Kirk Thatcher Talks ‘Star Trek IV,’ Working With Leonard Nimoy, and Getting to Write Scotty’s Computer Joke
Thatcher also talks about how you don’t have to be a ‘Star Trek’ fan to enjoy the movie and playing the punk on the bus.
Multihyphenate Kirk Thatcher has been involved with a vast range of iconic movies and television over the past 40 years. From his first job, on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi no less, Thatcher has been crafting beloved stories that reach into all corners of fandom as a writer, director, producer, actor, and visual effects coordinator. Though much of his career centers around his work with Jim Henson on the Muppets franchise, Thatcher has also worked on projects like Star Trek , Gremlins , Spiderman: Homecoming , and many more. Recently Collider's own Editor-in-Chief, Steve Weintraub sat down with Thatcher to discuss his work on the highly acclaimed smash hit MCU television special, Werewolf by Night .
During their conversation, Weintraub made sure to get the scoop from Thatcher on his work on Star Trek , particularly Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home . Having hit theaters in 1986, Star Trek IV, a.k.a. the one with the whales, is widely beloved and considered one of the best feature films in the franchise. The movie sees Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ), Spock ( Leonard Nimoy ), and the whole Enterprise crew on a mission to the past — San Francisco, 1986, to be exact — to prevent a future catastrophe. Thatcher served as an associate producer and also had a cameo in the movie as the now iconic "punk on the bus." Thatcher recently made a cameo, reprising his role as "the punk on the bus" in Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard which also heavily featured time travel to prevent a future disaster.
One of the reasons Star Trek IV is so beloved is that it's almost a romantic comedy wrapped up in a Star Trek movie. Weintraub asked Thatcher if he had any idea the movie would be such a hit while they were making it, and while he was quick to say "well, you never know," Thatcher pointed out that he was drawn to the same thing that has given the movie such staying power, its comedy. "What I liked about it was the humor," Thatcher told Collider. "I loved Star Trek growing up. I was a huge Trek fan, and I liked the fun between the characters." Thatcher continued:
"I knew it was special and that it was fun. But you never know, I didn't know that the punk was going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I mean, it was a fun little gag. It was more like an Easter egg, like, "Oh, that was associate producer." It wasn't like, 'This is going to be this huge moment.'"
RELATED: New ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3 Trailer Reveals the Return of Moriarty and Lore
Kirk Thatcher On Working With Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek IV 's VFX
In discussing Star Trek IV , Thatcher explained that when he was hired by Leonard Nimoy, he was brought on to make sure the effects were good so that Nimoy could focus on the story. As Thatcher put it:
"He said, 'I want you to deal with all the technical stuff with effects and sets, and all that, because I want to focus on the story.' He said the thing that made Star Trek resonate, in his mind, was the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones — and the other characters — but that triumvirate, which was not revelatory at that point, but he said, 'I want to focus on those relationships, and I want the effects, and I want it to look good, but I don't want to have to worry about that. So that's why you're here.' I got all this responsibility to make decisions on stuff as long as he approved it. Because he really wanted to focus on telling that story. It was an amazing job, and he gave me a lot of freedom to do that."
As he continued on Thatcher explained that Nimoy knew early on that this was not like the Star Trek movies they'd made so far. "I think Leonard knew that it was going to be different. I think he knew that II was for the Trek fans, diehard sci-fi fans. III was kind of him cutting his teeth, and it had a classic bad guy." He went on to say, "I was on a panel with [Nick Meyer] about Star Trek IV , and he said, 'It's the only Star Trek that doesn't have a villain,' a Star Trek movie. I mean, you could say a V`ger's the villain in the first one, but there's no bad guy. The bad guy is human ignorance, and so it was very Star Trek in that way."
Thatcher went on to say that working on Star Trek was an "amazing job," particularly thanks to the faith Nimoy had in him at such a young age. He explains that he got to do a little bit of everything while working on Star Trek IV :
"I got to write dialogue and got to play the punk, and did a computer voice, the computer at the beginning where it says, 'Logic is the cement of our civilization with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide.' That's me and I wrote those questions. I was 23, and the fact that Leonard just gave me this sort of carte blanche to do stuff. He knew I was a science nerd, and Harve Bennett, too, was the producer, and the writer of all the Star Trek -era or the 23rd Century stuff. They just were like, 'Hey, do you want to do this because it's just gobbledygook, but it has to be Star Trek .' I'm like, 'Sure.' I know, it's kind of amazing. I don't know what star I was born under, or what pheromones my brain, my head, gives off, but they were trusting me. They trusted me way more than the studios do now, I will say. You work for Disney, they're so all over you about everything and I'm like, 'God, I was spoiled with Jim Henson.'"
You Don't Have to be a Star Trek Fan to Enjoy The Voyage Home
Star Trek IV serves as an excellent entry point for the now massive Star Trek franchise because "you didn't have to be a Star Trek fan" to enjoy it and that's what makes it such a successful movie. Thatcher explained:
"You could have just a tertiary knowledge of like, "'Oh, Kirk and Spock, and they're in space,' and still enjoy the movie. Whereas Khan , Wrath of Khan II , which is a great Star Trek movie, [but] if you don't know who that is, you're like, 'Why is this guy with his shirt open yelling and so over the top?' And I think that was it. It was a great movie, not just a great Star Trek movie."
Another boon to the movie's success is the fact that the characters are sent back in time. Most of the Star Trek timeline is set in the future, with the Vulcans not making first contact on Earth until 2063, and the events of The Original Series taking place another 200 years after that. But Star Trek IV sends Captian Kirk and company back to 1986, which is a little more fathomable for a wider audience. As Thatcher put it, the time travel elements of Star Trek IV made it more "relatable." He said:
" The time travel element, going back to the time that it was filmed in, really helps because, again, that made it relatable. 'Oh, they're in today, there's a punk.' It was much more relatable, and there's a sea park and all the things we have in our world. But the sense of humor, Nick Meyer is very dry, cutting, like, 'Judging by the pollution and content of the atmosphere, I believe we have landed somewhere in the latter half of the 20-' Just these little digs at our society, I think made it super popular. While we were filming it, I don't think anyone knew this was going to be the breakout movie. I just thought they thought this is a fun movie with great character stuff in it."
The Staying Power of Star Trek IV 's Comedy
During their conversation Weintraub pointed out that it's the little moments of Star Trek IV also add to the film's staying power, making it such a beloved movie among Star Trek and sci-fi fans. Thatcher revealed that the particular joke they're discussing — a moment when Scotty tries to talk to an Apple computer because that's how you interface with a computer on the Enterprise — is one that he contributed to the film. As he puts it:
"I wrote that gag, that he talks to the mouse, because I had just gotten an Apple 512 Mac, and so the whole thing was, they said, 'Well we're going to have the design thing done on a Macintosh because it's a graphic computer.' I said, 'Well, then Scotty should sit down,' — because I'm a Trek fan — I said, 'He should talk to the computer because he doesn't know. He'd just be like, 'Hello computer,' it doesn't do anything.' And then Alex Henteloff goes, 'Well use the mouse.' So he thinks it's a microphone because they look like a microphone. So that was my gag that got in the movie, and Leonard loved it."
