Much like Iron Man 3, one of our other most anticipated films of the year in Star Trek Into Darkness opened a full week earlier overseas, but the buried-in-secrecy J.J. Abrams sequel finally opens in North America tomorrow and fans won’t have to dodge spoilers for much longer.
While long-time fans may debate some of the changes made for the 2009 series reset and its followup, one element that remains consistent and shockingly close to the original series is that of Dr. “Bones” McCoy, played by Karl Urban.
Our own Amy Nicholson had a chance to chat with Karl Urban over the phone while he and the cast were promoting Star Trek Into Darkness in London. He first talks about talks about being a fan of the original series and aiming to honor its story, its canon, and performance of the first Dr. McCoy, DeForest Kelley.
I heard that while shooting the first Star Trek, you were the only actor who complained that the way you were wearing your boots was inaccurate. Is that true?
There was a discussion. From my memory, tucking the pants into the boots was the way the cast wore them in the original series. So yes, a discussion was had about that. But Michael Kaplan, the costume designer, had a new take on it and we all pretty quickly realized we should listen to what he had to say, and he was totally right. So we went in a different direction with the boots, and I think that was kind of emblematic of what we were all collectively there to do: bring a new energy to Star Trek.
That story implies that you’re not a casual Star Trek fan—you’re pretty serious. Are you the guy on set keeping an eye out for what the hardcore fans want?
Myself and Simon Pegg are probably the ones who are most familiar with the series. Now, I wouldn’t define myself as a Trekker or Trekkie, but I do have a long-standing deep appreciation and affection for the original series and the original actors who portrayed these characters. Certainly, by virtue of the fact that that is the case, I definitely am aware of where we are in line with canon. And then we depart and do our own thing.
Were you aware as a kid how much you looked like DeForest Kelley? It’s pretty uncanny.
The thought never really crossed my mind. But I just loved watching the show when I was a kid, and I enjoyed those characters, I enjoyed the conflict between Spock and Bones, and the the charisma and action of Kirk, and it was a sexy show—I liked the fact that it was a sexy show.
The next question reveals a minor spoiler for Star Trek Into Darkness that only Star Trek fans will fully understand. If you’ve yet to see Into Darkness, a little something will be revealed. Skip ahead past the spoiler tags if you wish to avoid. You’ve been warned.
So how excited were you to touch a Tribble?
That was a lot of fun, actually! Without giving anything away, in that scene with a live Tribble, J.J. is actually the one operating the mechanism. Not only was he directing the scene, he was animating the Tribble at the same time.
What if Tribbles were contagious and J.J. started multiplying?
That’d be scary. I don’t think the world is big enough for more than one.
/ END SPOILER WARNING
2016 is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek—
That’s right! That’s right!
Next, Urban reiterates that J.J. Abrams will certainly be involved in Star Trek 3 (and beyond), even if he’s not directing due to his other duties on Star Wars. One thing fans can expect from this is that there will always be a sense of secrecy and mystery around future Trek movies with Abrams’ involvement, something that will differentiate it from Disney’s much more open and less-secret plans for Star Wars Episode VII.
And it seems fitting to release another movie that year. But J.J. is probably going to be busy with Star Wars, so who else do you think would be a good director for the franchise?
I really haven’t even thought about the next film. But I do know that Star Trek on a forward-going basis will always have J.J.’s involvement, whether he’s directing it or producing it. I feel supremely confident that he’s not going to leave it. I think you only have to look at the success of the last Mission: Impossible—you can definitely feel J.J.’s influence throughout the film, even though he didn’t direct it.
Seriously, why so much secrecy about Into Darkness‘ villain?
Well, here’s the thing about the secrecy—and I totally respect not giving away information. In this day and age, it is so easy for an audience to know so much about a film before it’s in the theater, and I think J.J. is very aware of that and he wants to preserve the cinema-going experience for when you’re actually in the cinema. I totally respect that. And when I sit in the theater and there’s a bunch of reveals that if you’re a long-term fan of Trek that you will get, it’s just wonderful to hear the audience’s reaction when it plays out.
This next bit refers to last summer when Karl Urban threw us for a spin at Comic-Con with some intentional misdirection. Whether or not this was Abrams’ idea or his own – as a diehead fan sharing Abrams’ ideals – we don’t know.
Okay, but last summer you accidentally-on-purpose revealed the name of the villain, who turns out not to be the villain after all. Tell me the truth: was that a deliberate fake-out?
[Laughs] Well, I think my quote was taken very literally when I was actually speaking in archetypes. I was using that name as an example.
Oh, I’ll be honest—I was messing with you.
The last we heard on Dredd – a film we loved but that didn’t perform well at the box office – it was selling well on home video but its producer, Adi Shankar, was promising a short film followup instead of a feature sequel.
Thank you. I’ve been wanting to hear that. On a related note, if you get to make a sequel to Dredd, would you like to see Judge Death?
Yeah, absolutely! There’s so many stories that would be wonderful to explore. I think Alex and I are certainly interested in continuing exploring, and judging by the fan reaction and the amount of times even during this publicity tour that I’m talking about Dredd is a good indication that it definitely found an audience. We’ll see.
Would you be game to Kickstart a sequel?
I think we’d need a hell of a lot more than what Zach Braff is shooting for! But it’s certainly an idea. I think if there was a fan campaign mounted to call for another installment, it wouldn’t fall on deaf ears that’s for sure.
Last question: What’s one thing that will get people excited for the return of Riddick?
I’ve seen a little bit of footage from it, and it blew me away. If you’re a fan of Riddick, you’re in for a treat.
Would you like to see Urban return as Dredd 2 before Star Trek 3?
The Star Trek sequel stars Alice Eve, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Pine, John Cho, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana and is directed by J.J. Abrams off a script by Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci.
Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters (regular and IMAX 3D) on May 17th, 2013. Select IMAX 3D theaters will open May 15th.