screenwriter and card-
carrying Trekkie John Logan pumps
passion into a venerable sci-fi franchise.
is an exclusive Web-only, uncut version of the interview
that appeared in the print version of In
theres anything unique about me doing this movie,
its that its the only one written by a
fan who was literally weaned on Star Trek,
explains screenwriter John Logan. It wasnt
a job; Ive had plenty of jobs.
I could work with anyone. I chose to do this because
I am a fan.
of Hollywoods most in-demand scenarists thanks
to his work on the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator,
Logan was brought into the Trek franchise by friend
Brent Spiner, who plays Next Generation
android Data. Spiner also brought Logan into Trek
czar Rick Bermans office a big
fan going into the wizards lair, as Logan
puts it and the trio set about trying to inject
a little sex, violence and, with any luck, fan passion
into the 10th Trek feature, Nemesis.
by Stuart Baird whose credits include the actioners
Executive Decision and U.S. Marshals
Nemesis certainly seems destined
to delight fanatics: For one thing, its script very
consciously evokes the submarine-battle structure
of fan-favorite Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Set against the backdrop of a civil war within the
shadowy and much-feared Romulan Empire, the new film
features Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) matching
wits with Shinzon (Tom Hardy) a charismatic
villain with a curious resemblance to the Enterprise
commander and it culminates in a prolonged
space-battle climax designed to put fannies in seats.
would like to think that Nemesis
hits all the right buttons that it is eminently
satisfying to the fans, says Logan. Because
frankly, thats my concern. I chose to do this
because I am a fan. If the fans embrace it,
then I have done my job, and I can say Ive done
right by Star Trek and Star Treks
part in my life. If they reject what Ive
done, then Ive made a serious miscalculation
about what other fans like me want.
what Logan had to say about his love affair with Trek,
his rapid journey from Chicago playwright to Hollywood
big-shot, and the curious announcement that he will
be writing Gladiator 2. Yes, Gladiator
other interviews I've read, you sound really
jazzed to be involved with "Star Trek: Nemesis."
You know, I must say that I am. Because the reason
that I wanted to do it is that I'm absolutely a lifetime
fan of "Star Trek." I'm an absolute, to-the-core
Trekkie. My introduction to "Trek" began
with the original five-year mission, and it's been
a major part of my life since then. And I'm very
unapologetic about that - that it's always been a
hugely important thing to me - and to get a chance
to actually sort of go into that world and help shape
that canon was really exciting to me.
you a collector at all? Do you have any memorabilia?
yeah, some, I must confess. You know, when I was a
kid, I just had everything. I always tell the
story - and it sounds apocryphal, but it's true -
that I was Captain Kirk for every Halloween as long
as I can remember. I read the novels, and I watched
the shows and the movies, and I just thought it was
that moment when you got the gig - when Berman's saying,
"We want you to write the next 'Star Trek' movie"
- and it's an even-numbered movie [Logan
laughs] - what was that moment like?
it was very exciting. There was a lot that led up
to that moment - a lot of serious thinking about it
- because as you may or may not know, the way I got
involved was through Brent Spiner.
You met him during a performance of "1776"
And he brought me in. And so before I even went in
to meet Rick, I thought very seriously about
what makes an exceptional "Star Trek"
story - because there are good "Star Trek"
stories and there are exceptional"Star
Trek" stories. So I had really thought
about it, and how we could move the "Next Generation"
crew along a bit in their journey. So when I went
in to talk to Rick, I had a little bit of trepidation,
because obviously he's the overlord - he's the guy
- and I was suggesting some pretty radical concepts.
So not only was I a big fan going into the wizard's
lair, I was also going in to say, "You know,
let's shake this up a bit." So both of those
were sort of playing in my mind.