Werewolf by Night is available to stream on Disney+. You can watch Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home right now on Paramount+ and check out the trailer down below.
Star Trek 4 Is 'Cursed' But Will Be 'Compelling'...if it Ever Happens, Says Chris Pine
Chris Pine offers a somewhat bleak update on the development of Star Trek 4.
Actor Chris Pine feels like the Star Trek franchise is “cursed” and provides a somewhat bleak update on the development of Star Trek 4 . In a new interview with Esquire , Pine explained the reasons why Star Trek 4 , which has been in development since 2016, has yet to materialize.
"After the last one came out and didn’t do the $1 billion that everybody wanted it to do, and then Anton, [Yelchin, who played Chekov] passed away, I don’t know, it just seemed..."
After a pause and some pondering, Pine, who has played the role of James T. Kirk since 2009's Star Trek reboot, adds that the franchise "feels like it’s cursed". Cursed it may be, but Pine is eager to see Star Trek 4 get made, praising the most recent script and calling it just as “compelling” as the 2009 outing.
"I will say it’s the first time [since the original reboot] that we have a story that feels as compelling as the first one."
However, just because Chris Pine knows nothing about where Star Trek 4 is in the development stages, does not mean it’s not moving forward...slowly. Pine admits that actors are usually the last to know when it comes to Star Trek , stating that often costume designers have seen the script before he has.
"In Star Trek land, the actors are usually the last people to find out anything. I know costume designers that have read scripts before the actors...I would say it’s frustrating. It doesn’t really foster the greatest sense of partnership, but it’s how it’s always been. I love the character. I love the people. I love the franchise. But to try to change the system in which things are created – I just can’t do it. I don’t have the energy."
RELATED: Star Trek 4: Plot, Cast, Release Date, and Everything Else We Know
Star Trek 4 Has Been Stuck in Development Hell for a While
A fourth Star Trek outing (the fourth in the reboot series, that it) has been in development since the release of Star Trek Beyond back in 2016. Several scripts for the sequel have been written, with one scrapped idea being to bring back Thor star Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk using time travel-type shenanigans. The current script, and the one that Pine has praised, was written by Josh Friedman ( War of the Worlds, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes ) and Cameron Squires ( WandaVision ).
Unfortunately, a release date for Star Trek 4 is looking further away than ever, with the project recently being removed from the Paramount Pictures release slate after being given a release date of December 22, 2023.
Chris Pine will soon lead another ensemble cast in the upcoming adaptation of the hugely popular table-top game Dungeons & Dragons in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves . The story follows a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers as they undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
Starring Chris Pine ( Wonder Woman, Star Trek ), Michelle Rodriguez (the Fast and Furious franchise), Regé-Jean Page ( Bridgerton, The Gray Man ), Justice Smith ( Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ), Sophia Lillis ( It, It Chapter Two ), and Hugh Grant ( The Gentlemen ), Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is scheduled to be released later this month on March 31, 2023, by Paramount Pictures.
Jonathan frakes talks star trek 4 problems, offer to direct.
Exclusive: Jonathan Frakes explains his offer to J.J. Abrams to direct Star Trek 4 and the state of the movie long mired in development hell.
Jonathan Frakes explains his offer to J.J. Abrams to direct the problematic Star Trek 4 . The fourth film in the Kelvin Timeline series of Star Trek movies was originally scheduled for release in 2023 but has since disappeared from Paramount's slate of upcoming releases. Many big names have been attached to the project such as Chris Hemsworth and Quentin Tarantino, but despite these huge industry figures, Star Trek 4 has failed to get off the ground.
In an exclusive Screen Rant interview to highlight the great work done by PanCAN, and Trek Against Pancreatic Cancer , the conversation turned to Jonathan Frakes' interest in directing Star Trek 4 , although he isn't privy to the current state of the film. Read his quote below:
I don't know much about that... the guy who was due to direct it [Matt Shakman] has gone off to do Fantastic Four, I think... And I'm not sure if they have a script, or if they had a script or a budget... I'm not sure at what stage Star Trek 4 is [in]. I did write an email to JJ [Abrams] and said, "If you need an experienced old white guy, I'm available." He wrote back and [said], "You certainly are experienced." So it's not for lack of asking, but I'm not sure what stage that movie is in. I love that cast.
RELATED: Chris Pine Has The Perfect Star Trek Movie Plan (But It Won't Happen)
Why Jonathan Frakes Is The Perfect Director For Star Trek 4
J.J. Abrams' movies came at a time when the Star Trek franchise was seemingly dead on TV, but it's been given a new lease of life on streaming. As the Star Trek streaming stable continues to expand, the gulf between the Prime Star Trek universe and the Kelvin Timeline grows ever larger. Frakes would be the perfect director to bring some continuity between the movie franchise and the TV franchise.
Like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and WandaVision director Matt Shakman, Frakes also has a substantial list of TV directing credits, so he feels like a natural successor to the departing director. On top of Frakes' work on beloved network TV shows like Burn Notice and Castle , Frakes has also directed several sci-fi movies for theaters. The most notable of these are the two Star Trek movies he directed in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
Jonathan Frakes directed the very best Star Trek: The Next Generation movie, 1996's Star Trek: First Contact , which continues to influence the franchise to this day. Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard is a First Contact sequel and has Jonathan Frakes on board as both Captain William T. Riker and as a director of Picard season 3, episodes 3 and 4. Picard season 3, episode 3, "Seventeen Seconds" featured an astonishing sequence where the Shrike tricked the USS Titan-A into firing on itself, with the use of a portal weapon. It was a dazzling moment that proves just how capable Frakes is at handling the VFX-heavy action sequences of a big-budget movie. Frakes' love for the franchise and his own wealth of experience makes him the perfect choice to direct Star Trek 4 .
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Chris Pine Still Waiting On ‘Star Trek 4’; Hasn’t Heard Anything About Paramount Pivoting From Kelvin Crew
| November 22, 2023 | By: TrekMovie.com Staff 83 comments so far
With the strikes over Paramount is reportedly looking to get their long-languishing update to Star Trek Beyond back going again. However, their star Chris Pine is expressing frustration over the the project.
Pine still waiting for script
Chris Pine is out promoting his role in the new Disney animated movie Wish but of course, he still gets questions about Star Trek. When asked if Paramount is planning on moving away from the Kelvin Universe in favor of something new, possibly tied into one of the Paramount+ original Star Trek shows Pine told comicbook.com “Not that I know [of].”
