JJ Abrams boldly going from 'Trek' to 'Star Wars'

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm •  Published: May 13, 2013
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LONDON (AP) — J.J. Abrams is master of one universe — and he's about to try conquering another.

The director who rebooted "Star Trek" for a new generation, sending the USS Enterprise out again to explore strange new worlds, has also been put at the "Star Wars" helm. Soon he'll direct a new film, the seventh, in the epic sci-fi franchise.

So while Abrams is in London to talk about his second "Trek" feature, "Star Trek Into Darkness" — releasing in U.S. theaters on May 17 — the topic inevitably drifts to a galaxy far, far away.

"I feel preposterously lucky," said Abrams, a self-declared "Star Wars" fanboy.

"I do feel at the core this incredible disbelief that I'm actually even answering questions at all about my involvement in something that until fairly recently I didn't even know was going to come back as a series. And now I get to be involved in it."

Just how involved, he says, remains to be seen.

Abrams' "Star Wars: Episode VII" is part of big plans for The Walt Disney Co., which bought George Lucas' Lucasfilm empire last year for $4.05 billion. The company is planning three sequels and two stand-alone spinoff movies focusing on characters from the "Star Wars" universe.

Will Abrams direct the entire new trilogy? Will he be involved in any of the spinoffs? Will George Lucas play a mentoring role? He can't say.

"I never see myself doing anything more than what's in front of me," Abrams said — one film, due for release in 2015 and scripted by "Little Miss Sunshine" screenwriter Michael Arndt.

"What the approach is going to be remains to be discussed, because it's in process," he said. "So it's a weird thing to be talking about. If I'm charging down the court dribbling the ball, it's hard to comment on the layup that's about to take place.

"I feel like the ball is just getting passed to me now, to complete the annoying metaphor."

But it's a suitably energetic metaphor for the prolific creator of TV shows, including "Felicity," ''Alias" and "Lost," director of films "Mission: Impossible III" and "Super 8" and owner of Bad Robot, the film and television production company whose upcoming projects include a movie about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Compact and voluble, in natty black-framed spectacles and a dark jacket, 46-year-old Abrams is the epitome of the geek made good.

By his own admission, though, he has never been much of a "Star Trek" fan. Roberto Orci, a producer and writer on both Abrams' "Star Trek" movies, says — with mock-horror — that the director "didn't even know that Spock was half-human."

Abrams' distance may actually have been an asset. The "Star Trek" reboot works because it speaks to fans and newcomers alike. It's the work of a director who was not overawed by "Star Trek's" mythology or bogged down in its lore.

"I think a lot of sequels make this weird mistake, which is that they assume you care," Abrams said. "They assume you know about the world or the characters.

"The approach to 'Star Trek,' especially for 'Into Darkness,' was to make a standalone movie.

"You never have to have seen our first film or the original series. It's its own thing. If you have, you'll be rewarded, but you don't have to."

Abrams' characters are drawn directly from the original series, led by impulsive, cocksure Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and uber-logical Vulcan first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto). But the filmmakers gave themselves freedom to play with character and plot, thanks to some alternate-universe sleight of hand.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" picks up where the first film left off, with the crew of the Starship Enterprise in the midst of a high-octane outer space adventure. Then a personal crisis shakes Kirk's confidence, and a terrorist attack shatters Starfleet. Soon the crew are off in pursuit of a villain — played with muscular menace by "Sherlock" star Benedict Cumberbatch — who may be an ally, or the enemy within.

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