But the minute I first suggested my first idea, I
could tell that he was really excited about it.
all the suggestions you had to "shake things
They were the bedrock of what all three of
us - Berman, Spiner and me - made into what is "Nemesis."
the overarching concept I came in with was: "You
know, time moves on, even for the crew of the Enterprise
- and it should. Because we the fans are so
invested in these characters, we want to see their
lives go on - we don't want to see them trapped in
a little time bubble. We want to see them grow, we
want to see their careers advance, we want to see
their personal relationships advance - and I think
that should be the point of 'Nemesis' - to
really totally embrace that, seize that, cherish that,
and celebrate that."
you know, that's a pretty scary concept for a quote-unquote
"franchise" movie. But [Berman] loved that
idea - because Rick is a very bold thinker
about the "Star Trek" world. He never feels
himself bound too much to convention; he's willing
to do radical things. And so I could tell immediately
that he was excited about all of these ideas.
so when we finally said, "Let's do it,"
I was overjoyed for two reasons: First of all, here
I am - a fan - getting to sit in the captain's
chair, essentially; and that Rick and Brent
were so excited by my ideas. And from that point on,
it was nothing but pleasure as I sat in the room with
Rick and Brent and we worked out the story.
it really was collegial; the story credit reads
"Story by John Logan and Rick Berman and Brent
Spiner" - and that is entirely true. All
three of us - it was a triumvirate that shaped the
many ideas did Brent Spiner have?
a lot. He was absolutely involved all the way through
it; he was in every single story meeting, and was
invaluable about things that definitely made it into
the film and were important elements.
was interesting in the breakdown of the three of us,
sort of trying to define our roles: I was the writer
- I was the one who wrote everything down, who was
trying to keep continuity to the whole thing and kept
an eye on the big picture. Rick was the provocative
thinker, in terms of, "Okay, what if we do this?
Is that more exciting? What's the most compelling
character arc for Picard, and how can we dramatize
that?" In football terms, Brent became my "go-to
guy" - when you're back there and you're the
quarterback and you're being rushed and there's three
wide receivers out there, you know who your go-to
guy is: He's the guy who will help you out when you
nice to have someone in your corner when you're meeting
with the producer.
And Brent was invaluable whenever we'd thought ourselves
into a corner; that's when I'd call Brent or sit down
with him and say, "Okay - Picard and Data are
trapped on the villains' ship; they can't get off.
What the hell do I do?" And he was just
great about coming up with interesting ideas.
And what's great about Brent is his absolute lack
of ego about Data - wanting this to be the best possible
"Star Trek" movie, and what Data did was
entirely secondary to any of that. Which is
surprising in an actor. And I found the exact same
thing to be true about Patrick Stewart, which was
least up through "Insurrection," Stewart
had massive input into the story process.
yes: He had tons of influence here. As soon
as we had a rough story, we sent it to Patrick, and
he and I got on the phone - this was even before we
met face to face - and talked it through. Because
of course it would be the height of audacity
for me to say, "I understand the character of
Jean-Luc Picard better than you do."
known for taking a tremendous amount of ownership
of that character.
- as well he should. And his ideas were tremendous.
I expected him to be savvy about Picard - but he was
savvy about everything, about every element of the
script. He'd say, "Is this right for Geordi?"
or "Is this right for Deanna?" "Can't
we give Beverly more?" Not only shaping the story
in terms of Picard's journey, but shaping the totality
of the whole, which was incredibly rewarding. And
then we had a bunch of face-to-face meetings where
we would work through the scenes, and he was great
strikes me that - especially having been a fan and
holding Patrick Stewart up in that iconographic sort
of way - that having to get face-to-face with him
in a meeting would be sort of colossally intimidating.
was. It was. [laughs] You know, I've dealt
with my share of heavy hitters, so I know how to do
my job and I'm a professional - but you've got to
think, "You're about to meet Jean-Luc Picard,"
and as much as you say, "It's only an actor and
it's only a part," he'd walk in the room and
it was still a little bit like, "Wow."
course, he makes it his job to put you at ease - and
because we share a theater background, particularly
a Shakespearean background, we were able to communicate
very quickly in shorthand in terms of character intention,
dialogue, meter of lines, rhythms, things like that.
friends - who are all Trekkies, of course - say, "What
was it like being on the bridge when you're shooting
the movie?" I said, "All of that was great
- but the most overpowering fan experience I had was
when we did screen tests for the various actors playing
Shinzon. And they were done on-set in costume. And
so I was there early, and then Patrick walked in in
his Jean-Luc Picard uniform. that's when I
was overwhelmed and I thought, 'Oh, my God
- I am really shaping the destiny of these characters.'