Getting Pine onboard was key to the latest attempt at a Kelvin-era movie after a previous attempt (which also included Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk) was shelved after salary talks with Pine and Hemsworth broke down in 2018. After that, Paramount did move forward on a new idea with writer/director Noah Hawley but that project was shut down in 2020 after a change in leadership at Paramount Pictures with the studio moving back to doing a follow-up to Beyond with Pine and the rest of the Kelvin cast . Over the last couple of years, Pine and co-stars have expressed their enthusiasm for returning to the roles and he has even talked about continuing to play Kirk long into his career.
Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek Beyond
That being said, Pine still appears frustrated about being kept in the dark over the project. When asked by comicbook.com if he has seen a script he replied “Of course not.” The actor has previously expressed his frustration over not seeing a script.
The latest report from Variety said Paramount had writers “fine-tuning” the script with hopes of getting the film back into pre-production following the double strikes. Early in 2022 Paramount announced plans to return to the Kelvin Universe for another movie which was to be shot last fall for a Christmas 2023 release, however by the summer director Matt Shakman had exited the project and Paramount pulled the movie off their release schedule. Recently TrekMovie reported how pre-production was stalled over script issues in 2022. However, over the last year Paramount, producer JJ Abrams, and even Matt Shakmanhave said the project remains active. Most recently one of the original co-writers for the project said it was “ still on the tracks .”
For now, you can see Chris Pine as King Magnifico in Wish …
This is a developing story (and has been for over seven years) so stay tuned for more updates here at TrekMovie.
Find more news and analysis on upcoming Star Trek feature films .
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Writers Guild Reaches Tentative Deal To End Strike; Some Star Trek Work Could Begin Again Soon [UPDATED]
One of the really puzzling things about the last announcement of the movie from Abrams was that they had a start date in mind, and then it turned out that they had not bothered to tell that to the actors or their representatives. If Pine is still out of the loop to the point he has not seen a script, it sounds like nothing much has changed. Wouldn’t the lead actor of the movie usually be part of the development of a project like this?
The more time that passes, the more the SNW versions of the TOS characters displace whatever memory the public had of the Kelvin versions. By the time a new Kelvin movie actually got started, Pine and company will be near the age of the TOS actors when they made the first movie. I wonder if the Paramount powers that be are making a decision to not make another Kelvin movie by just not making a decision and letting time make it for them.
That’s because Abrams didn’t really have a start date in mind. All he had was a press release. Paramount’s chatter post-strike about wanting to make another Trek feature is just that. Chatter. And it sounds like Pine knows his ship has sailed with the current franchise.
Reminds me of Deforest talking on Tom Snyder in the 70s about the first movie. He said words to the effect, we’ve got a start date but no script; that’s a lot more hopeful than everybody else, who have scripts but no start date (this was back in early 76), you can actually watch the show on trakt.tv
Any new Kelvin timeline movie needs to be made at a substantially reduced budget. Can Paramount afford the cast at this point?
That would be said of any new Trek movie, regardless of cast. One thing you’ll be able to take to the bank, the next theatrical film won’t be a FX extravaganza…..
Unfortunately these days, it seems many people only go to the movies for FX and visuals… If it’s scifi, it must be whizz-bang or they’re out. A film can have a really good story but if the FX sucks, then it seems the low-attention young ‘uns will stay away.
The FX don’t have to suck, but don’t build a movie reliant on them. The biggest movies of the year weren’t any of the Marvel FX wash-rinse-repeat stories snoozefests, but a docudrama and the adventures of a plastic doll. Both had FX, and both were made for under 150MM. That reinforces a point others have made, tell better stories.
Looking at Sci-Fi, maybe Paramount should talk to the team behind “The Creator”. This movie has some impressive VFX on a budget of allegedly only $80 million. However, looking at Box Office Mojo just now the movie seems to have pretty much crashed so maybe that isn’t a good sign to use it as inspiration.
that film was caught up in the actors strike and got no cast promotion or even a premiere so lost out at the box office, as did many during that time
Chris Pine is such a monumental actor at this point, I can’t imagine them being able to afford him or any of the rest of the cast. It truly is incredible all the work they’ve gotten since 2009. But the reality is that ship has sailed – it sailed in 2016. Beyond ended on a pretty great note in my opinion. They destroyed the ship and were waiting for the new one to be built, and their eyes are turned up at the possibilities of future adventures. It felt like the ending to a trilogy, and even if they were to try to make a fourth film, it will be ten years between movies. Nope, the closest we’ll be getting to Star Trek on the big screen for the foreseeable future is the Paramount IMAX events for the fans when they do season premieres and finales for one day only. Maybe they’ll do a same day release of Section 31, but that’s pretty much it.
Nah, perhaps it will be 5 years, perhaps 10, but Trek will bring them back for another run at some point. To sit here TODAY and assume that it’s over for good ignores both Trek and sff genre production history.
They’ll be back at some point.
Well I didn’t say that there wouldn’t be any more Trek movies – I said for the foreseeable future it will just be TV, because if they do another movie it won’t be a fourth Kelvin film, it will be something else entirely. What that would be is anyone’s guess, though – none of the streaming shows are popular enough to warrant a wide release film. Star Trek just isn’t in the zeitgeist like it was in the TNG days, and 2009 was 15 whole years ago – that wave of Trek died out before Into Darkness. Nothing short of a TNG reboot would be worth the studio $$$ to bring in an audience.
I sort of agree with you, but I also think parts of the Kelvin cast will be back in their roles in some form on a future movie. Maybe it’s 10 years from now and it’s a one-off, or maybe Pine and Quinto are part of a crossover movie. These franchises today cannot resist eventually brining characters like these back. It will happen in some form — my prediction anyway for what that’s worth. :-)
They should really just stick to TV because the movies have to grab more than loyal fans and Star Trek just doesn’t have that kind of pull.
The Kelvin movies was an experiment that ultimately failed. They were meant to create new fans and invest in a new universe and those new fans lost interest pretty quickly. And they went back to the old universe because that’s what the old fans, ie the millions who grew up on it and paid for the merchandise religiously, actually wanted to have back. They had five chances at least to make a show in JJ verse if a movie is too expensive to do and still no takers.
Maybe another JJ verse movie will happen again but the fact fans are begging for the Legacy show over another movie speaks volumes.
I don’t mind the movies, any movie, but Trek will always belong on TV first and foremost. They tried doing just movies and that died off after the second one as you said. And even if they made another movie most fans sound like they want it back in the prime universe and that makes even harder for Paramount.
People keep saying that, but how is Pine “monumental”? He hasn’t been in a hit movie in years. Dungeons & Dragons , which I enjoyed, was a total flop.
Wish is now on its way to being another flop
If you want an indicator if a movie may bomb or or not, you check to see if Chris Pine is in the main role. 😉
Reason #47 Paramount probably isn’t exactly rushing out that next Star Trek movie with this cast lol.
