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John Logan's NEMESIS Part One

The GLADIATOR screenwriter previews his new STAR TREK film

By SCOTT COLLURA     December 06, 2002

John Logan at the 15th Anniversary STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Convention. (Copyright Sue Schneider)
© 2002 Sue Schneider

The crew of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION are undergoing many changes in their new film, STAR TREK: NEMESIS, but perhaps one of the biggest differences between this tenth film in the popular franchise and those that have come before is the presence of a true fan on the creative staff. Screenwriter John Logan, best known for his uber-successful script for GLADIATOR, came onboard to write the latest TREK film with a knowledgeand loveof the Enterprise crew that few of his predecessors possessed.

"I've been a STAR TREK fan as long as I can remember," says Logan. "My introduction to TREK was literally Captain Kirk on his first voyage, not even syndication, his first run when I was a kid. And I completely fell in love with it and it remained a sort of important part of my life[I've been] unapologetically [a] STAR TREK fan all my life. And then the opportunity to work on this came about when I met the great Brent Spiner [who plays the android Data] and I had a second's hesitation thinking, 'Well, I don't know. Is this mixing business with pleasure?' I'm very professional about my work but I had such affection for these characters in this story, how [was] I going to be able to be objective about it? So I had some hesitations. But certainly [since] the minute [producer] Rick [Berman], Brent and I started working on the story, the minute I met Rick and said, 'Well, this is what I want to do,' it's been one of the best experiences I've ever had."

Logan confesses

John Logan at the 15th Anniversary STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Convention. (Copyright Sue Schneider)

that he did harbor some concern that once he stepped behind the scenes of the TREK production, the magic of being a fan might be lost on him.

"I did have a certain amount of fear that once you see how the magician does the trick, you're not going to like the trick anymore," he says. "Once I see that the Enterprise isn't actually a spaceship, it's actually a set that you can walk around the plywood back, is it going to affect the way I feel about this for the rest of my life? Or the way I have felt about it retroactively? And nothing could be further from the truth, because Rick and Brent told me really early on when we were in meetings, 'What you have to understand about STAR TREK is it is a family, and I sort of said, 'Oh yeah, like I've heard that a million times, every movie's a family.' But it is so true. These people care so deeply about it and 15 years of their lives [have] been committed to working on this and they bring such affection and such tenderness to it, that it was amazing to be a part of that world for a little while. So if anything, I come out of the NEMESIS experience having more respect for it. And yeah, I know the Enterprise is in fact not a spaceship now, but it doesn't matter because it's the spirit of all the people working on it is what makes it a spaceship."

But what about the other fans out there? STAR TREK continues to have one of the most vociferous, and occasionally scary, fanbases around (you have seen TREKKIES, haven't you?). After all, these are the people who actually saved the original show at one time. But if Logan were to script anything that the fans didn't like or agree with, the writer was surely going to hear about itespecially in this day and age, when screenplays are leaked on the Internet even before they've been completed.

"I take [the fan response] very personally, very deeply, because my intention all the way along was to write a movie for the fans," says Logan. "I think that's why they hired me, because I'm a fan, I have a responsiveness to the fans and what they want and how they respond to things. If the fans reject this movie then I will feel awful. I will feel like I failed at my job. If the fans like the movie and the general audience doesn't, I don't careI know I've done my job, because I was trying to write a movie for the fans, knowing, predicting how they might respond to certain things."

Having said

Picard (Patrick Stewart) meets a very personal nemesis in the person of Shinzon (Tom Hardy) in STAR TREK: NEMESIS.

that, Logan's plan from the start was to shake up the status quo for Captain Picard and his crew. NEMESIS details the efforts by Picard and company to forge a peace with the usually-nefarious Romulans, and in particular with a (heretofore unheard of in TREK mythology) Romulan sister-race known as the Remans. Of course, things don't go as easily as expected (do they ever?), and soon Picard is facing off against a very personal adversarywith the fate of Earth and the Federation hanging in the balance. Along the way, several members of the Enterprise crew are facing changes in their lives that only the craftiest of screenwriters will be able to work around if an eleventh TREK film ever gets made.

"We make radical choices in NEMESIS and certainly we push the envelope on certain things, and that was our intention from the very beginning, but being a STAR TREK fan I know I respond to the same things that any human being responds to when they are being told a story," says the writer. "They want to be challenged, they want to be provoked, they want to be entertained, they want to feel sweep and grandeur. The uniqueness of NEMESIS for me was, because it was such an important part of my story growing up as a human being, I felt I had to be very protective of it more than I would be about other things. And at times, frankly, it was really difficult because I wanted to write parts for everyone. I wanted to write a really good Beverly Crusher arc or a really good Worf arc. So the first cut of the movie was like two hours and fifty minutes because it had all this stuff in it. And the process of honing it down into the NEMESIS we have was a really sort of educational process for me as well. And I'm incredibly proud of the movie and I can only hope the fans will be proud as well."

As it stands, NEMESIS clocks in at just under two hours. So would Logan have preferred a more epic version of the picture, or is he at peace with the cuts director Stuart Baird made?

"I totally

STAR TREK: NEMESIS teaser poster

supported the cuts because I saw the first cut of the movie and, as big a fan as I am, I was like, 'Oh god, end this movie. I'm sick of talk, talk, talk! Picard shut up!'" laughs Logan. "Rick kept me very involved in terms of every line that was being cut or discussed. Stuart was great in terms of feedback. [He was like], 'If we move this scene, we can afford to lose this.' So I totally stand behind the movie that's out there. There were things that I liked a lot that I thought added sort of color or flourish or texture to the major theme, but in the largest way I'm delighted. There were some scenes that I liked very much that I supported cutting. Picard and Data had... a really good scene, sort of setting up character, that I think we were right to lose. Beverly Crusher had two really nice scenes about her moving on to become head of Starfleet Medical [and a] farewell with Picard that I was sort of sorry to see lose. But, you know, I was there and I said, 'Yes, cut them.'"

Of course, a director's cut of the film is always possible when it takes DVD form a few months from now. Rick Berman and Stuart Baird have both gone on the record saying they're not sure if a director's cut will happen (or even be appropriate in this case), but Logan for his part is enthusiastic about the idea.

"Yeah, absolutely, I would love that," he enthuses. "For the fans, oh my god yes, cause the fans would love that stuff. I think that would be great... although cuts were made totally for artistic purposes in terms of, 'What's the best possible way to tell this story?' And the best possible way to tell a story was with some drive and momentum and I was the first one to say that as much as I liked certain elements and certain textures, when the texture starts taking over from the spine of the story and the momentum of the story, it's bad drama. So what we have now is really cracking good drama. With another 50 minutes of footage, as a fan I think it'd be cool. I'd love to watch that stuff, but the NEMESIS we have is the NEMESIS that I stand behind and am very proud of."

Be sure to check back for part two of our talk with John Logan.

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