And there's Patrick as Jean-Luc Picard, and he's now
going to do a scene that I wrote." So that for
me was the biggest sort of fan/professional synthesis.
the guys who wrote the next Bond film - and it strikes
me that "Star Trek" and Bond share a lot
in common in terms of the limits placed on creators.
Both are controlled by producers; both have long-term
production staff; both come freighted with a lot of
"mythology" - I mean, you have certain marks
you have to hit to remain consistent with what's come
before. In many ways, both franchises evoke the classic
1930s Hollywood studio system.
That's a very good point. Very good point.
much did you feel constrained by that?
I'll tell you: I thought I was going to feel very
constrained by that. My feeling was, "Man
- this is a billion-dollar franchise for Paramount.
They're not going to let anyone monkey with it too
much." So I walked in with a certain amount of
quickly found out that was not going to be the case
with "Nemesis" - and it's all because of
Rick. As I've said, he's a very daring thinker, and
his mind can immediately leap to the significance
of small character moments and how they affect the
whole canon of "Star Trek." And he, as I
said, was very excited about really pushing the envelope
with this movie - and even encouraged me to push further.
And Paramount respects Rick so much, they said, "Look,
you're the guy - you know how this works. If this
is what you want to do, by all means do it. You know,
there's nothing wrong with pushing the envelope and
shaking things up a little bit."
the very fact that they brought me in with radical
ideas, fully supported me, then brought a director
from the outside in, I think shows Paramount's and
Rick's enthusiasm about trying to do something a bit
different. Not that there was anything wrong that
had come before - obviously, I honor and celebrate
the work of all those hundreds of writers and directors
and actors who have come before me in the continuum
of "Star Trek." And I would like
to think that "Nemesis" hits all the right
buttons - that is, that it is eminently satisfying
to the fans. Because frankly, that's my concern. Because
I'm a fan, and if there's anything unique about me
doing this movie, it's that it's the only one written
by a fan who was literally weaned on "Star Trek"
and has such an incredible affection for it. It wasn't
a job; I've had plenty of jobs. I could
work with anyone. I chose to do this because I am
for me, the litmus test is: How are the fans going
to respond to it? If they embrace it, then I have
done my job, and I can say I've done right by "Star
Trek" and "Star Trek"'s part in my
life. If they reject what I've done, then I've
made a serious miscalculation about what other fans
like me want.
think a lot of fans probably have an image in their
heads - because there have been so many series
at this point - of an official "Star Trek"
archivist sitting over your shoulder and telling you,
"Well you can't do that, because this button
does that." [Logan laughs.] Is
there a sense that you're weighed down by the history?
no, not me - because what was hysterical, in
the meetings with Rick and Brent, is that it soon
became apparent that I knew a lot more "Trek"
minutiae than they did. They would be sitting there,
and I would totally go into what they called
"Trekkie mode" - like, suddenly say, "No,
no, you can't do that - because in Episode 54, we
learned that Dr. Soongh made two prototypes, and the
." And they would just
sort of roll their eyes and wait for me to finish.
So that was absolutely never an issue, because I was
so versed in that. You know, before I sat down to
write the first draft, I watched the entire
"Next Generation:" series over again.
they pay me for this! Hello? I watched it for two
reasons: to make sure that what we were doing was
appropriate to the canon of "Next Generation,"
and also to get the characters' voices in my head
a bit more.
To get the larger arcs and maybe pick out some things
that might have been lost by the wayside.
And of course, no "Trek" movie is going
to satisfy every "Trek" fan - because we
all have our different fascinations. I've always
been fascinated by the Romulans, so therefore we don't
have Klingons [in "Nemesis"], we have Romulans.
it's high time, I say.
it's high time, I say, as well! But you know, all
those Klingons are going to be camping out on my front
lawn protesting -- you know, saying, "Where are
also, as you know, every fan has their favorite characters.
You know, I've always been a big fan of Picard, Data,
and Deanna. So they get the most plot and character
attention in this movie, because they're the ones
I always liked and wanted to explore a bit more.
strikes me that "The Next Generation" and
the original "Trek" both sort of ended up
embracing that id/ego/superego triumvirate - where
you had the guy who acted, who was Picard or Kirk;
then the superego guy, who was Spock or Data; and
then the id, who was Bones or Worf.
you didn't do as much with Worf in "Nemesis"
as some of the previous films have done.