Dungeons and Dragons is a Paramount movie. So it would seem that Paramount believes in Pine’s star power even though that belief may not be justified. I completely agree that Paramount probably has doubts about the profitability of a new Star Trek movie (otherwise they would have made one already) but those doubts do not seem to be based on the cast.
Don’t expect any Dungeons and Dragons sequels after that disaster either lol.
This guy hasn’t had one single hit movie since Beyond except Wonder Woman. And they could’ve dressed up a monkey in his clothes and that would’ve still made a lot of money.
And they must have some doubts what they are paying the cast is worth it if they think the next movie can still tank if they are in it or not? I’m not blaming them, I’m only saying them being in the movie is a non factor if it’s going to make any money as Pine himself has been proving movie after movie.
Why it just make sense to make a movie with a different cast at this point if they can’t make a movie for around $100 million. I doubt another movie would even make over $200 million at this point.
Why Star Trek should just stick to TV.
Paramount know the cast offer next to nothing in terms of ‘butts on seats’ (and Pine like his fellow Chris’ non superhero/jurassic films dosnt really offer anything in box office value). Its ‘Star Trek’ thats the draw card for audiences (or not).
And yeah it does feel at this point a kelvin ST4 would probably do Marvels style box office (if its lucky) . So for it to even half worthwhile the budget would have to be capped at about 120m.
And for that it’d have to be something that appealed to fans and general audiences (like ST09) therefore probably have to involve time travel, with multiverse stuff/legacy actors (as thats whats sort of popular now and makes sense with kelvinverse), Klingons, a madman villain, ship battles, action, etc
It just.. doesn’t seem possible.. but then did a big budget (successful) Trek movie seem possible after Nemesis?
I’ll agree with all of this. So many big franchises are hurting right now and when they have problems making any real money, smaller guys like Star Trek probably has no shot of making any money period unless the movie feels extra special to get Trekkies to go again and again and that they keep the budget low, like $80-100 million.
They try and make another Beyond with a $200 million budget that thing will crash and burn lol. I think a multiverse movie can get fans more excited if they bring in characters from the Prime Universe, but it will scare away non fans which is part of the problem. But it’s not going to get a lot of them no matter what. The first movie was more of a fluke because it looked cool, big and not too Trek-y. But by the time STID came a lot of them stopped caring but still enough to make money. By the time Beyond came hardly anyone cared by then.
When most Trekkies don’t even care about these movies anymore you have a real problem and Paramount knows it. I really think JJ verse should’ve died when Beyond flopped because it was clear then the hype was over. It was never going to be a big movie like they wanted and now they can even bomb. If they really want to keep JJ verse around (sigh) but worried it will still bomb, fine in the theater, then put it on Paramount+ and just make it cheaper.. But maybe that’s unrealistic too.
Not to sure you can lay Wish’s box office at the feet of Pine, and if it tracks like Elemental did earlier in the year it may still be a profitable project. But you be you, believing every Pine project is a catastrophe. I know people who believe (American) elections are rigged, too.
Bro I’m not blaming Pine for Wish box office lol. What I’m saying is he’s just not a draw on his own, period. In fact I’ll do him a solid and say I heard he’s one of the highlights in the movie. I know the movie being considered bad is what is really keeping people away. It’s no way it’s going to track like Elemental because people thoroughly liked that movie. I saw it opening weekend and loved it. What’s killing Wish is partly its word of mouth.
As for Pine he’s just not a star. He’s been in bad movies like this one that has flopped. He’s also been in in good movies that has flopped. No one is showing up to see him in any of these movies the way people will show up for A list stars even if the movie is still bad.
And what are the other 46 reasons? Give it a try, SERIOUSLY!
I probably couldn’t come up with 46 reasons directly but I can tell you they just arrive at the same conclusion and it’s Paramount being a horrible studio who has no idea what to do with these movies.
The cast is fabulous. Please either write them a script worthy of their talents and of Trek, or move on.
If everyone got a call today, Trek (1)4 doesn’t hit the big screen until 2026, ten fracking years after STB. Any story told with this cast has to reflect the passage of time, otherwise it’s a waste of time.
Kelvin V’ger is pissed, and Admiral Kirk wants his ship back.
Trouble is, nobody ever really solved the story problems on TMP, so you’ve still got the enormous ‘second half of act 2 sag’ issue, along with so many others.
There are little tricks to improve on some of the problems, like actually showing how tough it is to fly a ship at warp 7+ while just 500 meters away from another object (I haven’t ever bought into the ‘matched warp fields’ notion often espoused about TMP, outside of Diane Duane’s later novel MY ENEMY MY ALLY which has nothing to do with vger.)
Also, cutting away to other parts of the ship instead of keeping the camera trapped on the bridge would help justify why they need a crew of 400 on this particular mission. Are they all there just to replace inertial stabilizers that are 18 seconds from failure?
IMO, the only way forward on the vger/tmp course (and this wouldn’t really address the issues raised above, just try to put a button things) would be to go back to GR’s novelization, where Kirk, at the vger site, asks, ‘will it accept u s ?’ (as the creator.) You then have Kirk, Spock, and McCoy combine with vger, saving the day and thus ending the Kelvin film series, leaving Decker (if you even retain that character) as E’s captain.
It’d be a nice gesture to include David Gautreaux (phase 2’s Xon, Spock’s replacement) as Sonak, assuming the guy is even still acting. And Ken Wattanabe or one of the lesser-known cast members from MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE might make for a great Nogura. But I’d also figure that to modernize TMP, they’d probably end up having to do the ‘defy authority’ thing and steal the Enterprise, so that’s push it even further away from the original in both concept and execution.
Or, maybe, just tell a new story. Damn, I can be so unreasonable at times….
Yeah, I just read that they’re doing a standalone ALIEN movie that takes place between the original Scott and the Cameron film. Granted, it sounds like a teen slasher movie in space given the cast, but considering that Hawley’s ALIEN TV series is getting great talent like Olyphant, so being a franchise doesn’t necessarily mean redoing the same ol’ / same ol’ EVERY single time, does it … ?
Someone get on the horn with Quintin Tarantino please :D
They already did that, and he apparently pulled out of the project somewhere in the development process after they had a script.
He’s also making a big deal about 10 being a good round number of films for him to have directed and be done after.
Good god, no. That movie sounded awful.
“Let them die .”
In other words, ‘No news here, Happy Thanksgiving!’
Maybe there is. I inferred from the story his reply to the question was a bit snippy. If he’s moved to the “go lie to someone who’ll believe you” mindset about Trek news from Paramount, he may be of the opinion now that that ship has indeed sailed.
At the very least he confirmed that there is no script ready to show actors, which presumably means that development is still a long ways from nearing production, if not altogether stopped.
It’s almost been long enough between movies that it’s about time for V’ger to show up in the Kelvin universe, no?
