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Tag Archive: Time After Time


We’re back today with the second part of my interview with Nicholas Meyer, director, screenwriter, and storyteller, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and its return to theaters next month as part of the Fathom Events series.  Meyer directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he was a screenwriter on both movies as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  He chatted with me about his films and more this past week.  If you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.

CB:  You’ve written words spoken on-screen by Lawrence Olivier (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek VI), and Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI).  Are there any other great actors you maybe fantasize, or would like to write, dialogue for?

NM:  I’ve also worked with Jason Robards and John Lithgow (both in The Day After).  I’ve worked with some really wonderful actors.  Fantasizing about working with actors is interesting.  When I listened to the Chandos recording of the music from Henry V–the Olivier film with Christopher Plummer reciting or acting out the various Shakespeare vocal parts–I thought, “Wow, I’d really love to work with this man.”  And I wrote the part of Chang in Star Trek VI specifically for him.  That’s the first time I’ve ever written for an actor other than the Star Trek cast.  I said to my casting director Mary Jo Slater, “Whatever you do, don’t come back without him.  Because there’s no movie unless it’s him.”  It would take me longer than this conversation to rustle around in my brain other actors I’d love to work with–Benedict Cumberbatch–sure, of course.

Nicholas Meyer directing the production crew, with Christopher Plummer as General Chang, on the Klingon courtroom set of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

CB:  Your Time After Time co-star Malcolm McDowell joined Star Trek in the seventh movie in the series, Star Trek Generations, after you were no longer with the franchise, and it always seemed to me to be an obvious choice to get him into the Star Trek universe.  Did he ever contact you about taking on a Star Trek role?

NM:  No… we never discussed it.  David Warner, who actually has been in two Star Trek movies (as Chancellor Gorkon in The Undiscovered Country and St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Fronter), was the great post-war Hamlet with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I think Malcolm at one point was a spear carrier in that company at the time when David was this huge star.  In Time After Time they used to kid each other about those times.  Something about carrying a pack of cigarettes under your costume.

CB:  You have said you see yourself first as a writer and have been writing and telling stories since you were five years old.  Are you as excited today to sit down and craft a story as you were in 1982?

NM:  I think when I get going the answer is yes, and if it’s going well the answer is yes, and the hours can go by and I look up and it’s a week later.  But as I’ve gotten older, the process of actually starting, of facing what used to be a blank page, which is now a blank screen, having done it again and again and again…  Most of the stuff I’ve written has never been produced.  Most of the stuff I’ve written for books I’m happy to say has been published, but I haven’t written that many books.  But most of my screenplays–including probably my best screenplays–have never been done.  So as you get older and you embark on this again and again and again there is a kind of a weariness of picking up the yoke and putting it on your shoulders.  That said, getting paid for telling stories beats work any day.

On the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Engineering set, that’s Catherine E. Coulson (later Twin Peaks’ Log Lady) with the camera, director Nicholas Meyer (in Starfleet captain’s jacket) and James Doohan as Scotty, filming the emotional finale.

CB:  In your memoir The View From the Bridge, you mentioned some of your best ideas or solutions when writing come while doing laundry, while in the tub, or even building a model boat.  What was your biggest revelation and strangest place you found it?

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Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan–a member of that fabled Class of 1982’s “best summer of movies”–turned 35 this year, and to celebrate, the film is returning to theaters as part of the Fathom Events series.  It has been said the film’s director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer saved Star Trek.  Meyer was well-known as the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and its screenplay, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and for directing and writing the screenplay for the fan-favorite, time travel thriller, Time After Time.  After the lukewarm response at the box office to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, executive producer Harve Bennett tapped Meyer to take the franchise in a bold, new direction, and the result, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, became the best reviewed film of the franchise and a classic among all science fiction.  Many details about Meyer’s work have been recounted in Allan Asherman’s The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Meyer’s own memoir, The View from the Bridge.  Meyer has also shared a trove of his thoughts and work on the film in director commentaries accompanying the film’s various home releases.  He’s not quite finished with Star Trek yet–he’s back again as a writer and producer on the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, premiering next month.