Well, two comments: First, you're dead-on right about
that id/ego/superego thing, and that's why I think
"Star Trek" works - because I think that
is absolutely universal; that is a universal archetype
that everyone responds to. And if you talk to fans
like Bryan Singer, that's all they talk about - they're
like, "That triangle is what makes" -
yeah. Big, big "Trek" fan. He has a cameo
in "Nemesis." [He says,] "That's what
makes these stories universal - we all, every
living person on the planet, have an id, ego, and
a superego, and we understand the dilemmas between
them. that is why the show has survived."
So of course that is something that, as a dramatist,
I gravitated toward - but I would also say that's
not just because it's a "Trek" film, but
because it's good drama. And whether you're approaching
"Gladiator" or Abraham Lincoln, you're just
a dramatist; you have to find where the strength lies.
The other part of the question is, "How do you
treat all the characters fairly?" And that was
a truly wrenching situation - because you have the
original gang of seven; we also have a villain that
demands a fair amount of screen time, with a very
complex back-story where we're introducing a new element
to the Romulan world - so that took
a fair amount of screen time.
The Remans. Which is why there was even less
time for our crew. And hard choices had to be made
about who to focus on. And in original draft
of this, all of the characters had a lot to do, and
they all had story arcs - Beverly was involved, Worf
was involved, Geordi was involved - they were ALL
involved and they all had significant character moments
all the way through.
had a part for Wesley Crusher.
And as the process went on, and as the editing continued,
it became apparent we did not have time for all that.
As much as, idealistically, I had hoped that there
would be time and I could please all the fans - I
could please all the Beverly Crusher fans as
well as all the Worf fans and the Data fans - it became
just obvious in course of editing and working on the
movie that there simply wasn't time for all this,
and we had to focus on the core story.
if I have a regret about "Nemesis," it's
that those story arcs - which are really good and
fun - didn't make it to the screen.
I always feel bad for Geordi and Crusher in the movie
series - I guess feel bad for them in the same way
I feel bad for Walter Koenig, who always basically
has one scene where he gets injured in every "Trek"
But it's a hell of a bind.
the actors pretty philosophical about it?
entirely. They're complete pros. I just talked to
Marina [Sirtis] yesterday, in fact, at great length
- and every one of them, God bless them, has the same
reaction, which is: "I just want a great movie
If I'm not featured, fine; I just want a great movie."
And that comes all the way down from Patrick to every
member of the cast. They're very philosophical about
- and so far, incredibly supportive of everything.
you and [director] Stuart Baird are both sort of arrivistes
in the "Trek" universe.
advantages did that give you when you entered the
difference between Stuart and I is that I'd never
done a "Trek" movie, but I had lived
"Trek" for all these years, so it was absolutely
in my blood - I knew every permutation that had been
done before me. And I was desperately aware of these
characters, and I felt a sense of responsibility to
these characters because I care for them so much -
I've lived with them for so long that I wanted to
treat them well and treat them with respect and dignity.
So I was new to the world of Paramount doing a "Star
Trek" movie, but I certainly wasn't new to the
world of "Star Trek."
Stuart came to it totally fresh. I don't think
he'd even seen "Star Trek" before
they started talking to him about doing this.
was a set report about him thinking Geordi LaForge
was an alien.
I've heard that. So in a way, we were a great pair:
He came in totally fresh, wanting to make an incredibly
exciting and moving motion picture. And I came in
with the same goal, but with a slightly different
the film is now in the test-screening stage, and you're
pruning and tweaking it. How are the test screenings
haven't been any official test screenings -
and I hope there actually won't be. But there have
been a ton of screenings for Paramount executives,
and I've seen the movie, like, five times - since
the very first cut, which was like three hours long,
to the most recent cut, which I think will be the
release cut. And it's been going great. Everyone has
been very involved. Paramount has been tremendously
involved in terms of Sherry Lansing or John Goldwyn
watching the movie, giving notes, watching reels when
they're being re-cut, and having just wonderful suggestions
for how to make it the best possible movie. Because
I THINK - I HOPE - they realize this
could be a really exciting "Star Trek" movie.
They are giving extra money for optical effects, for
may be the first "Trek" movie to have a
larger budget than the previous one.
may be true; I actually don't think it's true.