Come on, in three seasons TOS (almost) never revisited anyone – Metrons, Organians, Gorn, Kelvans, Talosians. or a number of others, if we’re going to insisting on mining canon for future bad guys. Let’s hope there aren’t anymore of those (Doomsday Machine) things out there……what if there were?
I know everybody thinks you can just make a Star Trek movie on a substantially reduced budget, but to get enough people in a theater to pay for a ticket in the first place, you need to make a pricey spectacle. There really is no room for midrange budgets in theaters, you either create a blockbuster or you release it for streaming. If anything, the opportunity for success with a budget-oriented Star Trek movie is lower than ever. You go big, or you go home…literally….home streaming. I’m sure this is the conundrum they are dealing with.
They know the next one can bomb because only hardcore fans like on this board even cares anymore.
Most people will just wait to watch it on Paramount+ and watch it along side SNW, Picard and Lower Decks. The hype for these movies died off a decade ago after STID. No one even talks about them anymore.
And if Mission Impossible and Transformer movies can barely make a profit these days, a Star Trek movie has even less of a chance unless the budget is super low.
Well, pricy spectacles (that aren’t Marvel movies) really haven’t done the job so far. Barbie and Oppenheimer would like a word with you…..
Oh, this again?
Exclusive interview with Chris Pine discussing Star Trek 4
Interviewer: “I’m here with mega Star Chris Pine who has made four movies that didn’t bomb, how you today Chris?”
Pine: “I’m great, thanks. Happy to be here ”
Interviewer: “We are coming up on the eighth anniversary since Star Trek Beyond was released but still no word on the next movie. The world is on pins and needles for the next generic super villain to destroy the Federation out for Vengeance…oops spoiler alert, but have you heard anything about the next movie?”
Pine: “Not a word although I go on Reddit and read they are working on a new script and it’s supposedly fabulous according to everyone who worked on it before they left the project a year ago. It sounds promising.”
Interviewer: “I see, have you read any of the scripts?”
Pine: “Not officially but there was a supposed leaked script back in 2018 I believe that landed on Ain’t it Cool News. It sounded pretty legit to me”
Interviewer: “Have you met any of the directors?”
Pine: ‘Like who?”
Interviewer: Quinten Tarantino for one?”
Pine: “No, but I saw an interview of him discussing it on YouTube back in 2019. He sounded pretty confident he still kinda wanted to do it? Is he still on that project?”
Interviewer: “No. How about SJ Clarkson?”
Pine: “I don’t remember who that is, but I know she would be perfect for it.”
Interviewer: “What about JJ Abrams. Do you talk to him about it?”
Pine: ‘JJ changed his number a year ago but my agent is working on getting it.”
Interviewer: “I really hope he gets it for you, has Paramount been in touch at all about doing another one?”
Pine: “I still get random emails about upgrading my Paramount+ account, but other than that, no.’
Interviewer: “Interesting, if they did make another one what would you like to see in it?”
Pine: “I don’t know, maybe Kirk goes up against a big bad or something who wants to take over the galaxy. Something that really says Star Trek. Maybe he’ll be from another century too to really mix things up. Also be cool if Kirk gets to ride another motorcycle. That was a lot of fun. I have lots of ideas.”
Interviewer: “I’ve see you thought hard about this. any last words?”
Pine: “I really do want another scene riding a motorcycle. Hopefully Tarantino will throw that in ”
Interviewer: “I already said he’s not working on it anymore.”
Pine: “Right. I just hope we get back to working on this great franchise. I’m 10-20% confident another one will happen.”
Interviewer: “That doesn’t sound very high.”
Pine: “Have you not been paying attention bro?”
Interviewer: “Well thank you for this very informative and insightful interview. One more thing, have you ever watched Star Trek Lower Decks? What are your thoughts?”
Pine: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic! Maybe they will make a movie out of that instead.”
Interviewer: ” I completely agree. That’s all the time we have for today. Thank you Chris.”
Pine: “My pleasure.”
Fan base reaction: My wife’s maid of honors’ ex boyfriends’ brother was hired, and he’s been building sets for months down in the swamps of Jersey. It’s a secret, but he saw Shatner, Brooks, and Stewart on set with Chris Pine. It’s gonna be great when it gets released in four months!!
I think you just copied that from a post on this board somewhere in 2017! 😂
Gullible fans will believe anything unfortunately even as the years and cancelled projects keep ticking by.
I truly enjoyed this. Cheers.
It would just be nice to have some sort of film in 2026 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Trek. But at least we’ll have TV series helping with that.
I don’t think anything will top the 30th though for pomp and circumstance.
If the Section 31 movie is a reasonable success maybe Paramount+ will make another made-for-streaming movie.
“This is a developing story (and has been for over seven years) so stay tuned for more updates here at TrekMovie.”
I mean it is fascinating to see how many comments these non-stories generate each time.
At this point I just like to make fun of them. How many times has Chris Pine said the same thing? I’m sure the guy gets tired of being asked it now, especially after Paramount and his buddy JJ trolled their own actors saying a movie was happening and no one even got a phone call.
I can’t blame TM too much for posting these articles since it gets people talking but it’s become a parody now when even the actors stopped taking any of it seriously.
Actually, the number seems a bit light. Noticeably absent are the ones with some sort of imaginary “insider” knowledge……
It needs to be special to get folks to the theaters. I think a decades spanning story with stars from various shows can do that. However the cost would definitely be an issue. Also the studio woukd be concerned about audiences not knowing the past characters. A great story may alleviate that. In a best case you could be introducing a broader audience to some great characters. What better way to honor the 60th anniversary by honoring many of the shows characters. The interaction between various crews would be cool for many fans. Key is getting a story worthy of a big screen feature and a budget that would work.
So long as the kelvin cast were to interact with TOS (via deepfake) and/or TNG. But I don’t think audiences/fans would be interested in the rest (be ok for TV tho, e.g. Archer/NX01 in SNW, Janeway/Voyager in Legacy or whatever etc)
Don’t kid yourself, most audiences don’t care about the Kelvin cast anymore either.
Beyond made that very clear. The first movie did well because it was a complete reboot of the franchise since it started and put in a lot of young and upcoming actors and people actually thought JJ Abrams was a good story teller. And they turned it into Star Wars.
That was 15 years ago now. Most people have completely moved on. Even Trekkies don’t really talk about them much today. I’m not saying no one cares about them anymore but no one is in a rush to see them in a theater anymore either. Most will just wait for it to come to streaming and watch it there
And majority of people who even bother to pay will be the people who watched all the old stuff. What’s weird is the Kelvin movies now feel ancient like the other stuff.
Ask a 20 year old about them and see the response you get. It’s not on the radar with young people although it was designed to attract teenagers in the first place.
Why they don’t try and do a streaming show is beyond me? That’s probably the most realistic way to make one for that universe.
