Simon Pegg talks STAR TREK 3; writing the script and who Idris Elba is NOT playing

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Since 2009, Simon Pegg has been beaming us up (which is less dirtier than it sounds) as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the JJ Abram’s rebooted Star Trek movies. But now, with the third entry in the reimagined franchise, Pegg’s duties have changed a bit (no, he’s not just beaming down as well now) as he will also be co-writing the script with Doug Jung (Dark Blue, Banshee).

And for Pegg, who became known for his original collaborations with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, this is change of role is a bit bittersweet. As he explained in an interview with Collider, it’s good to be writing his own material again, so to speak, but there are some additional stresses now.

“It’s weird to walk into something and take ownership of it, in a way. Everything else that I’ve written has been mine, from the very germ of the first idea, or shared with Edgar [Wright] or Nick [Frost]. But with this, I’m walking into a realm that doesn’t belong to me, and I have to treat it with a degree of respect. Obviously, I always treat things with respect, by I have to abide by certain rules and do right by the original series, and not be too post-modern with it and not be too aware of itself. I have to try to take on the spirit of the show, rather than fill it with stuff that people will just go, “Oh, yeah, that’s from episode something or other.” It’s more than that.”

“On set, sometimes, there’s room for improvisation, especially for someone like Scotty who’s Scottish, but never anything more than little dialogue tweaks, here and there. Now it’s like, “Okay, now you’ve got to write the dialogue.” It’s scary! Also, the timeframe we’re working in is extremely tight. It means we’re having to come up with the goods. We can’t be lazy about it. We can’t procrastinate. We have to come up with the stuff because the production is hammering on the door saying, “When can we build this? What are we gonna we build? Who is in it?” I don’t know! Let’s write it and we’ll find out. It’s an interesting process.”

Pegg also explained how he actually landed the writing gig, and when he expects the script to be ready:

“Me and Bryan Burk, who’s one of the producers at Bad Robot, have worked together on a bunch of stuff. We were sitting around, talking about the direction the next film was gonna go in. They were thinking, “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board, a little bit, with the screenplay.” Bryan and I would just sit around and talk, and we’d get excited. And then, Bryan was like, “Do you want to write it then?” It was a difficult decision. I hemmed and hawed about it, a little bit, because it felt like a big responsibility. I owe J.J. [Abrams] and Bryan an awful amount. I love those guys. I want to do right by them, so I felt like I should man up and do it.”

“Come hell or high water, [we’ll be done in] June. I’m busy writing it. It’s an ongoing thing. I’m sure we’ll be finessing it, right through the shoot. You never really, truly start writing a movie until the edit. There’s a whole new lexicon that you’re confronted with, when you’ve shot the movie, which is the visual language that you don’t have on the page. And then, you start to realize, “Hang on, we don’t need that speech because that look says it all.” So, it will be an ongoing thing, right until next year.”

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But while the script is still in the early stages, Pegg has already, erm, pegged out some strong influences for how the story would feel, as he explained to Comic Book Resources:

“I think we just want to take it forward with the spirit of the TV show. And it’s a story about frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, you know. Where no man has gone before – where no one has gone before, sensibly corrected for a slighter more enlightened generation. But yeah, that’s the mood at the moment.”

Optimism is certainly a far cry from the more serious last film, Star Trek Into Darkness (just look at that title!), which may have been commercially successful but wasn’t as universally accepted by critics. One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Into Darkness was just how self-referential it was, throwing in easter eggs and sly winks constantly, to the point of distraction. As Pegg confessed to Den of Geek, this was indeed a drawback to the film:

“In a way I felt like if anything — and I really, really am very proud of Into Darkness — but I feel like the thing that for me was kind of jolting was that it kind of wanted to embrace itself a little too much, rather than take off and do what Star Trek did, which is to go off into the depths of the galaxy. It was about referencing not only a previous film but also kind of hanging onto the coast of Earth a little bit.”

And speaking of paying tribute to previous films, last week a rumour surfaced that Idris Elba was being sought to play the villain in Star Trek 3, and the rumour went further to say that his baddie would be a Klingon. The knobby-headed alien race who were often the prime antagonists of the original TV series and movies have been almost entirely absent in the continuity of the new films, and many thought that Elba would be the perfect choice to bring them back. But not so according to what Pegg told Absolute Radio (via TrekMovie):

Well it doesn’t get more definitive than “No, no, no!”. Then again, Pegg also vehemently denied several times that Khan was in Into Darkness and look how that turned out!

The still untitled Star Trek 3 will be seeing Justin Lin taking over the directing duties from JJ Abrams – yes, the same Justin Lin that has been shepherding the uber-successful and incredibly fun Fast and Furious franchise since 2006 – so you can cue up all your jokes about how the USS Enterprise is swapping their dylithium crystals for NOS now already. Star Trek 3 is scheduled for release on July 8, 2016.

Last Updated: April 1, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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