I think "Insurrection" will actually have
had a bigger budget than "Nemesis" - which,
when you see the movie, you won't believe. Because
"Nemesis" looks huge. And when you
realize how much everything costs, and how cleverly
Peter Lauritson put it all together, working with
Stuart and the editors, it's just astounding
how big the movie looks for what it cost.
by this point you've finally checked out that fantastic
new "Trek II" DVD.
of the best features is Harve Bennett talking about
how they got so much for so little - recycling set
elements and so on. Does that still go on?
Oh, my God, yes. Yes yes yes. Everywhere you
can possibly save money, it has to be done - because
it's an expensive proposition, and Paramount's looking
toward the bottom line: What can this movie cost so
it can actually make some dough?
it's very clever, the things they've done. There are
sets that are re-dresses of other sets. Like there's
Engineering, which is this mammoth set - but we re-use
Engineering like five times as different things, and
you never in your life realize that behind that panel
is the warp core. Because there are certain elements
that you can shift, and move the graphics, and move
this, and it looks like an entirely different location.
also, one of the things that helped us is I specifically
wanted to go in writing a "bottled" show.
To me, I like the shows where they're on a ship and
they're battling another ship. I like big ship battles.
My initial pitch to Rick was, "It's a war movie,
and the entire third act's a battle. It's the Enterprise
and another ship, and blasting each other to pieces.
that's the movie." And it has a sort of
momentum of these two forces, Picard and Shinzon,
coming together in this massive conflagration,
which is the final battle.
where that helps is that you spend a lot of time on
ships, which are all sets. The Enterprise sets
were almost all pre-existing. The Scimitar
sets - which were the sets for Shinzon's ship - were
magnificent, but they were one soundstage of sets.
And the only location footage we did was Kolaris 3,
the desert planet - and that was a week of shooting
location in the desert; the rest was soundstages.
So that was good for the bottom line - not that that
was the intention, but it was a happy benefit.
got in right on the "Wrath of Khan" DVD
when he said it doesn't matter if you re-dress the
set, because the film's not really about the
right. Because as we discussed, it's about the characters.
I suppose you've also listened to Nicholas Meyer's
fantastic commentary on that disc. Did you take his
lead in terms of turning it into sort of a submarine
Nick Meyer and Jack Sowards, who wrote "Star
Trek II," are my gods. I mean, to me, that's
not only the best "Trek" film - I think
it's one of my favorite movies ever. And it's
the only movie I've ever seen where I'm guaranteed
to cry every time I see it. The only movie.
To me, it's the model of everything - of how a "Star
Trek" movie should be made.
my initial impulse - "Let's see these characters
move on with their lives" - is directly inspired
by "Star Trek II," with Captain Kirk getting
glasses on his birthday and realizing, "Where
am I now, and where do I want to be?" That absolutely
was the inspiration for everything I've done.
the idea of the protagonist and the antagonist having
a very personal relationship was inspired by not only
years of classical dramatic literature, but also specifically
by "Star Trek II" - where Kirk and Khan,
because of their history, have a very intense and
important emotional relationship. And to me, that
was essential. It's essential in any good movie; it
is particularly essential in a "Star Trek"
movie. Captain Picard has to have some unique, personal
emotional connection with the antagonist for the movie
to work. End of discussion.
must confess, I've seen the "Nemesis" script
that was briefly posted online, so I know what that
relationship is, specifically.
a very old script.
that script was leaked online; it was online for a
couple of weeks; and then it finally got yanked. But
a lot of people read it. Now, I know that the Internet
for you has been something of a double-edged sword,
because this early script got online, but the Internet
also helped create an advance buzz for "Gladiator."
So what were your feelings when your early-draft script
was posted out there?
not double-edged sword at all for me. It's a single-edged
sword: It's theft. It's the theft of intellectual
was outraged, I was angered, I was saddened. I was
anything that you can possibly be toward that happening,
for two reasons: One is that no one wants to have
their work judged in an incomplete state - and a screenplay
turning into a movie is a very fluid animal, and it
changes and it goes this way and that way. It's like
someone going in to an artist when a painting is half-done
and judging it, and you want to say, "Wait wait
wait! You don't understand! It's not done yet! You
can't evaluate it!"
the second thing is I just think it's reallyunfair
for the fans, because we spend as dramatists a lot
of time figuring out how to tell a story and be surprising
- coming up with the most surprising plot turns and
surprises that you can possibly have. And one hates
to think that all that is being taken away in the
very cold version of reading words on a page as opposed
to the living version of seeing images and
actors on a screen.
