16 Behind-The-Scene Facts You Didn’t Know About The Star Trek 2009 Reboot Movie
With two Star Trek movies in a row – Nemesis and Insurrection – receiving poor box office numbers and poorer reviews, Paramount’s decision to put the franchise on hiatus seemed detrimental. Would fans ever get another film? It seemed very possible that 2002 might be the last year of a Star Trek feature film.
A Star Trek movie had been released every two to three years, on average, since 1979. There has never been a shortage of ideas for the franchise – in regards to movies or TV – and in 2005, the President of Paramount (Gail Berman) talked the chief executive of CBS into giving her and her team 18 months to get a concept together for a new movie. The deal was if no Star Trek movie went into production by the end of the period, CBS’s TV rights for Star Trekwould return back to the network to do with as it wished. Which meant they could do a new series if CBS wanted. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and later J.J. Abrams, developed a prequel treatment that eventually proved to Paramount and CBS that another film should get made.
Just like other Star Trek films, there have been crazy stories behind the scenes. From the development process to auditioning and hiring actors to the reboot’s production, the Star Trek reboot released 2009 went through years of production and criticism before finding itself in good graces with fans and viewers when it finally hit theaters.
Here’s 16 Crazy Things You Didn’t Know About The Star Trek 2009 Reboot Movie
16. NSA-LEVEL SECURITY (UNLESS YOU’RE TOM CRUISE OR BEN STILLER)
Star Trek movies are often shrouded in secrecy – and none more so than when the reboot began production. Actors and actresses had a couple of strict rules to follow. First, no one was allowed to walk in public with their costumes on, even from set to set on the same movie lot. Second, actors and actresses were driven around the sets in golf carts that were covered in black canvas.
Simon Pegg, a main cast member subject to most of the rules, read the full script with a security guard nearby.
That was to protect the script from leaking in any way. Supporting actors were only given their scenes, and very few people had access to the film during production besides the director, producer, and writers. Funnily enough, two of those people were Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller.
15. CGI MOUTHS FOR LEONARD NIMOY AND ERIC BANA
For a movie with Star Trek reboot’s scope, a certain level of CGI is expected – for ships and alien planets at the very least. These days, many movies are inserting CGI actors into scenes.
Two actors in Star Trek had to have one body part animated.
Nero is a vengeful Romulan who’ll stop at nothing to destroy Spock and everything he holds dear. At some point in his life, extensive damage to his teeth occurred. Eric Bana had to have sections of his mouth CGI’d in some of the shots because of that damage.
Even Leonard Nimoy had to have his mouth animated – especially during the campfire scene. The fire created hectic and bouncing light on the surroundings, which wreaked havoc on the voice syncing. So Nimoy had to re-record his lines and an animator reshaped his mouth to match in post-production.
14. CRAZY CAMEOS
A number of actors made cameos in the Star Trek reboot. Christopher Doonhan – the son of James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original crew – was uncredited, but he played Scotty’s (Simon Pegg) assistant. He’s listed in Star Trek moving listings as a Starfleet Officer.
Zachary Quinto’s brother, Joe was a stuntman for the film, but he also played a Romulan on Nero’s ship. Victor Garber (Titanic, Legends of Tomorrow) played a Klingon interrogator.
Greg Grunberg, known for his role in Heroes, did the voice-over for Captain Kirk’s stepfather during post-production. Abrams had offered Grunberg a larger role, but the actor had to decline because he was committed to other projects. In a few of the early drafts of the reboot, Grunberg was being considered for the part of Harry Mudd.
13. WHY THE ROMULANS ARE BALD
In any type of Star Trek story for TV or film, you’re guaranteed to have alien species at some point. Most aliens in Star Trek required detailed make-up sessions lasting a long time.
The actors who played the Romulans had to deal with a make-up process of two to four hours. Nero’s crew needed three prosthetics added for their ears and foreheads. The producers wanted the Romulans in the reboot to have small ridges. As Nero, Eric Bana needed a fourth prosthetic on his forehead, which was a bite wound he had received at a previous time.
