screenwriter and card-
carrying Trekkie John Logan pumps
passion into a venerable sci-fi franchise.
the uncut Web-only interview here.
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 Ive 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 have any Trek memorabilia?
yeah, some, I must confess. You know, when I was a
kid, I just had everything. 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 the best.
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?
was a lot that led up to that moment. Before I even
went in to meet Rick, I thought very seriously about
what makes an exceptional Star Trek
story. So when I went in, I had a little bit of trepidation,
because not only was I a big fan going into the wizards
lair, I was also going in to say, You know,
lets shake this up a bit.
all the suggestions you had to "shake things
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 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
you know, thats 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. Hes
willing to do radical things.
from that point on, it was nothing but pleasure as
I sat in the room with Rick and Brent Spiner and we
worked out the story.
many ideas did Brent Spiner have?
was absolutely involved all the way through it; he
was in every single story meeting. In football terms,
Brent became my go-to guy whenever
wed thought ourselves into a corner, thats
when Id call Brent or sit down with him and
say, OK Picard and Data are trapped on
the villains ship; they cant get off.
What the hell do I do?
whats 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.
least up through Insurrection, Stewart
had massive story input on these films.
yes as well he should. 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.
expected him to be savvy about Picard, but he was
savvy about everything about every element
of the script. Hed say, Is this right
for Geordi? or Is this right for Deanna?
Cant we give Beverly more?
strikes me that, as a fan, having to deal with Stewart
in a meeting could be sort of intimidating.
was. [laughs] You know, Ive dealt with
my share of heavy hitters but youve got
to think, Youre about to meet Jean-Luc
Picard, and as much as you say, Its
only an actor and its only a part, hed
walk in the room and it was still a little bit like,
friends who are all Trekkies, of course
say, What was it like being on the bridge when
youre 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 Patrick walked in in
his Jean-Luc Picard uniform. Thats when I was
overwhelmed and I thought, Oh, my God
I am really shaping the destiny of these characters.
you ever wish youd been able to take a stab
at writing the classic Trek series?
think what would make me happiest would be to write
lines for Captain Kirk. Of course.
Star Trek and James Bond films 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. How much did you feel constrained
I thought I was going to feel very constrained by
that. My feeling was, Man this is a billion-dollar
franchise for Paramount. Theyre not going to
let anyone monkey with it too much.
quickly found out that was not going to be the case
with Nemesis and its all
because of Rick. His mind can immediately leap
to the significance of small character moments and
how they affect the whole canon of Star Trek.
think a lot of fans probably have an image in their
heads of an official Star Trek archivist
sitting over your shoulder and telling you, Well
you cant do that, because this button does that.
Well, no 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 cant do that because
in Episode 54, we learned that Dr. Soongh made two
prototypes, and the positronic network
And they would just sort of roll their eyes and wait
for me to finish.
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?!
course, no Trek movie is going to satisfy
every Trek fan because we all have
our different fascinations. Ive always been
fascinated by the Romulans, so therefore we dont
have Klingons [in Nemesis], we have Romulans.
its high time, I say.
its high time, I say, as well! But you know,
all those Klingons are going to be camping out on
my front lawn protesting. And Ive always been
a big fan of Picard, Data and Deanna. So they get
the most attention in this movie.
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 didnt do as much with Worf in Nemesis
as some of the previous films have.
two comments: First, youre dead-on right about
that id/ego/superego thing, and thats why I
think Star Trek works because I
think that is an absolutely universal archetype that
everyone responds to. If you talk to fans like [Usual
Suspects director] Bryan Singer, thats
all they talk about.
yeah. Big, big Trek fan. He has a cameo
in Nemesis. [Singer says,] Thats
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.
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 were introducing a new element
to the Romulan world
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. In the original draft
of this, all of the characters had story arcs
Beverly was involved, Worf was involved, Geordi was
involved and they all had significant character
moments all the way through.
even had a part for Wesley Crusher [a major character
who abruptly relocated to a different plane of existence
near the end of the TV series].
And as the editing continued, it became apparent we
did not have time for all that. If I have a regret
about Nemesis, its that those story
arcs didnt make it to the screen.
the actors pretty philosophical about it?
entirely. Theyre complete pros. Every one of
them, God bless them, has the same reaction, which
is: I just want a great movie. If Im
not featured, fine.
you and [director] Stuart Baird are both sort of arrivistes
in the Trek universe. What advantages
did that give you?
difference between Stuart and I is that Id never
done a Trek movie, but I had lived
Trek for all these years, so it was absolutely
in my blood. Stuart came to it totally fresh.
I dont think hed even seen Star
Trek before they started talking to him about
was a set report about him thinking Geordi LaForge
[a major human character from the TV series with oddly-hued
artificial eyes] was an alien.
Ive 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
think I hope [Paramount
executives] realize this could be a really exciting
Star Trek movie. They are giving extra
money for optical effects, for example.
may be the first Trek movie to have a
larger budget than the previous one.
actually dont think thats true. I think
Insurrection will actually have had a
bigger budget than Nemesis which,
when you see the movie, you wont believe. Because
its just astounding how big Nemesis
looks for what it cost.
by this point youve checked out that fantastic
new Trek II DVD.
it, Harve Bennett talks about how they got so much
for so little recycling set elements and so
on. Does that still go on?
