Lee Rosenthal on the Creation of J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ Reboot

by Lee Rosenthal, Paramount Pictures

Many of J.J. Abrams’ films are cloaked in secrecy, and Star Trek was no exception.

The film began with a script printed on silver paper that couldn’t be photocopied. The paper was reflective and impossible to read with the lights on so it had to be read in the dark. This was the first and only script that I’ve read with the lights off.

J.J. had a unique vision and wanted moviegoers to experience aspects of Star Trek’s world yet to be explored. For instance, the distinctive setting for the engine rooms and deep bowels of the U.S.S. Enterprise was shot at the Budweiser plant in Van Nuys, California. The plant had these great stretches of catwalks and futuristic looking vats that allowed Scotty’s world to come to life.

When shooting the film’s dynamic jump scene [on Paramount’s backlot], actors Chris Pine and John Cho spent days suspended on wires, spinning in circles to capture the most realistic feel of falling from the Romulan drilling platform to the planet Vulcan. It was physically challenging and at times a bit nauseating for the actors, who were both great sports. Still needing some good close ups of the fall, but lacking the wherewithal to put the actors back up on the wires, J.J. and his team came up with an idea.

It was the last day of photography and they set up a truly unique shot at Paramount’s Blue Sky Tank, which is about 75 feet high. With a wind machine aimed at them and a camera shooting from atop, Pine and Cho stood on a giant mirrored disc, grabbed on to one another and spun in circles as they said their lines. The disc reflecting the blue sky above created this odd, yet incredible optical illusion – it was an amazing moment as they truly looked like they were falling.

The Star Trek sequel will premiere in 2013.


Lee Rosenthal is President of Physical Production for Paramount Pictures. His career has spanned the production of all the Star Trek films since 1994, and the Mission: Impossible and Paranormal Activity franchises, among others.


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