STAR TREK BEYOND stars, director, and producers give insight into the film

A new character in STAR TREK BEYOND was named after Jennifer Lawrence

The key cast members of and filmmakers behind STAR TREK BEYOND assembled at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills on Thursday to talk about the third film in the rebooted franchise, from the new dynamic of working with FAST & FURIOUS director Justin Lin at the helm (with J.J. Abrams involved solely in a producing capacity) and having co-star Simon Pegg co-write the film, to insight into the new characters and character developments — and the emotional toll of losing both elderly franchise legend Leonard Nimoy and the cut-down-in-his-prime Anton Yelchin.

Chris Pine (Captain Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Mr. Spock), Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy),Trek-Beyond-panel-2Zoe Saldana (Lt. Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), and John Cho (Lt. Sulu) were joined by Lin, Abrams, co-writer Doug Jung, and producer Lindsey Weber.

“The pain of [Anton’s] loss is still very raw,” said Urban. “This film will probably be the most special experience for all of us. It represents the golden period where our family was fully together for the last time.”

Trek-AntonOn the loss of Nimoy, Spock’s alter ego, Zachary Quinto, explained that the original series actor seemed to know that he was not in the proper condition to take part in BEYOND, and after he passed, he said, “It became important for all of us to honor his legacy, and I thought Simon and [co-writer Doug Jung] did a beautiful job to incorporate it in the narrative of the film.”

Pegg elaborated on references to the character of Spock Prime’s passing in the context of BEYOND, “We wanted to make it part of Spock’s arc because that’s Spock’s arc, it’s just not a reference to Spock dying or what we did eventually, dedicate the film to him. We wanted to have it inspire our Spock to move on. It became an integral part of the story.”

In the end credits of BEYOND, both Nimoy and Yelchin are lovingly acknowledged.

On the lighter side, Pegg was happy to make multiple jabs at the recent “Brexit” and turbulentTrek-beyond-4 state of world politics; Abrams found himself caught between the STAR WARS vs. STAR TREK fandom debate; Lin revealed that his son insisted on being in the film dressed as Yoda; and Saldana amusingly griped that she preferred indoor “ship” shoots to the windy, dust-strewn days on the alien “planet.”

“We wanted to try to create a hybrid of the original series with a spectacular cinematic event,” said Pegg of his approach to writing the film with Jung. “We tried to make everyone who had been here for 50 years [some choice references] in terms of a good STAR TREK film. And, for the people who’d never seen it before, they’re welcomed, too.”

Trek-Beyond-panel-3The Brit good-naturedly addressed his SPACED series character’s decades-old comment that only the even-numbered TREK films are any good, and given the fact that BEYOND is considered to be the third in Abrams’ rebooted series, he found it to be surreal and quite an honor to be the one crafting that third film himself, which he was confident would break the cycle.

He also provided some insight into Jaylah, the new female alien protagonist in the film played by KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE baddie Sofia Boutella, offering up that her character’s name actually was inspired by Jennifer Lawrence: “We were trying to create this very independent character, but we didn’t have a name for it. So we just called it ‘Jennifer Lawrence inTrek-beyond-abramsWINTER’S BONE.’ That’s a long name. So it started getting tiring always saying, ‘Well, Jennifer Lawrence in WINTER’S BONE is fighting here,’ so then we started calling her J-Law. And then she became Jaylah. So Jaylah is actually named after Jennifer Lawrence.”

Amid headlines debating the pros and cons of his Sulu character being revealed as a gay man, Cho pointed out, “[STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenberry] did set up a world that was incredibly progressive but it was tempered by the social morals of the era. I feel like we can go further in 2016 than he was able to do at the time. … I feel like our version can give more to women and people of color than Roddenberry was originally able to.” He added, “It was really the handling of it that was most important to me. Having seen the film, its nonchalant posture towards it is the best thing about it. That it’s normalized. It’s news now, but if you re-watch the movie in ten years, you won’t think anything of it. It’ll just go right by you. That’s the best thing about it.”

Trek-beyondEarly buzz on the film has been incredibly positive, and at the tail end of the conference Abrams was asked if a fourth film in his rebooted franchise was in the works. 

“There’s something that hopefully we’re figurative minutes away from talking about,” replied the franchise producer. “But the answer is 100 percent yes, and it’s incredibly exciting.”

STAR TREK BEYOND warps into theaters everywhere July 22.

Check out FM’s new interview with John Cho, along with a comprehensive tribute to STAR TREK on its 50th anniversary, in Famous Monsters of Filmland issue #286 at CaptainCo.com.