In promotion mode for Star Trek Into Darkness, director J.J. Abrams sat down with Playboy to talk about the sequel, and of course his next big sci-fi project, Star Wars: Episode VII. While the interview is quite lengthy, don't expect the master of secrets to have spilled any big revelations about either franchise. The biggest piece of news to come out of this chat is the fact that he's still considering directing Star Trek 3, which Paramount would like to get into theaters by 2016.
" No. I would say [directing Star Trek 3] 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 Wars: Episode VII already has a May 2015 release date. If Paramount pushes to get Star Trek 3 into theaters in the summer of 2016, J.J. Abrams would literally be working on both sequels at the same time. The director doesn't see any danger of the two franchises colliding, though, and believes that they will remain as separate as church and state. He explained how George Lucas will help to make that happen.
As with anything, because these are very different worlds, they shouldn't feel the same aesthetically. They can't. 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.
The worlds are vastly different. Honestly, that was why I passed on Star Wars: Episode VII 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.
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 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 who said if it was something that really interested me, I had to consider it."
As expected, J.J. Abrams will say little to nothing at all about the actual plot or cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. Though, he will talk about the movie at great lengths in his means to explain how little he can actually say about the movie itself.
"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. For me to talk to you about what the big themes or ideas are before they exist is disingenuous, but naturally I have a big say in how this gets put together. When I get involved with something, I own it and carry the responsibility of the job.
I try to approach a project from what it's asking. What does it need to be? What is it demanding? With Star Wars: Episode VII, 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.
If I viewed this from a fan's point of view-and no one's a bigger Star Wars fan than I am-or from a legacy standpoint, it would scare the hell out of me. But instead of trying to climb this mountain in one giant leap, I'm just enjoying the opportunity and looking to the people I'm working with. I've known George Lucas for a number of years and he's now a friend. Even if this wasn't Star Wars, I'd be enormously fortunate."
Will time allow J.J. Abrams to ever work on another original project again?
"I have to say, as someone who almost to a point of embarrassment has associated himself with a number of projects that preexisted, I'm not looking to do another reboot. There's one project, which I can't talk about yet, that we are going to do in the TV space that is an exception. But the truth is, one of the reasons I at first easily said no to the notion of Star Wars: Episode VII was the thought that I had to do something original again. I mean, it's what I've done on TV. It's the thing I was looking forward to doing next. The best-laid plans, you can say-but when something like Star Wars: Episode VII comes along, you either roll with it or not."