12. IT HAD MANY, MANY FAKE TITLES WITH SECRET MEANINGS
Besides the secrecy protocols the actors had to endure, production details were kept confidential by creating fake titles.
Bad Robot Productions, J.J. Abrams’s company behind the reboot, officially called the movie Corporate Headquarters. For those working at the different locations, various titles were used for the paperwork, signage used, and permits, all of which had personal connections.
Kathy McCury called the film “Untitled Walter Lace Project” after her grandfather. Scott Trimble honored his great-granduncle, who drowned in beer while working at the Anheuser-Busch factory, by calling Star Trek “The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles. Golden Swenson, because he had twin step-daughters, used “Christa & Christan’s Big Adventure.” And Steve Woroniecki decided to call the movie “Untitled Black Allen Project” after his son.
J.J. Abrams is a great storyteller who is known to be a perfectionist when it comes to his TV shows and movies. He’s worn many hats on productions: from writer to director to executive producer. On some movies and television programs, Abrams has even composed music.
You might think it’s somewhat crazy that Abrams looked outside the production crew for an assessment of the reboot. He has hundreds of people around him on the Star Trek crew – from experienced colleagues to movie-fans – but Abrams ultimately went to George Lucas.
10. UHURA FINALLY GETS A FIRST NAME
Lieutenant Uhura is the brilliant communications officer with a talent for alien languages. In all her Star Trek appearances on screen, Uhura never had a first name mentioned.
Gene Roddenberry, during The Original Series, just didn’t give her a first name. Whether that was an oversight or not is unknown. In 1982, William Rotsler gave Uhura her Nyota name for the first time in a licensed book called Star Trek II Biographies. Rotsler got Roddenberry’s approval for the name, and Nichelle Nichols was happy to finally have one. Since that book, Nyota began appearing in other Star Trek books and comics.
Fittingly, Nyota is the Swahili word for “star.”
9. STAR TREK ALUM ARE HIDDEN THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE
Those involved in making Star Trek TV shows and movies do a good job of including cast members from past Star Treks. A few alumni from previous Star Trek TV episodes and movies made it into the reboot.
Wil Wheaton – who played Wesley Crusher in The Next Generation series – came on board to voice several Romulans in the movie. Greg Grunberg convinced Wheaton to do that when the producers asked him. W. Morgan Sheppard, who had a Klingon role in The Undiscovered Country and played Data’s “allegorical grandfather,” appeared as the Vulcan Science Council’s head.
Majel Barrett, widow of Gene Roddenberry, did the voice of the Enterprise’s computer, as she usually did for the movies and TV shows. She completed recording two weeks before she passed away on December 18, 2008.
8. SIMON PEGG DIDN’T EVEN AUDITION TO PLAY SCOTTY
Although at least one other actor went for the part of Scotty, Simon Pegg ultimately received the role. But he didn’t need to audition at all for it!
Pegg got an e-mail from Abrams asking if the actor would play Montgomery Scott.
A well-known Star Trek fan, Pegg accepted. In an interview, Pegg had said he would have played Scotty for no pay. Or would have paid Abrams to be in the reboot if no role was offered to him.
Ironically, when Pegg was in Spaced, his character mentioned that odd-numbered Star Trek movies being terrible was a “fact of life.” When he accepted the part of Scotty, Pegg said, “Fate put me in a movie to show me I was talking out of my ass.”
7. ABRAMS DIDN’T LOVE KIRK AND SPOCK WHEN HE TOOK THE GIG
Many fans weren’t happy J.J. Abrams was involved with rebooting Star Trek. Abrams had said he never saw Star Trek: Nemesis because he felt that movie had “disconnected” from the rest of the series. This comment didn’t sit well with fans.
Abrams also admitted that, initially, he only wanted to help Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof (three of his frequent collaborators) get the movie going.
Paramount felt that Abrams would provide much-needed “fresh eyes” to the franchise, and worked hard to get the director on board. After Abrams – a casual fan – read the script, he was convinced that the reboot was a great project to fully commit to. He had said, “the script Alex and Bob wrote was so emotional and relatable. I didn’t love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey – but I love them now.”
