharing the screen with his predecessor proved challenging.
And Nimoy, now 78, doesn't see anything wrong with that. "I think it's appropriate when the old-timer walks on the set that everybody be intimidated. I used to be a kid on the set, and I was intimidated. Why shouldn't they be?"