And the way your script unfolds, there are
Is that going to keep people from seeing the movie?
No, I don't think so - because everyone knows
things change, and I think if it whets people's appetites
to see the movie, I guess that's good. But as a writer,
I think it's abominable.
was warned it was going to happen. Rick said, "Look
- just be prepared that this is going to happen; there's
no way to stop it. We can do red-colored scripts,
we can do numbered scripts - it's still gonna happen
just because it happens." And so I was prepared
for it. Frankly, it just hurt. I would rather my friends
who are the fans judge me on the basis of the final
how different IS the final movie from the script?
Very. It's changed a lot in both production - where
we would cut scenes and write new scenes and shift
relationships - and in the editing, where things were
moved around and punched up. So I think it's changed
a lot, yeah.
it ever occur to you to resurrect an old villain from
the TV series?
because "Star Trek II" did that so magnificently.
As much as I am honoring "Star Trek II"
with every line of this movie, I can't honor it that
far, because that would almost be theft. And also,
I wanted specifically a young, sexy, male villain,
because we've never seen that in "Trek"
before - so I wanted that as a good counterpoint to
heard nice things about Tom Hardy as Shinzon.
he's tremendous. He's tremendous. He went for it,
and he's young, and he's exciting, and he's sexy -
and the scenes with him and Patrick are, I think,
absolutely dynamite. I mean, talk about intimidation:
I mean, can you imagine, as a green actor, going in
and acting three intense scenes with Patrick Stewart?
not only that, but you basically are playing a reflection
of Patrick Stewart on a certain level.
yes. But I think he did a terrific job; he just jumps
off the screen.
mean, our intention was, how can we make a villain
as good as Khan - as memorable as Khan? And the thing
about Khan is, he has justification for what he does;
he is not motiveless evil in the Coleridge/Iago sense.
He absolutely believes he has a reason for what he
is doing, based on the pain he has suffered, which
he blames Kirk for. And we also thought it was important
that Shinzon also have what he believes is a reason
for everything he is doing.
there any trepidation about re-visiting the concept
of cloning in the wake of, well, "Attack
of the Clones"?
no. I'll tell you why: It's because Rick and I liked
the idea of a surrogate father/son relationship between
Picard and the villain - and that's the important
thing. The fact of his specific relationship with
Picard as it's dramatized in the movie is less important
than what we're trying to present, which is
a surrogate father/son relationship. And for a while,
I thought maybe Shinzon was a long-lost son
of Picard's - but obviously that is so against the
canon of "Trek" that we could never get
away with it. But that surrogate relationship is what
we were looking for.
we be seeing
ah, the name escapes me, the former
came back later on as a sort of blonde half-Romulan
Seela, the half-breed Romulan.
you. Will we be seeing her in the film?
we will not - for reasons that are too complicated
to go into in terms of what the Romulans have to do
in the story.
Now, the way the geek media's spun it, "Nemesis"
and the TV series "Enterprise" are really
tasked with sort of saving the "Trek"
franchise. Both come on the heels of the disappointments
of "Voyager" and "Insurrection."
Did you feel burdened by the responsibility? Did you
feel the pressure?
not at all - because I'm a big "Voyager"
fan and I actually think "Insurrection"
is underrated, so I didn't feel that at all. Because
that responsibility, I couldn't
I guess you can't really think about that stuff.
you couldn't - because how am I going to sit down
thinking, "I have to save this franchise I love"?
No, I never felt that at all. I mean, I hope when
fans see the movie, they'll be excited about it and
say, "Wow! I can't wait for the next movie
like this!" But I don't think it was ever my
job to save the franchise because I don't think it
mean, I understand your question - I've been asked
it every time I've talked about "Nemesis."
But quite honestly I didn't feel that way.
is this the last "Next Generation" cast
on-the-record answer is: It depends on how many fans
see the movie. If the movie is popular, I guarantee
you there will be a "Star Trek 11," and
I hope I will be involved in it. But it all depends
on the realities of the marketplace, which is if Paramount
looks at the box-office reports and says, "You
know what? We did really well with this. Let's take
a risk on another."
