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The Trek Nation - 'Wrath Of Khan' Screening Report

'Wrath Of Khan' Screening Report

By Casualviewer
Posted at August 4, 2002 - 11:33 PM GMT

On Wednesday July 31, Paramount Pictures hosted a special screening of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' to celebrate the release of the Director's Edition DVD. Director Nicholas Meyer and star Ricardo Montalban were on hand to talk about the special edition and their memories of filming.


'Paramount Theatre' - copyright TrekToday Nicholas Meyer set out to end speculation over one of the movie's hotly debated topics once and for all.

"That is his real chest," the director said as he held court on the carpet outside the Paramount Theatre, emphatically assuring reporters that Ricardo Montalban's pectorals were no special effect. "That's the question I'm asked most frequently about 'Star Trek II.' It was his chest!"

Meyer and Montalban were the guests of honour at the premiere of the director's cut of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' at Paramount Pictures last Wednesday. An enthusiastic crowd of over 500 Paramount 'family,' friends and crew gathered under balmy Hollywood skies for the must-see event, which obstructed traffic on busy Melrose Avenue for several blocks.

'Nicholas Meyer' - copyright TrekTodayThe ebullient and engaging Meyer was the first to arrive as the celebrities gathered outside on the charcoal grey carpet for photos and interviews. Meyer was extremely modest about his role in the production of the new edition, which will be released on DVD August 6. "There are a lot of features about the making of the film which I think are interesting," he said. "I'm not a fan of director's commentaries. Maybe people like director's commentaries but I can't watch a movie with half an ear, it's too distracting. But the other things about the making of the movie I think are very interesting. Also, while I had a very good time doing this film... there were little battles that I lost and I got the footage right."

A 1977 Oscar nominee for his script for 'The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,' Meyer has worked in Hollywood as a writer, director and producer. His credits include 'Fatal Attraction,' 'Sommersby,' 'Company Business,' 'The Odyssey' mini-series and two Star Trek outings - 'Khan' and 1991's 'Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.' However, Meyer did admit he's not a particularly big fan of director's cuts.

"This isn't a wildly different movie. Why would you want to tinker with something that everybody loves? I don't think that director's cuts are usually better from the original movie. I think that they gain in length, which is typically self indulgent. They frequently lose the snap, crackle and pop of the editing. [Paramount] said, 'Ok, put back some popcorn moments that you think [of] and we'll call it a director's cut'.

'Nicholas Meyer' - copyright TrekToday"I can't look at my own movies without seeing everything I did wrong, so I assume that I would do many things differently, but who knows whether the movie would come out as well? You could always improve the effects, you could improve the music, you could improve everything, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the whole thing would be improved. I look at 'Time After Time,' which is another movie of mine which is coming out on DVD in August; it was the first movie I ever directed and it's a catastrophe of errors! Why is it the most asked-for DVD? Something must be right about it."

With everything said and done, what did the director hope to accomplish with the new version that may not have been achieved with the original release? "To be honest, there was one plot point I wanted to clear up - I'm not going to outline what it is, you have to watch the movie - but sometimes I think it's a chance to settle scores. 'Grr, they cut that shot out! I wanted that shot!' And you put it back in. Does it make it better? I don't know. You have to decide whether what you see is worse, as good or better than it was before. I'm curious to know! I haven't seen it with an audience."

When queried about the DVD's extras, including the possibility of interactive features, he quipped, "I don't know about interactive stuff. I've never interacted with anything except possibly my wife! I do know that there's documentaries from the production/art department, costumes...there's interviews about how the movie was made, the various contributions that were made. All of us with our different recollections, which is really quite like 'Rashomon'. 'Oh yeah I did it...I did it...no, no, I did it!'"

The owner of the aforementioned chest was singled out for praise. "Ricardo Montalban sticks out as my fondest memory because he's the greatest actor I ever got to work with. I've worked with some really hotshot actors but this was like having my own Maserati. Lots and lots of talent, mostly underutilized as with many great actors."

'Nicholas Meyer' - copyright TrekTodayMeyer said he has "no plan" to work on any future Star Trek features. "Nobody has mentioned it to me. I don't know [if I would do it if asked]." However, he does have several other projects on the horizon. "'The Human Stain, which is the movie I wrote based on the Philip Roth novel, comes out at Christmas with Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. I'm writing a three-hour movie now for NBC on the life and times of [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani." He mused, "You know, an Israeli said that a biography should be written by an enemy. I don't think he meant that cynically, I think what he meant was that if an enemy gives you credit for having done something, that's really giving credit."

