Uncut Interview - Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burke for Star Trek Into Darkness


Uncut Interview - Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burke for Star Trek Into Darkness
The writer and producer on fan service and their favourite Treks
Star Trek Into Darkness is almost here and Click’s Daniel Anderson recently caught up with writer and producer Damon Lindelof and producer BryanBurke for a chat about the sci-fi sequel.

Lindelof is best known as the co-creator and showrunner of the massively successful Lost TV show, which he contributed to as a writer through its entire six season run. His first feature writing work was 2011s Cowboys & Aliens and he also worked extensively on Prometheus as a screenwriter. He comes on board Star Trek Into Darkness to craft the script with Transformers scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Bryan Burke has been a constant collaborator with Star Trek director JJ Abrams and is the co-founder of their production company Bad Robot. He has various credits on everything from Alias to Lost and Fringe, where he also worked on the story of the first season. His feature experience includes time on Cloverfield, Star Trek and Super8, as well as the upcoming StarWars: Episode VII.

Here, the pair talk about making a movie for fans and newcomers alike, honouring the legacy of Trek and tiptoe gently around spoiler territory.

Read our review of Star Trek Into Darkness here.

[This interview was conducted in April 2013. This interview has been edited for spoilers ahead of release]

Damon Lindelof
Damon LindelofEnlarge Enlarge
CLICK: To start with – what is your favourite Star Trek movie of all time?
It’s the safest answer but it also happens to be the truth – Wrath of Khan. That was the first Star Trek anything that I saw. So far and away.

BB:Same. I wasn’t a big Star Trek fan but when I saw that it definitely resonated with me and I remember being at the Bruin theatre in Westwood village and it definitely affected me.

CLICK: So did your enjoyment of that film influence your work on Star Trek Into Darkness?
Sure. Certainly in the sense of all the ideas that it represented and I feel like one of the reasons that Star Trek doesn’t have a lot of iconic villains is because of just the fundamental design of the franchise. It’s not like when there’s a new Iron Man movie you’re asking ‘who’s the bad guy?’ I think there’s the Klingons and then there’s Khan. Those are the greats. And then in the Next Generation there’s the Borg. But the Klingons and the Borg are both races of people, there’s only really one individual. And I think that for me coming out of that movie, firstly naming a movie ‘the Wrath of Khan’ and not really knowing who that was and he had a Wrath! So it was obviously going to be a bad thing! And that just sort of infused it with a power.

And independent of it and I don’t think we’re talking that openly yet about things. We want to preserve the experience that you had going to the theatre. I’m not sure if it or isn’t and if so how!? In terms of the alchemy of it all. But I do think that in so much as we want to forge our own path with Trek there’s also a gravity to certain mythological icons from the original series. And to avoid them would be an even more fundamental hubris than coming up with something wholly original.

CLICK: Damon, you didn’t get to write on the first Star Trek, did you definitely want to be on board this time?
DL: Well I think that the first movie is infinitely better-written than the second movie! But the way that these stories are designed are by the five of us –Bryan and JJ and Alex [Kurtzman], Roberto [Orci] and myself.

BB: I can barely read!

DL: There’s a lot of story work done before any actual screenwriting is done where we all have this rigid consensus about what the movie is about thematically and what character relationships we want to explore. And then what are the plot mechanics. On the first movie that happened amongst the five of us and because we were still deep in the throes of Lost, we were between the second and third season I think, Alex and Bob just took the ball and ran with it on the screenplay. And on the second movie it just felt like it made more sense for all of us to be producers and then I had the opportunity to be more actively engaged in the writing of the script and to put my name on it.

Bryan Burke
Bryan BurkeEnlarge Enlarge
CLICK: And how did you guys break the story this time. You said you talk about it for a long time?
It was a similar thing. I remember, and you [Damon] might have had other conversations with JJ, but I remember on the first film when Damon, Alex and Bob came in and said: “Here’s our idea, we’re going to blow up Vulcan” [laughs]. And it was literally the first thing out of their mouths! I remember on this one it was a similar thing. We were having a dinner and they just started going through all the beats.

CLICK: Was there one big moment?
There were millions! Just one of those things, as they were pitching it and they got to the conference room scene and we were on the edge of our seats and they just said ‘hold on, it gets better!’ So it was just one of those things where they had thought through all the beats. And I don’t know where JJ was in those conversations but I remember sitting there and it was like – ‘oh here’s a real f**king movie!’ and then from there we started having conversations about how to get from point A to point B. And you start filling in the detail. I’m usually the person who gets confused very easily so we’d talk about not making too many big leaps! But it comes in a well thought out place.


DL: Just out of curiosity, when are you going to run your piece?