Oh, my God, yes. Everywhere you can possibly
save money, it has to be done. There are sets that
are re-dresses of other sets. We re-use the mammoth
engineering set like five times as different things.
of the things that helped is I specifically wanted
to write a bottled show. My initial pitch
to Rick was, Its a war movie, and the
entire third acts a battle. Its the Enterprise
and another ship, and theyre blasting each other
to pieces. 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, and the only location
footage we did was Kolaris III, the desert planet
and that was a week in the desert. It was a
said it doesnt matter if you re-dress the set,
because the films not really about the
right. Its about the characters.
I suppose youve also listened to Nicholas Meyers
fantastic commentary on that disc.
Nick Meyer and Jack Sowards, who wrote Star
Trek II, are my gods. I mean, to me, thats
not only the best Trek film I think
its one of my favorite movies ever. And
its the only movie Ive ever seen where
Im guaranteed to cry every time I see it.
my initial impulse Lets 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?
Also, 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.
must confess, Ive seen the Nemesis
script that was briefly leaked online, so I know what
that relationship is, specifically.
a very old script.
the Internet has been something of a double-edged
sword for you, because the Internet also helped create
an advance buzz for Gladiator.
not double-edged sword at all for me. Its a
single-edged sword: Its theft. Its the
theft of intellectual property.
the script leaked,] I was outraged, I was angered,
I was saddened, 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. Its like someone going to
an artist when a painting is half-done and judging
it. And the second thing is I just think its
really unfair for the fans, because we spend
as dramatists a lot of time figuring out how to tell
a story and be surprising. And one hates to think
that all that is being taken away in the very cold
version of reading words on a page.
the way your script unfolds, there are surprises.
Is that going to keep people from seeing the movie?
No, I dont think so because everyone
knows things change, and I think if it whets peoples
appetites to see the movie, I guess thats good.
But as a writer, I think its abominable. I would
rather my friends who are the fans judge me on the
basis of the final movie.
how different is the final movie from the script?
Very. Its 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.
it ever occur to you to resurrect an old villain from
the TV series?
because as much as I am honoring Star Trek II
with every line of this movie, I cant honor
it that far, because that would almost be theft. And
also, I wanted specifically a young, sexy, male villain,
because weve never seen that in Trek
heard nice things about Tom Hardy as Shinzon.
hes tremendous and the scenes with him
and Patrick are, I think, absolutely dynamite. I mean,
talk about intimidation: Can you imagine, as a green
actor, going in and acting three intense scenes with
intention was, how can we make a villain 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
no. Ill tell you why: Its because Rick
and I liked the idea of a surrogate father/son relationship
between Picard and the villain and thats
the important thing.
a while, I thought maybe Shinzon was a long-lost son
of Picards but obviously that is so against
the canon of Trek that we could never
get away with it.
the way the geek media has 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?
not at all because Im a big Voyager
fan and I actually think Insurrection
is underrated, so I didnt feel that at all.
I dont think it was ever my job to save the
franchise because I dont think it needs
this the last Next Generation cast film?
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 XI
and I hope I will be involved in it.
in this script you guys drew a lot from Trek
history. I know, at least at one point, you had Wesley
Crusher showing up at a wedding, and youve got
a cameo from Admiral Janeway from Voyager.
Are there any other little surprises?
are a few little surprises mostly in terms
of references the fans are going to enjoy. One of
the fun things for me is winking at the other fans,
and most of the general public doesnt know what
that means, but you and I get it because you
and I know what a Tholian is, or what Romulan ale
Clearly, the biggest way I seized Treks
past is by inventing the Remans, because its
something thats mentioned once, in [the classic
Trek episode] Balance of Terror.
I said, Wait a minute the Romulan Empire
is two planets. We see them in the bird of preys
claws in the Romulan logo. What the hell is Remus?
And I thought, How fun to explore that?
lets talk about your career for a minute. From
reading your Internet Movie Database listing, here
is your astonishing career arc: You write two TV movies.
You write the Lou Diamond Phillips camp classic Bats.
And then, within a year, youre working for Oliver
Stone on Any Given Sunday. And co-writing
Gladiator. And now youre working
on The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Was
the speed of your ascent a bit shocking?
to a certain extent. Because the reality is that Id
been working on Any Given Sunday for years,
and I wrote Bats as a sort of little toss-off
thing. So that chronology doesnt 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.
it frustrating when you go to Hollywood after youve
been writing plays for years and people like me say,
Oh, look! He popped out of nowhere!?
not at all. Id spent 10 years learning my craft,
and Im just a professional writer. How
Im perceived doesnt matter to me in the
slightest. I dont live in L.A., I dont
go to parties, I dont go to openings. I just
keep my head down and do my job. 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 just heard the big announcement about Gladiator
2. Good heavens.
I must say, I share the worlds curiosity
Yeah. My sister just called me and said: But
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 because the things
that happened after the death of Commodus are absolutely
thrillingly exciting. So it was not a frivolous decision
of, Oh the movie made a lot of money.
Lets somehow ground out a sequel.
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] DreamWorks will hunt me down if I tell.
Dont worry youll see a script on
the Internet soon.