Crowd favourite George Takei tried to slip into the theatre unnoticed, but was merrily made to take his turn in front of the press. Takei jokingly remarked, "I would definitely say of the Star Trek movies that 'Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country' [is my favourite], which I subtitle 'Captain Sulu to the Rescue'."

When a confrontational reporter tried to corner Takei by asking if he "had ever experienced [William] Shatner's massive ego," the actor never missed a beat. "We worked together for what, how many years?"

He demurred on labelling himself as a certain type of Star Trek enthusiast. "I don't make those distinctions [between being a Trekkie or Trekker]...I love Star Trek, I'm proud of Star Trek. So whatever that makes me, I'm proud."

'Regula 1 Model' - copyright TrekTodayInside the theatre lobby, guests were treated to light refreshments and a display of original production models, costumes and props from the movie. The memorabilia included models of the Federation spacedock and Regula 1 space laboratory, Starfleet engineering and regular uniforms, Khan's costume, and the infamous photon torpedo in which Spock's body was committed to the deep in one of the film's most moving scenes.

After the highly-anticipated arrival of actor Ricardo Montalban, everyone moved into the theatre for the screening of the film. Paramount Home Entertainment personnel officially introduced Meyer and Montalban to the assembled media and dignitaries.

The director offered his thanks to those involved in the production, especially those who could not be there to celebrate, including the late DeForest Kelley who "will be missed as part of the original 'Classic Coke'." Meyer reiterated his feelings about special editions inside the theatre. "I don't think director's cuts and director's editions are necessarily better than the original. You will be relieved to learn that this is not a substantively longer movie than the one that you enjoyed...if it isn't broke, don't fix it." His comment was greeted with thunderous applause.

In a wry tone he stated, "There were a couple of points which I lost in 'friendly debate' with Paramount." The audience roared in sympathy as he added impudently, "They gave me this shirt - after I gave them mine. So I put back a couple of things, but otherwise, this is the original [movie]."

Meyer gave a gracious introduction to a beaming Ricardo Montalban, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Screen Actor's Guild in 1994. The actor effusively returned the compliment, praising Meyer's efforts in easing his transition from television to the silver screen after his time as Mr Roarke on Fantasy Island.

'Ricardo Montalban' - copyright TrekToday"The function of a director is to give a loving eye for the actor to help him give the best performance he's capable of giving," Montalban reminisced in his distinctive voice. "I never had a more loving eye from a director than I did from Nicholas Meyer. He's extraordinary. You see, I was on my sixth season of Fantasy Island and during hiatus I was presented with this script and having been out of film for quite a while - six years - I thought that my first appearance would be [prominently featured]. As I read the script, [I realized] there are actually not too many scenes [with Khan], but I realized that when I was not onstage, they were talking about me!"

Despite years of experience in the industry, Montalban recalled his fear that his portrayal of Khan would seem too similar to his Fantasy Island character. "After I read the script and began to memorize and articulate the dialogue, the first time that I began to say the words out loud, I sounded like Mr Roarke! I thought the public was going to laugh me off the screen. I was so nervous. So I asked [executive producer] Harve Bennett to send me a tape of the original [episode] 'Space Seed'. I viewed it about three or four times and then I began to remember what I had to do as an actor.

'Ricardo Montalban' - copyright TrekToday"What I had to do was imbue [Khan] with the passion of vengeance. Not for himself, but for the life of his wife. He blames Kirk for her demise, this terrible thing that went into her ear, and she dies before [his] very eyes. So 'Kirk, Kirk Kirk! That's what keeps me alive!' I drove this character alive with that thought, and to my satisfaction the next time I articulated the dialogue, Mr Roarke had disappeared, and Khan took over."

Montalban emphasised Meyer's pivotal input into his performance. "What I needed was the loving eye of the director. I knew I didn't want to play it safe. I wanted this man of passion to hit almost the limit before he becomes ludicrous, or becomes a caricature. But I wanted to risk it, and that's when I needed Nicholas Meyer. He helped me: 'You can go a little more....ah, ah, ah, that's enough!' If it weren't for Nicholas, I don't think I would have been able to have the recognition that I've gotten from all of you."

He concluded his remarks by expressing his gratitude for the appreciation he has received over the years. "You have really warmed the cockles of my heart," Montalban said. "You have made me feel very warm, loved I hope, and in return let me tell you: I love your attention, I love the Trekkies!"

With the formalities over, the lights dimmed and 'Khan' returned to the big screen twenty years on - chest and all.


'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' (Director's Edition) will be released on DVD August 6. The two-disc set can currently be pre-ordered from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

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Casualviewer is a devoted acolyte of the Coffee Slugging Captain, and lives in LA.