I think that shot in the trailer of the Enterprise
plowing into another ship is going to put fannies
in this script you guys drew a lot from "Trek"
history - even beyond the obvious vibe and structure
of "Wrath of Khan." I know they tried to
pack in as much of the larger "Trek" universe
as possible. I know, at least at one point, you had
Wesley Crusher showing up at a wedding, and you've
got a cameo from Admiral Janeway from "Voyager."
Are there any other little surprises in store?
are a few little surprises - mostly in terms of references
the fans are going to enjoy. You know, one of the
fun things for me is winking at the other fans and
saying, "They just said this?" and
most of the general public doesn't know what that
means, but you and I get it - and it's really fun,
because you and I know what a Tholian is, or what
Romulan Ale is. And so there's a fair amount of that
sprinkled all the way through, which I think is just
really fun texture.
the biggest way I seized "Trek"'s past is
by inventing the Remans, because it's something that's
mentioned once in [the classic "Trek" episode]
"Balance of Terror." And I said, "Wait
a minute - the Romulan Empire is two planets. We see
them in the bird of prey's claws in the Romulan logo.
What the hell is Remus?" And I thought, "How
fun to explore that?" and to reveal what Remus
is and what Remans are. And so in terms of pure "Trek"-dom,
that was the most fun for me.
then, as an added bonus, you get Ron Perlman as the
He's terrific - and he's so scary in "Nemesis."
Ooh. He would walk in with that makeup, and I know
Ron and he's a great guy, but I'd go, "Ooh! You're
scary! I don't want to sit by you! I'm going to go
sit by Brent, who's not scary!"
let's talk about your career for a minute. From reading
listing, here is your astonishing career arc: You
write two TV movies.
write the Lou Diamond Phillips camp classic "Bats."
then, within a year, you're working for Oliver Stone
on "Any Given Sunday." And co-writing "Gladiator."
And now you're working on "The Last Samurai"
with Tom Cruise. Was the speed of your ascent a bit
to a certain extent. I mean, the chronology of those
works doesn't represent the reality. Because the reality
is that I'd been working on "Any Given Sunday"
for years, and I wrote "Bats" as a sort
of little toss-off thing. And so that chronology doesn't
reflect what my life really was.
life was that I was a playwright in Chicago - and
I still live in Chicago - for years and years and
years, and thought it would be really cool to write
a movie. And through various permutations, I met with
some agents at CAA with some film ideas, and one of
them was "King Lear" in the NFL. And they
said, "Is that a football movie?" And I
said, "Yeah." And they said, "Well,
so I spent a year writing "Any Given Sunday."
And in the course of that year, I also worked on "Tornado!"
- exclamation point! - and various other things to
make money while I was working on "Any Given
Sunday." And once Oliver read it and said, "I
want to do your movie," then that was
the life-changing experience - because then I was
the unknown playwright thrust immediately into
a big-budget movie with an A-list director. And from
that moment on, the choices I made and what I did
just sort of led inexorably to one project or another.
Chicago's Mamet country.
you run in those circles?
as much as I used to. When I graduated from school,
I was, very much. I spent 10 years doing plays in
Chicago, so I was intimately a part of that
world. But my world is sort of between Chicago and
it frustrating when you go to Hollywood after you've
been writing plays for years and people like me say,
"Oh, look! He popped out of nowhere!"?
not at all. I'd spent 10 years learning my craft,
and I'm just a professional writer, and how
I'm perceived doesn't matter to me in the slightest
- because I don't live in L.A., I don't go to parties,
I don't go to openings - I just keep my head down
and do my job. And the only thing that interests
me is, "What story am I telling now?"
know, I've been lucky enough to work with some incredible
collaborators. And because I spent all those years
working with directors and actors and producers on
plays, I know how to collaborate and I know what my
position in the Great Beast is. I'm comfortable writing
with other people.
you directed any plays of your own?
No. I'm just a writer. And quite happily.
I just heard the big announcement about "Gladiator
2." Good heavens.