6. NO NIMOY = NO MOVIE
The Star Trek reboot almost didn’t happen – or could have been completely different – if Leonard Nimoy declined to be in it.
J.J. Abrams and the writers visited Nimoy at his house.
According to Orci, Nimoy presented himself as indifferent to why they were there. They asked him to be in it. Orci and Abrams told Nimoy he was very important to the reboot. If Nimoy didn’t like the script or story, they would delay the movie or rewrite the script to Nimoy’s approval.
Nimoy told the LA Times, “This is the first and only time I ever had a filmmaker say, ‘We cannot make this film without you and we won’t make it without you.’”
5. SHATNER’S CUT CAMEO
Even today, William Shatner has said he’s open to reprising his role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek. You’ve probably heard the stories about Shatner’s ego and how upset he was that Nimoy was getting equal or more screen time in The Original Series. According to castmates like George Takei, it was all true.
In the very early drafts of the reboot, Shatner was given a scene, pretty much a cameo. Abrams said that Shatner refused to have a cameo-only role in the movie. He wanted a major role, like Leonard Nimoy.
But since Kirk has passed away – in keeping with canon – Shatner suggested using the novels he wrote were Kirk is resurrected. Abrams made the smart decision to say no, since then the movie would be about resurrecting Kirk and not about the reboot as planned.
4. THE IDEA FOR THE MOVIE BEGAN IN 1968
The Star Trek prequel idea had been around since 1968, when Gene Roddenberry hinted at one at the World Science Fiction Convention that year. Nothing came to fruition until the 1980s, when two men were given the go-ahead to write a prequel proposal.
Bennett worked with David Loughrey to write the proposal, called Star Trek: The Academy years. Part of the plan was to get younger and cheaper actors because the current stars’ increasing salaries were concerns for Paramount. The proposal was written, but ultimately the studio wasn’t sure about the whole concept, so the idea never went past the proposal stage.
While there have been books and comics over the years exploring major Star Trek characters when they were younger, nothing transpired on screen until Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman helmed development of a prequel in 2005.
3. STAR TREK: THE ACADEMY YEARS
During Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Ralph Winter and Harve Bennett gave Paramount a proposal for a prequel series movie. The studio kept the idea on ice through the fourth and fifth film. The Final Frontier did dismally at the box office, and Paramount gave Bennett the okay to develop his treatment.
Bennett worked with another writer, David Loughry, and they conceived of Star Trek: The Academy Years. It also had the potential name, Star Trek: Beginnings. Gene Roddenberry hated the idea, and with a deeply critical and disappointed fanbase voicing their opinions on the concept, the idea was shelved.
2. LENSFLARES AND SHAKY CAM
J.J. Abrams wasn’t the first producer or director to do it, but with any movie he’s involved in, there are often lens flares added to scenes for additional cinematic effect. But that’s not the only unique thing he did for the Star Trek reboot.
As director, Abrams had explicit control over camera movement, the start and stop times, and what needed to be reshot. He also had control over how the camera moved.
Abrams often followed the camera crew and shook the camera with his hands for more “realism.” Some of the shots were impossible to do that with, so he had Industrial Light and Magic CGI the same effect.
1. MATT DAMON AS KIRK?
Other actors and actresses were considered for many of the main roles. For Captain Kirk, Chris Pratt, Joshua Jackson, and Mike Vogel (The Brave, Cloverfield) were thought of. Another actor in the running for Spock was Adrien Brody.
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis, Tomorrowland) had been considered for Scotty. Uhura had more contention than just Zoe Saldana. Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Chicago P.D.) auditioned for the role of Uhura. James Kyson Lee, one of Quinto’s Heroes co-stars, almost received the role of Sulu.
Matt Damon had heard he was considered for Captain Kirk, so he called J.J. Abrams. Abrams said – as friendly as possible – that he wasn’t. Later, Abrams said that Damon was too old for the role. And there were only rumors that Gary Sinise and James Marsden had made the list for Doctor McCoy.