J.J. Abrams explains why 'Star Trek' has to be sexy in Playboy interview

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Image Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In the latest issue of Playboy, oft-tight-lipped Star Trek Into Darkness mastermind J.J. Abrams opened up about his mega-hot summer blockbuster and his decidedly un-Hollywood life (no arrests, no wrecked hotel rooms, and his only groupies are dudes “with hair too long in the back giving me a Vulcan salute”).

He also revealed a desire to someday move on from the “big entertainment” movies and TV he is best known for to work on an “important film,” saying, “Would it be nice to work with Meryl Streep? Yes.” Luckily for fans of Abrams’ blockbusters, those days seem quite a ways down the road, as he also seems open to everything from an Alias movie and more Star Trek films to a Cloverfield sequel.

One subject, however, that does make the director clam up is his much-buzzed Star Wars: Episode VII, which is set for release in the summer of 2015. While he does talk Star Wars hypotheticals, when it came to the film’s plot, the possibility of returning original castmembers and whether his will be a “distinct new trilogy,” the only thing Abrams offered Playboy was (literally) a smile.

Check out some of the best quotes, including Abrams’ feelings about Star Trek‘s sex appeal, governmental spying and Tom Cruise, from the lengthy interview below.

On the mysterious Trek villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch:

“The villain is more complex now. In our first film Eric Bana plays a wonderfully angry Romulan dude, pissed off and full of vengeance. In this one, the bad guy is still brutal and fierce, but he’s got a much more interesting and active story. We have to grapple with many layers of his character. He’s essentially a space terrorist, and Benedict Cumberbatch, whom people know from BBC’s Sherlock, is f–king kickass in the role. Kirk and the rest of the crew are figuring out how the hell to get an upper hand with this guy. The darkness is real in this movie, and it’s incredibly challenging and terrifying, and it can certainly be lethal.”

On Trek‘s sexy factor:

Star Trek has to be sexy. That’s in keeping with the original spirit of the series. In the 1960s they were limited because of the time, but so much was insinuated. Part of the fun of our first movie was playing with the idea that Uhura and Spock were a couple. This movie takes that further and asks how that’s possible. Why would she be interested in that kind of guy, and why would she put up with him? It’s obvious what he would like about her. I mean, it’s f–king Zoë Saldana.

And it’s always fun playing the womanizing card with Kirk and seeing him in bed with girls who might not be completely human—you know, green skin or whatever. Nobody’s going to force Kirk to be a romantic and settle down. That would feel forced and silly. Kirk’s a player. We like him that way.”

On screening the film for a terminally ill fan:

“That was such a tragic moment and so sad. It’s incredibly touching that the stuff we happen to be working on means enough to people that in those extreme, ultimate moments a movie like ours would even be a consideration. But it reminds you that these entertainments, these characters can and do touch people on the deepest level. Somehow their existence is made to make some sense or given an order they might not otherwise feel.”

On “cheating on” Star Trek with Star Wars:

“Honestly, that was why I passed on Star Wars 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.”

On whether the government is watching us:

“Oh yeah, for sure. I’m not saying in this instant they are. But I defy anyone who lives in any size metropolis to travel 20 minutes and not see a bunch of surveillance cameras. Those cameras aren’t there to ignore you; they’re there to see you, and all that information is going into banks of digital recorders and oftentimes facial-recognition software. We’re all being tracked.”

On working with Tom Cruise:

“Here’s what happened on Mission. Before I started, I called Cameron Crowe, whom I know, and asked him his advice, since he’d made two movies with Tom. He just said, ‘Brother, you are going to be spoiled.’ I was like, ‘All right,’ not quite knowing what he meant. I now know he was right. Tom is the hardest-working, most focused, generous, passionate-about-the-form collaborator I could imagine. He’s someone who gave me my first shot directing a movie. No one would have done that but him. It was a huge first movie to do, but I was never scared. I was always excited about it because I felt everything I had been working on was sort of preparing me for that. And Tom made it an amazing experience. I was a first-time feature director, and before we started shooting Tom said, ‘I’m your actor; you’re the director.’”

On whether he will be involved with a third Star Trek film:

“I would say it’s a possibility. We’re trying to figure out the next step. But it’s like anything: It all begins with the story.”

Read more:
J.J. Abrams officially named ‘Star Wars’ director
‘Star Trek’ to ‘Star Wars’: J.J. Abrams across the universes
‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ motion poster features ominous Benedict Cumberbatch voiceover

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