CLICK: You mean can we talk about Kahn?
DL: Yea that’s the question because like I guess in our perfect world we would love to talk about it openly

CLICK: I'm not going to do it before the movie is out.
But at the same time like a week or two after the movie has been released in the States, that May 24th range, I feel like then we’re much more comfortable saying here’s why we did that. But beforehand I'm just terrified that in the next week before it’s even out in the states, it’s like ‘Lindleof and Burke talk about why they chose Kahn’.

CLICK: Did you enjoy the speculatation then because people guessed quite early – it’s the go to place?
: Um…

BB: I was not fun for me!

DL: People were asking when we were working on the first movie, is he going to be in this one? And I think we were very comfortable in the first movie saying no – don’t worry yourself about that, we’re trying to set up this world and pay homage to the entire canon that came before and that’s a slippery enough slope. And then while we were doing press on the first movie, people were already asking if there’s a second movie, it’s going to be him right? And it felt like it was such inevitability. And to that end we answered the question honestly which was that we were still discussing it. And I do feel like there were many many conversations internally about the pros and cons as to whether or not we wanted to go there. And it just felt like it was a path that was fraught with peril and there was really no way to do it right. Which kind of compelled us to try!


CLICK: Do you feel like with an established franchise you have to include a mix of fan service and new material?
BB: Yea I think so. Star Trek in its 45 years of it has always been for fans. And it’s a very loud, vocal group. So by no means do you want to make a film that alienates those people and moves on. But by the same token you also have to make a film that opens up to everybody else – particularly if you want Star Trek to continue. It was the first time in my memory of growing up and seeing Star Trek around me, it was the first time that there was no TV show and no movie happening. And it was just not happening! So in order to continue the franchise and to allow it to go on we had to open it up to a whole new audience – me being the poster boy for that audience because I was not a Star Trek fan. But at the same time you can’t alienate fans, nor do you want to as I'm working with producers and writers who are hardcore Star Trek fans. So the whole play and putting together the films is always making sure that people can come in, particularly this film as it’s not a sequel, it is entirely its own film. And you can jump in if you’ve never seen anything or the last one. If you are a Star Trek fan there are numerous things that you’ll be able to take home at a different level.

DL: I saw Wrath of Khan when I was 9 or 10 and it was the first Star Trek anything that I had ever seen.

CLICK: Was it R-rated?
Was it R?

CLICK: Well it was 15s over here!
Yea yea it was PG. before the PG-13 because it came out before Temple of Doom, which was when the PG-13 was invented. But when I saw it I was aware of Mr Spock, I knew there was a character with pointy ears. But I knew nothing else and I was able to enjoy that movie thoroughly and to understand what the characters were all about. And I also felt this incredible emotional connection when Spock died. And I knew when I saw that movie that that was a big deal! And there were other people who saw the film that already had a 20 year experience with Star Trek and that must have been even more impactful for them. But I was able to get it. And we wanted to create exactly the same experience for people who have never seen Trek before. And by the way Wrath of Kahn was a sequel, Star Trek the Motion Picture I hadn’t even seen that. So there has to be a fundamental sense of just buying a ticket and you’ll get it. And when you see it, you’ll understand as I did when I saw Wrath that Ricardo Montalban is talking about things which preceded this movie, he’s already very, very angry at Kirk and I didn’t need to have seen ‘Space Seed’ [the original series episode] and I know a lot of people who love Wrath of Kahn who have never seen that episode. They know it exists and they could still understand. So we kind of use that as bar.

BB: And the other thing which was really important was wanted to make sure this film was particularly for people who were not Star Trek fans or thought they weren’t fans. It was a film that we knew if they were dragged to it, if they were thinking they know what Star Trek is, that this wasn’t going to be the experience that they thought it was going to be. And we had a lot of that with the last film and even now as we’re starting to screen it, my favourite thing as we’re walking out is seeing people walk out with their partners or whatever and saying ‘its not what I thought it was going to be’ and it turns out that they liked it more than their die hard star trek boyfriend.

DL: In many ways they’re easier to please than the diehard star trek boyfriends!

CLICK: So you really set out to make a good movie rather than just a Star Trek movie?
Yea! The analogy I use a lot is something like Iron Man. I was not an Iron Man fan; it was not a comic I knew anything about. Everyone’s forgetting that there a million comic books movies before it that weren’t as successful. And it was my favourite film of the summer, it was a revelatory experience. And then I had a million friends who felt the same thing – it wasn’t Superman or Batman it wasn’t one that was already part of the vernacular. So we wanted Star Trek to cross over to a whole new group of people who weren’t expecting to enjoy it.

Star Trek Into Darkness is in cinemas from the 9th of May. Read our full review here.

Uncut Interview - Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burke for Star Trek Into Darkness on ClickOnline.com
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