I was ecstatic to interview Nicholas Meyer this past week and listen to him reminisce as director and screenwriter of The Wrath of Khan for the approaching anniversary theatrical release, and ask him questions I’ve had for years about his long writing career.  Meyer sees himself first as a storyteller.  In addition to The Wrath of Khan, he wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and he directed and wrote the screenplay for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I think you’ll discover—or rediscover—that in Meyer’s selections of leading stage and screen actors like Christopher Plummer, Meyer provided gravitas to the Star Trek universe, and by infusing classical literature into the voices of characters from the likes of Shakespeare, Doyle, and Melville, he elevated Star Trek’s story beyond mere popular science fiction.  Everything that would come after The Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek franchise exists as a direct result of Meyer’s success on that film.

Director Nicholas Meyer observing final detail work as Ricardo Montalban’s headwrap is applied, filming the first appearance of Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

CB:  Welcome to borg.com.  Thanks for chatting with me and borg.com readers today and congratulations on the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

NM:  Thank you so much.  It’s a real pleasant surprise—As Kirk said to Scotty, “That’ll be a pleasant surprise.”

CB:  Let’s talk about Ricardo Montalban as Khan.  I have always loved this line: “I’ll chase him ‘round the Moons of Nibia and ‘round the Antares Maelstrom and ‘round Perdition’s flames.”  When you write something like that, do you know that you’ve got it, and when you see Montalban saying it and it appears on the screen, do you get any satisfaction of seeing that all come together?

NM:  Absolutely!  I have to say, first of all, I didn’t write it.  Herman Melville wrote it.  I substituted a few planets or something.  This is all Ahab.  I just cribbed it.  I remember with some satisfaction what I took to be at the time my cleverness (which turns out to be the curse of Kirk: “I patted myself on the back for my cleverness”).  It wasn’t until I saw Ricardo actually do it that I got goosebumps, and thought, “Holy cow.  This is wonderful!”  And I said to him actually at some point during the movie, “You really should be playing Lear.”  He sort of looks like Lear–with a big set of pecs.  Because he has been on stage, he was on Broadway, he did legit plays.  He was very touched, I think, that I had told him this, and he made some disparaging remark about his Hispanic accent.  I said, “That’s all bullshit.  You enunciate perfectly.  You could do this.”  I think Khan was as close as he ever got to doing it.

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TIME AFTER TIME -

It’s Time After Time, the series, the mash-up of real life The Time Machine author H.G. Wells and the serial killer Jack the Ripper, adapted from the 1979 novel Time After Time by Karl Alexander and the 1979 modern classic film of the same name starring Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, and Mary Steenburgen.  It’s a new TV series beginning tonight on ABC that looks similar to the short-lived ABC series Forever, which followed a 400 year-old-doctor as he searched for a reason for his longevity in 21st century New York City, and starred Ioan Gruffudd, Alana de la Garza, and Judd Hirsch.

The film Time After Time was as good as any 1970s detective movie.  Steeped in classic science fiction storytelling, we met author H.G. Wells, played by McDowell, who invents the actual machine of his novel.  His colleague, played by Warner, turns out to be the actual Jack the Ripper, and he takes the time machine into the future to continue his evil ways, and threatens a new love interest of Wells, played by Steenburgen.

time-after-time-poster_full

The new series appears to follow the original story, with Freddie Stroma as Wells, Josh Bowman as The Ripper, and Génesis Rodríguez  as Jane.  Time After Time is helmed by director Kevin Williamson, known for his horror films and series including Scream, The Following, I know What You Did Last Summer, and The Vampire Diaries.

Check out this preview for Time After Time: Continue reading

Frequency series

If you had the chance to travel back in time and change just one event in your life, what would it be?

Following the path of genre movies adapted to television shows like Alien Nation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Dead Zone, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bates Motel, Fargo, Hannibal, Limitless, and Twelve Monkeys an awesome 2000 sci-fi sleeper is coming to the CW Network.  CW’s Frequency will star Peyton List (The Flash, Tomorrow People, Mad Men, Monk, Smallville, Without a Trace), who plays a cop who is able to communicate with her dead father via a ham radio that reaches into the past.

The new series is a twist on the original film, which starred James Caviezel as the son who can reach his dead father in the past via a similar radio.  His father was played by Dennis Quaid.  Frequency wasn’t a blockbuster, but it’s a great sci-fi movie in the vein of Timecop, Somewhere in Time, and Time After Time.  The Butterfly Effect–the ripples that occur when you alter the past–was explored in the original and appears to be the focus of the series.