I must say, I share the world's curiosity
Yeah. My sister just called me and said: "But
now I know you probably can't talk about it too much,
but: How do you do that?
you know, "Gladiator" was a long and interesting
process. And once we sort of realized what we had,
there was a lot of talk even then about how this could
be a multi-generational saga. The story of Rome could
go on - because the things that happened after the
death of Commodus are absolutely thrillingly exciting.
there was even talk then. And then, when the movie
did well and got the attention that it did, those
talks began to become more
serious. So it was
not a frivolous decision of, "Oh - the movie
made a lot of money. Let's somehow ground out a sequel."
There are frankly clues in the first movie about what
the second movie is going to be - and threads that
are left open to be picked up.
one thing I would be thinking, off the top of my head,
would be when they talked to Russell Crowe about the
legions that could invade Rome and take it back -
and we never saw that happen.
[laughs] Because DreamWorks will hunt me down
if I tell. But the development of the story, which
we're deep into now, is just great fun.
the lead character be a character we saw in the last
can't tell you. I mean, I could tell you, but I won't
tell you. [laughs] Don't worry - you'll see
a script on the Internet soon.
man. Now: "Last Samurai." Tom Cruise learnin'
swordplay. How's that coming along?
coming along great. I mean, I've known Tom for years,
and he's such a consummate professional, like everyone
says, and when he commits, he commits. And working
on that with Ed Zwick - I developed it with Ed to
direct - was just incredibly exciting, because I've
also known Ed for years; he's an old Chicago hand,
I might add, as is Michael Mann. I've got all these
Chicago colleagues. And now it's a big ol' movie.
Cruise fully immersed himself in learning to use a
He's been training with a katana, with a long
samurai sword, for months - on practically, I believe,
a daily basis. You'll be stunned.
it strange when you've written something like "Gladiator"
that enters the pop-culture fabric? When you've got
a character on "The Sopranos" that loves
"Gladiator" and quotes lines from it?
is great fun. And I think all the writers - David
Franzoni, Bill Nicholson and me, and I have to emphasize
that it is all three of us - I think we were
all absolutely shocked by that and amused by that.
Because frankly, there was a point in the process
where I looked at Ridley and asked, "Is any of
this going to work? Is anyone going to go see
this movie?" And he just smiled like the Buddha,
because he knew exactly what the movie was
going to be. Everyone is just tickled pink. How couldn't
Ridley Scott's a cagey fella.
he going to direct "Gladiator 2"?
see. I certainly hope. I mean, as many great directors
as I've worked with, I've never had more fun than
working with Ridley. And as I always say, "All
hail Ridley Scott" - because it was his
vision that made that movie what it is. I mean, Bill
and David and I did good work on the script, Walter
Parkes and Doug Wick were incredible producers, we
got phenomenal support from DreamWorks and Universal
- but it was Ridley Scott who made that movie great.
do you think the "Next Generation" cast
has endured beyond the casts of the other shows?
don't know. I honestly don't know. Because I've asked
myself that question. I think partly it has to do
with the actors just being really dynamic, with really
interesting conflicts set up between them, and we
like seeing those actors grow. I think it has partly
to do with the look of the show - the fact that it
was so new and fresh - the fact that it was really
brilliantly written over the seven years in terms
of exploring all the characters. But honestly, I don't
know. It's an ephemeral thing, in a way. Why do these
people speak to more people than the "Deep Space
Nine" story, or saga?
have my own feelings, but finally maybe it just comes
down to the "Next Generation" cast touching
more hearts for whatever reason than the other shows,
fond as I may be of them.
you ever wish you'd been able to take a stab at writing
the classic "Trek" series?
Boy. Yes, of course. No, that's not true. I think
what would make me happiest would be to write lines
for Captain Kirk. Of course.
we're geeking out on the arcane: Why do you have this
new android, B-4, that's an exact replica of
Data - when, in the TV series, Data already had another
twin named Lore?
the original structural and thematic reason for the
B-4 is to act as a parallel for the Picard story -
where both Picard and Data, our twin protagonists,
have to deal with a "family relation," if
you will - he says cleverly - that they didn't know
and they both deal with it in different
ways. And that's classical dramatic form, to have
your protagonists deal with the same problem in different
ways. And so the B-4 had to be a different thing that
Lore could not be. So that was the real reason,
much as I love Lore - I always love seeing Brent use
contractions. Always love seeing Brent being evil.
And Brent, of course, loves playing Lore.
who knows? There's always "Star Trek 11."