It’s not going to ever have the hype it did back in 2009. Most people whose never watched them couldn’t tell you anything about them because they have fallen completely off the popular culture radar.
I partially agree, it has to feel like an event film that will at least get the casual fans to care again. If not they will just wait for it to come to streaming.
But I still don’t think it’s going to make a ton of money or anything but the best chance to at least make a profit if they keep the budget low enough.
People think I’m being hard on these movies because I don’t like them. But Paramount has made this extra clear now for over 5 years.
Like why not make the Section 31 movie a feature and not just a streaming movie, especially with Yeoh so hot right now? Because they know only Trekkies will care and it could still bomb even if they gave it a $100 million budget.
They have to find a way to make non Trekkies interested in Star Trek again or old Trekkies excited enough to watch a movie in drives and they obviously don’t have a clue on how to do either anymore.
should at least try to honour the movie series which started nearly 45 years ago with TMP
That brand of “special” is best suited to comic book crossovers. Sorry, a Trek celebrity roast would be more compelling…..
In a way, there already is a whole new time line. “Star Trek:Strange New Worlds” and ST: Discovery have varied from both original series and Kelvin time lines. Much so that I hope creators decide to not make Pike’s original series fate inevitable. In the Kelvin timeline Pike is killed by Romulan commander Nero, Eric Bana. In OS, he’s crippled by reactor accident. I am 60 years old. I loved the Star Trek OS. But, if you rehash the exact same storyline to be “canon” it makes every thing that is to happen a fate accomplished. I forgot the spelling of that famous French saying. There is no suspense, no mystery, everything is predictable. In the Kelvin timeline, Original Series Spock tried to save the planet Romulus from a planetary catastrophy. However, what he does is viewed as hastening the Romulus’s demise. The collapse of the planet send OG Spock, Leonard Nimoy and Romulan commander and his hulking ship 20 years back in time. Nimoy’s Spock meets Zachary Quinto’s younger Spock. Nero destroys the Planet Vulcan. So the Kelvin time line is WAY OFF the OS timeline. At this point with all this broadcast/streaming Star Trek, including reruns available at Paramount +; TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the new series, there may be little interest in a Chris Pond, and Zachary Quinto Kirk and Spock in the Kelvin timeline. There was talk of getting Chris Hemsworth back as Kirk’s father. But, he’s not going to be interested. He is now very picky if projects, and the one’s he pick he wants total creative control. This has to do with a possible Alzheimer’s in the future based on genetic disposition. If he’s going to commit, he will 100% commit, but only to a project he can have creative control of. He can do this because, as they say in the business, he has “F” you money. He can be leveraged into an unwanted role because he and his family are permanently financially secure. He’s not an extravagant man. A very outdoor kind of guy. He’s not spending himself into vulnerability. Unlike Nicholas Cage.
If Spock only traveled in time like Star Trek IV he could have returned to his own timeline as long as Nero didn’t alter the past, he could go back to his present. Borrow a ship and slingshot around the sun to achieve timewarp. That isn’t the version of time travel Bob Orci used. There is no reset button, Spock died in the JJ timeline aka the Kelvin timeline. Nobody in the actual real Star Trek timeline/ Prime timeline knows what happened to him. Even more lost than Kirk who is only an Echo in the Nexus.
It’s still funny how no one in the Prime Universe even seems to care what happened to Spock. Picard mentioned him when he gave Elnor his book to read in season 2 but not a word about what happened to him. I guess everyone just assumed he died with the supernova.
I wouldn’t mind seeing one final film with this cast. But even if the cast was confirmed and they went into production tomorrow, it would be late 2025 before we see it. To borrow a phrase from my grandmother was fond of using, “ they need to sht or get off the pot. ”
Give the Kelvin cast a Nemesis -style film (but with a good script and a director who actually knows the franchise), one last hoorah with a grand adventure to bring the characters together again. Of course, IF this film actually happens … and I still don’t think it will … Paramount (the film division) needs to make sure the promotion department actually knows how to promote the film.
I’d be happy with a movie with exploration and the Enterprise not getting blown up for a change. And not redoing the Khan super villain on a mad quest for revenge again.
Same. Given the big time lag between Beyond and the next film (if it happens), move the Kelvin crew forward a decade or so … bring them back together for a big galactic mystery that’s based on scientific discovery and adventure, and make it this cast’s final film.
Personally, I’d be fine without another movie from this cast. Trek 09 was a great popcorn movie — but they’d really have to do something interesting to pull me in now after nearly 15 years.
Star Trek is thriving on TV.
The last time I was excited for a Trek movie was when we didn’t get it on TV. The story and depth, even in Discovery, is so much greater than they can ever achieve in a 2 hour movie.
I would so much rather get a 6-10 hour mini series or a 10- episode season on TV in place of a movie.
The movie is also really risky – what happens if they spend $250m on the movie and it bombs? Paramount is not Disney – Disney churning out Marvel movies that nobody sees is one thing – Paramount doing so with a Trek movie is different.
I don’t know that I agree with all of that. TWOK delivered more depth than whole seasons of the current shows, even if it did let Khan get a little buffoonish by the end. Even its cheapness is mitigated by the fact that they usually spent the money where it was most needed, in that smash-bang Mutara finale.
I do think limited-series is an ideal size to tackle a good trek story, one with additional levels of sell (i.e., complications that deepen the story”s effect), but we’ve seen no indication as of yet that they are willing to down this road. Here’s hoping an infusion of new blood or management can change that equation, as currently there is no Trek I’m looking forward to watching.
“JJ changed his number and my agent is working on getting it…” is a pretty clear indicator that this isn’t happening.
Ok I have to stress that wasn’t a real interview! That was just my very warped sense of humor and I was just goofing around and making light how ridiculous this has all gotten.
And I’m almost certain his agent got his new number now!
See, I can’t stop! 😂
When you have to explain the joke…..
He thought I was being serious lol
Wanted to make it clear it’s just me goofing off.
JJ’s his godson, if he doesn’t have the number it probably portends more than just a business foulup.
At the rate they are going Pine will age out of the Kirk role. He is already 43.
Shatner was 62/63 when he last appeared in an official Trek production. Stewart shot Picard at over 80. So there’s still some room for Pine, though there may be less frenetic running around by the cast ;-)
I’d be willing to bet Pine will still be in decent shape at 63. Hell, I turn 60 next February and just ran my first 12K.