Frequency series CW

Check out this promising extended trailer and a new TV spot for Frequency:

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The Returned A&E India Ennenga

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of Twin Peaks, American remakes of European series, fans of Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s Revival, the short-lived Under the Dome, Malcolm McDowell and David Warner’s Time After Time, and anyone after the next great, creepy mystery series take note: A&E’s The Returned has so much going for it you’ll want to watch it twice.  What would you do if someone close to you that died prematurely suddenly walked back into your life, alive and well, just as you remembered them?  Would you scream, cheer, cry, laugh, be afraid?  You’ll ask that question over and over as you watch the residents of a small Pacific Northwest town as they react to the formerly dead as they re-enter their lives.  It’s compelling stuff.

The Returned is an American remake of the French series Les Revenants (French for The Returned and the double meaning of a ghost returning from the dead), which itself is entering its second season on the Sundance Channel (with English subtitles) and was based on a 2004 French film of the same name.  Fans of any one of the many well-known character actors will have an easy excuse to give the American show a try.  The Returned features a top-notch cast, including Michelle Forbes (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica, Orphan Black, Homicide), Jeremy Sisto (Law & Order, Clueless, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits), Carl Lumbly (Chuck, Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files), Mark Pellegrino (The Closer, Chuck, Castle, The X-Files, Lost, Supernatural), Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica, iZombie), and Kevin Alejandro, who we most recently saw as Sebastian Blood on CW’s Arrow.  But the best on the series may be the perpetually young-looking Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Sky High, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Thing, Live Free or Die Hard, Tru Calling) as the troubled former fiancée of one of the Returned, newcomer India Ennenga as Camille, the most interesting of the Returned, Tandi Wright (Jack the Giant Slayer) as her mother, and Sophie Lowe as her “older” twin sister.  But we’ve seen many a series with great actors but backed by a less than desired story.  Not so here.

Winstead in The Returned

Comparing the original to the remake can be a bit of a fun game to play in itself.  When the American actress mother encounters her dead daughter for the first time, she inspires a humorous viewer reaction, but with the French actress, the response is full of fear and shock.  Both series are billed as supernatural dramas, but Les Revenants’ photography and music appear as more on the horror end of the spectrum.  On paper these are zombie series, but from the first two episodes they seem far from other entries in that genre.  You’ll get the Twin Peaks vibe instantly, but without David Lynch’s trademark quirkiness.  The return of a serial killer from the past may have you recalling Jack the Ripper’s return in Time After Time, or the recent BBC America series Intruders.  But you won’t find any ghoulish shambling goons here.

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Few actors have had the opportunity to explore as many diverse characters as David Warner.  As genre actor, Warner is frequently the choice for leading man villain roles, for his long face and ominous stature, but it is his powerful voice and slithery and sneering yet refined inflections that cause his words to echo years after you hear them.  He’s played classic roles like Henry VI and Hamlet and King Lear and even Bob Cratchit, he played a villain in the big budget movie Titanic and yet also narrated a Winnie the Pooh movie.  He’s performed opposite Vanessa Redgrave, Gregory Peck, Jason Robards, and Anthony Quinn, and also opposite Steve Martin and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And since his debut in 1963 he has guest-starred in a variety of series ranging from Remington Steele and Hart to Hart to the Father Dowling Mysteries and Tales from the Crypt, to Murder She Wrote and The Outer Limits.  In 50 years he has portrayed upwards of 200+ characters in as many productions.

But we love him best for his sci-fi, fantasy, superhero and costume adventure roles.  Take a look at the various major franchises where Warner has left his mark:

TOM JONES (1963).  In David Warner’s screen debut he played the conniving Blifil, out to destroy the wily an dashing Tom, played by Albert Finney, and win over Tom’s love interest, played by Susannah York.  From the very beginning we can see the kinds of roles Warner would be cast in.  As an 18th century squire’s son, Warner performed according to period style and manner, yet subtley dastardly and ungentlemanly.

THE OMEN (1976).  Warner played Keith Jennings, an unfortunate photo-journalist who becomes one of Damien’s victims, one of many roles for Warner as part of the horror genre.

