Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview with Generations Director David Carson

Star Trek: Generations director David Carson spoke recently with about his experience with the franchise and directing Star Trek: Generations. Of note is his story of the death of Kirk (below). His Star Trek directing credits including fan favorite episodes such as TNG's "Yesterday's Enterprise" and Deep Space Nine's series premiere opener of "Emissary." Below are links for the full interview.
Part I | Part II

Your next and last contribution to the franchise was Generations. Kirk died and then he died again, shot in the back by Soran (Malcolm McDowell). It was determined that didn’t work, and everyone gathered again to shoot a new Kirk death sequence. Take us through that situation.
Carson: Kirk was to be shot in the back. What was written and what was accepted by the studio and the producers was never acceptable as far as I was concerned. I mean, here’s this great icon. This Captain Kirk is an icon. He means a lot to people. So to have him die in an ignominious way, when you’re shooting in this incredible mountain area… I fought for that not to happen, but lost the battle. And when we were out on the set I remember that Bill and Patrick and I called the studio to say, “Please, can we not do this? Can we do something else? Let’s stay here. Let’s re-write it.” Because we didn’t feel it was going to work. They did it as well as they could, but frankly, shooting somebody in the back on a narrow ledge on a mountainside is not the most dramatic way for someone to die, especially when the baddie, Malcolm McDowell, also got shot. So it was like an antiquated gunfight, if you like.

We put the film together and brought it back to the studio. I remember asking Rick and the studio to come and see it. (Studio boss) Sherry Lansing came to the cutting room and looked at it. And everybody’s opinion was, “We’ll have to wait until we do a public test viewing.” So we did. We did a test viewing and the film got tremendously good scores… until the ending happened and then the scores just fell off the page. So it seemed that the test audience also agreed that our shooting Kirk in the back was really, totally anticlimactic and not the kind of thing that they wanted at all. So, very dramatically, that evening, after we came out of the theater, we were all called into Sherry Lansing’s office. She said, “You can’t change the date of the presentation of the movie, but we need to add a completely new ending. We want you to re-present it to us, then go and shoot it and have it in the movie by that time, so it can open properly.”

What then?
Carson: We all looked at each other. She said, “I don’t care how you do it, just go on and get it done, and then come back.” So we re-wrote the ending and did the ending that you see now in the film. And it was, of course, a huge undertaking because we were doing an action scene in virgin territory in the middle of a national park north of Las Vegas. It was immensely dramatic and because we decided to put it on a bridge, we had to have three helicopters putting the bridge into place and attaching it to these virgin rocks. It was just amazing. Fortunately for us, the Parks Department loved the idea that Star Trek was going to be done in the park.

So we shot for another two weeks, which cost a huge amount of money, and it was so disruptive of the final process. Dennis McCarthy, who wrote the score, wrote the score for the whole movie up to that point. He had 10 minutes to add and was waiting, waiting for us to finish editing it. However, I will say that the reshoots were very exciting. The crew loved doing it because it was such an action ending and much more fitting for Kirk. Captain Kirk’s death now meant something. Before, being shot in the back, it meant absolutely nothing. This time he really saved the day. So it was well worthwhile in the end, I think.

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