Its been so long maybe they should throw out everything they worked on for 4th film and start again with a direct sequel to the first film ‘legacy sequel’ style (and really shake stuff up with timelines alternate universe stuff )
But what story? Maybe someone like Soran (perhaps actually soran in the kelvin timeline, played by Jude Law or Gary Oldman) is attempting to alter the kelvin timeline back to prime with timetravel (guardian of forever or slingshot or red matter) but in doing so it goes wrong and Nero (Eric Bana returning) survives ST09 and destroys earth.. Flash forward 20years starfleet is like Battlestar Galactica under constant threat from new Romulan/Klingon empire led by Supreme Emperor Nero and his fleet headed by the Narada. The Enterprise crew disbanded long ago is now on various ships, Kirk encounters Soran and finds he was responsible for changing things allowing Nero to win. He contacts Spock (now in charge of whats left of Vulcan people) and they band together once again (minus chekov unfortunately) on the battered old Enterprise in order to go back to prevent Soran doing what he did, Big finale where they assist their younger ST09 selves to defeat Soran and Nero.(they also have the chance to do what soran was attempting and alter things back to how they’d be originally/prime timeline, but do they? or do they let the kelvin timeline go ahead?? Big existential dilemma, kirk vs spock etc)
Could even rope in Malcom McDowell to play old Soran for when Kirk encounters him.(cue joke about death by falling bridges)
The longest gap between Star Trek movies since TMP was released in 1979 was the seven years between Nemesis in 2002 and JJ’s Star Trek in 2009. ST Beyond came out in 2016, so we have officially matched that 7-year gap and will exceed it.
At this point, Star Trek seems to be staying on TV with SNW’s 3rd season, Disco’s 5th and final season, TLD’s next season and beyond, ST Academy and Sec 31 still getting prepped all yet to come out.
Not only that, but Paramount’s last couple of IP-based movies pretty much all bombed or made next-to-nothing (TMNT, Transformers, M:I, D&D). Their track record is not good lately, not sure they should risk producing a new Star Trek movie.
Put a fork in the Kelvin timeline; it’s done. (Thankfully.)
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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Published Nov 21, 2015
Interview: Trek IV's Punk on the Bus
By StarTrek.com Staff
What’s the common denominator between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan , Star Trek III: The Search for Spock , Star Trek: IV: The Voyage Home , Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the punk on the bus in The Voyage Home , the Muppets, Gremlins, and also the Lifetime television movie Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow? The answer is Kirk Thatcher. Thatcher worked on Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock during his early days at Industrial Light and Magic. It’s also where he worked on Gremlins and Return of the Jedi. He served as Leonard Nimoy’s personal assistant on The Voyage Home , eventually receiving screen credit as associate producer. He also, for that film, played the punk on the bus and even co-wrote the song “I Hate You.” Oh, and he provided the voice of the Vulcan computer. As for the Muppets , he learned puppeteering from the best: Jim Henson, and went on to write, produce and/or direct several Muppet projects, including It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and now Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow , which will air tonight.
The family film is based on an unproduced Thanksgiving special Henson and his writing partner Jerry Juhl first envisioned back in 1968. The tale centers on a newly divorced father and his kids, who venture out to the country to spend time with their eccentric Aunt Cly (Mary Steenburgen) on her farm, only to learn that the area’s celebrated mythical monster, the Howling Hoodoo, may not be all that mythical. Then, while searching for the Howling Hoodoo in the forest just beyond Aunt Cly’s farm, the family comes across four other unusual, furry and music-loving creatures. StarTrek.com caught up with Thatcher for a detailed conversation in which he discussed his career, the passing of his friend and mentor, Nimoy, and Turkey Hollow. Here’s what he had to say:
Let’s start with Star Trek . How did you first connect with the franchise?
I had been at UCLA animation, learning about computers. I got the job at ILM when I’d just turned 19. I was actually 18 when I got it and 19 when I started. I worked there for about three years. Then I worked on Gremlins with Chris Walas, and I realized that computers were going to take over the FX industry, even early on. Lucas had the early stages of Pixar. Even John Lassiter was there, and they were doing these simple animated shorts. Then, on Star Trek , they’d done the Genesis thing. But I went back to UCLA to study computer animation, and while I was there someone came through the animation department to say they were looking for an assistant to Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek IV . But you had to know special effects. So I was tailor-made for the job. I went and met Leonard, and I knew he’d met a couple of other guys. But I’d literally just stopped working at ILM six or eight months earlier. So I knew everyone. I knew the processes they used. And I knew the political environment. That’s not why they hired me, but I knew who to talk to if there was a problem.
And you and Nimoy hit it off?
We did. He was such a charming person. Avuncular is the word I use. He was like an uncle. So we went to lunch and he asked me some questions, and we talked about Star Trek and Star Wars, and what I liked about both of them. Had I seen Star Trek? I was a closet Trekkie. I’d grown up watching it and loved it. One of the funny stories was that when Star Trek IV screened my parents met Leonard, and they said, “Oh, this is such a big thing for our son. He had a poster of you and Captain Kirk above his bed.” I’d never told Leonard that, so I was mortified, of course. I was glad he found out at the screening and not before I got the job. Sorry if I’m going out of sequence. I worked on II and III because I was at ILM, in the creature shop. I helped build Chekov’s ear and the Ceti eels. In fact, somewhere, there’s a shot of me helping animate worms that came out of the bacteria in Spock’s coffin. And I puppeteered the Klingon dog, too, the one that sat at Christopher Lloyd’s feet. So I was under a chair on the Klingon Bird of Prey, animated that dog for a lot of days, though I don’t think I got a credit.
So you met Nimoy, but didn’t really interact with him on Search for Spock ? Everything from working with him to being the punk on the bus came together on IV…
Right. It was on IV that I got to know him. I started as his assistant and then, about halfway through, he said, “I’d like to make you associate director,” but there was no such term. I couldn’t be a first assistant director because that’s an actual job. So he said, “Would you be OK with associate producer?” I said, “Of course. Thank you so much.” Then the punk scene just came about because I said to Leonard, “Hey, there’s this scene in the movie. Can I play the punk.” I’d been in a punk band and I’d had a shorter version of the Mohawk before. He thought about it for a week to 10 days and then said, “Yes.” I said, “You won’t regret this.” I went and got my hair done and gathered the outfit.
And how was the “I Hate You” bit done?
It was done dry. There was no music playing because they wanted to record the dialogue with Leonard and William Shatner. So I was just bopping along to a metronome in my head. When it came time to put a song in there, Paramount had their music publishing division. The bands they were thinking of weren’t really punk bands. They were more new wave, more like Duran Duran. This was supposed to be angry punk music. I told Leonard that I could bang out a song in a couple of hours that would be an appropriate punk song. And he said, “Have at it.” So I did it. And the sound effects editor/designer, Mark Mangini, had become friends. We worked together on Gremlins. So he turned it into a guitar riff. And that’s how “I Hate You” came about.
What else did you come up with for The Voyage Home ?
I came up with passing out on the boom box. I came up with Scotty talking to the mouse. That was a gag I wrote. I wrote the dialogue at the beginning of the movie, when Spock is at the computer and the computer is asking him all these questions and he’s answering. They recorded my voice as a temp track, just so Leonard had something to react to when we were filming. Ultimately, they just said, “Hey, we’re going to use it, but we’re not going to give you a credit because you’d be in the credits like five times if we did.” I said, “That’s OK. I’m just honored that you used it,” not only the questions, but my voice. I also got to work with the guys designing the aliens. I got to help redesign the Klingon foreheads, because they thought they looked like a waffle iron on someone’s head. I said, “Let’s go back to something a little more subtle.” There’s no wrong Klingon forehead, but I got to art direct what I thought they should look more like. Leonard let me be involved in a lot of that kind of thing, because he was so involved in the story and making the characters work. It was a huge show of trust by Leonard, and I’ll be forever grateful.
And it was a great learning lesson for me. At that point in my life, what made a movie for me was art direction and special effects and production design, and not will the boy get the girl or will the friends make up? It was a great lesson for me about the importance of the story. We’d talk about directing. Leonard would say, “All this technical stuff, you can rely on other people who know much more about it than you do. But the one thing you have to know is your story and why people should care. What’s going to make them care about the characters, whatever they are, whether it’s live-action or animation or puppets. Why do we care about them?” I think that’s why several of his movies, particularly Star Trek IV and Three Men and a Baby , were so successful. You cared about the characters and what they went through, and you went on the ride with them. Thanks to Leonard and Harve Bennett and Nick Meyer, all of the characters on Star Trek IV came through. They told a story that made sense and was fun, but it was a story about this group of friends going through this experience, with one of the friends having just come back from the dead.
You and Nimoy stayed in touch over the years. And, a year or two before he passed away, he tweeted a shot of the two of you having lunch together. Was that the last time you saw him? And what do you remember of the day?
We had stayed close. We had lunch a couple of times a year probably through the late 90s. Then I was off doing movies and it became once a year and then once every couple of years. He sort of retired from the film business. But we’d go to a deli near where he lived, and we’d talk about life and show business. Again, the uncle analogy is really true. He’d say, “Who are you dating? What do you really want?” I remember, in my early 30s, saying, “Well, I have a house now and I’m looking to meet someone.” He said, “That’s good. That’s good. That’s important. You’re settling down and finding your way.” Later, when he retired, I said, “So wait, you’re going to retire and just take pictures of naked women in your garage?” I said, “You set up my goals. I want to work in the film business, retire on a high note and then just take pictures of naked women at my house.” He laughed. He had a great sense of humor and we could joke back and forth. Leonard was such a wonderful guy that you could not not be friends with him if he wanted to be friends with you. Spock was this cold, unfeeling, logical character, but in real life Leonard was this warm, funny, curious guy who actually cared about people and not just the work.
And that photo was from the last time I saw him. I hadn’t seen him in probably four years. Then one day I was driving and I got an email or a text from Leonard. It said, “Hey, what are you doing?” I said I’m driving through the canyon, going to the beach. He was like, “Sounds good. Let’s have lunch or dinner.” So he sort of started it. He told me he had COPD and he said there wasn’t a great prognosis. We had lunch at his place; he didn’t want to go out. We talked about his kids and his grandkids and his nieces and nephews. We talked about family and what I’d been doing and just life in general. He said he had to be on oxygen once in a while. He didn’t dwell on (his illness), but I had the feeling it could be the last time I’d see him. If you see the photo, I look a little melancholy. And I think that’s how I was feeling, like, “Is this the last picture I’m going to have with him?” He lived another year and change. But that lunch, which was about two hours… I think it was his way of saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye. And we texted or emailed for the following year, until he passed away.
Let’s talk about your current project, Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow . How natural was it, given your connection to Henson and your previous Muppet work, that you directed Turkey Hollow ?
Well, I’d like to think it was natural, but there’s no guarantee about anything in this business. And I’m a freelancer, so that’s doubly the case. So I was certainly honored when Lisa Henson and Hallie, the development exec, called me and said, “Hey, we found this project that was sort of buried.” They showed me the pictures and showed me the outline, which was 12 to 15 pages, and said, “Read it and tell us if you’d be interested in maybe writing and directing it.” I said, “Well, yeah,” pretty much sight unseen. Then, knowing the history, I was interested. And when I read the outline, I just fell in love with it. It had this sweetness and whimsy. But, yeah, they called me – and I was flattered that I was the first person they thought of for it.
Henson had even made puppets for this project back in the day, though the ones we see in the movie were done by the Henson Creature Shop. How much fun did you have making this movie and directing the creatures?
They found the puppets in a box, in a bag. There are picture of me with them. They were much simpler than we ended up making. They were more alien, in a weird way, in that one looked like a weird, furry octopus. One had this insanely long neck. What we tried to do was distill them down. There were originally five, but we went with four just because of time and budget constraints. My concern was I didn’t want people to think this is a kids’ special. I didn’t want them to think it’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I wanted this to be a family film that’s somewhere between E.T. and Gremlins, if the Gremlins never became nasty. And I wanted our creatures not to be as cute as Mogwai and not as creepy as E.T . I think we really found that balance. I wanted it to be a charming movie where the parents watching it wouldn’t roll their eyes. There was a comic that was done in the past couple of years and that was based almost strictly on the outline that Jim and Jerry had written. So it was a little broader and the puppets were more along the lines of a kids’ special. This is more of the family film I was after, and even “family film” is a dreaded term now. Whatever E.T. is, that’s what I wanted this to be like.
And I loved directing the puppets. Coming from an extensive Muppet background, I speak to these puppets as if they’re the character. Kermit, to me, is Kermit. On this I’d talk to the characters as characters, but if something like an eye line was off, I’d say to the puppeteer, “Hey, Robbie, could you just cheat your eye line a bit?” But if I was dealing with the performance? I’d say, “Burble… look more shocked or look happier.” So I kind of split the difference. But they definitely do become real. The other thing that I used as a touchstone for both the actors and the puppeteers was I said, “I want them to feel like slightly unruly golden retrievers.” I came up with these big fluffy tails for them, which were not in the original designs. The tales let us show them moving through the forest, because we didn’t have time to dig trenches or create these complicated radio-controlled creatures, and I didn’t want to use CG. So, with a dog, all you see is the tail up like a flag. A tail tells you a lot about a creature’s mood even if you can’t see their face. The tails – these big, happy, wagging tails -- also make them more endearing. It makes you just want to hang out with them or, at least – I hope – want to watch them for a couple of hours.
Looking at your career, do you feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop?
Kid in a candy store… You know, with the creature work I’ve done, it’s just so normal to me. It’s what I do. But I realize I’m a guy living in rarified air. So it seems normal to me, but I realize that for most people it’s like getting to be Willy Wonka. Though, I have to say, George Lucas and Jim Henson and Leonard Nimoy, they were really Willy Wonkas in their own right. Getting to work with and apprentice with them, it feels like it’s been a very natural progression for me.
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