TIME AFTER TIME (1979).  In director Nicholas Meyer’s critically acclaimed re-imagining of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, Warner plays gentleman John Leslie Stevenson opposite Malcolm McDowell’s author and inventor H.G. Wells.  Or is he such a gentleman?  As the most loathsome and recounted villain in history, Warner’s take on Jack the Ripper as 19th century murderer-turned-time traveller let loose in modern times is picture perfect.

TIME BANDITS (1981).  As the all powerful epitome of evil genius, the Evil Genius, in the silly Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits, Warner plays it completely straight, giving gravity to his performance and legitimacy to the entire film.

TRON (1982).  For a subset of kids who were 10 to 12 years old in 1982, David Warner’s Sark was every bit as cool a bad guy as Darth Vader.  Warner played three roles in Tron, Ed Dillinger, executive of ENCOM, Sark, the red master of the soldiers in the computer world of The Grid, and the voice of Sark’s own master, the frightening and lifeless Master Control Program.  Sark’s viciousness and lack of concern for anyone but himself was Warner at his best.

STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989).  In Warner’s first foray into the Star Trek universe Warner proved he could play not only high class evil but also a character who was outright smarmy.  Hypnotized by Laurence Luckinbill’s mystic Vulcan Sybok, Warner’s St. John Talbot represents Starfleet stuck at the arse-end of the universe.

TWIN PEAKS (1991 ).  As the conniving Thomas Eckhardt, Warner managed to carve out a memorable role in the middle of the strangest band of characters ever to hit the TV screen.  Although a lot of his character’s cunning occurred off-screen and in back story, onscreen Warner revealed a sinister affair with his former protegé, Josie Packard, including the assassination of his former business partner, Mister Packard.

STAR TREK VI:  THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991).  In another Nicholas Meyer film and Warner’s second Star Trek work, Warner is stunning as the Abraham Lincoln of the Klingon Empire.  With a new Klingon regal look and flanked by fellow Shakespearean thespian Christopher Plummer as Chang, Warner’s Chancellor Gorkon by all appearances was a typical Klingon warrior, but at a dinner with the crew of the Enterprise we learned that a Klingon could upstage the would-be heroes of the Star Trek universe, making them look like a group of backwoods hicks.  Acting against type, Warner’s martyred leader died trying to bring the Federation and Klingons together, and Warner’s sincerity made us care, and his characterization in turn flipped our view of the Federation upside down.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1992).  Returning to the drippingly sinister, pure evil of Warner’s performances as Jack the Ripper and Sark, Warner’s Cardassian interrogator Gul Madred was the only villain except The Borg to have bested Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in the two-part Next Generation episode “Chain of Command.”  Gul Madred pulls no punches torturing Picard, even after his own people require Picard to be returned to Starfleet.  I see three lights!

LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (1994).  Proving that TV audiences would accept David Warner in the same league as Marlon Brando, Warner was able to play Jor-El, Superman’s noble father who was savvy and smart enough to save his son from his planet’s oblivion despite violating the rule of law of Krypton.

BATMAN (Animated) (1992-1995).  In the DC Comics animated universe, Warner voiced the smooth talking terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul for several episodes of the series, locking in his continual casting for genre voice roles.

BABYLON 5 (1995). In Babylon 5, Warner portrayed Aldous Gajic, the brain wiping seeker of the Holy Grail who dies saving a younger character that he sees as a version of his former self.

SPIDER-MAN (Animated) (1995-1997).  Not one of his biggest roles for sure, Warner here was able to add the Marvel Comics franchise and one of Marvel’s greatest foes, Red Skull, to his list of accomplishments.

MEN IN BLACK (Animated) (1997-1999).  Here Warner played Alpha, a rogue Men in Black chief who had previously been Agent K’s friend and mentor.

TOTAL RECALL (TV) (1999).  As leading neurosurgeon Dr. Felix Latham, Latham works for Rekall and again Warner plays an assassinated character.  Or was he a clone?

STAR TREK: KLINGON ACADEMY (Video Game) (2000).  The video game includes some surprisingly good new footage of Warner and Christopher Plummer reprising their roles as Gorkon and Chang.

STAR WARS: FORCE COMMANDER (Video Game) (2000).  It is easy to picture Warner as Grand General Brashin, a viperous Grand Moff Tarkin type in this video game from the Star Wars universe.

HORATIO HORNBLOWER – MUTINY and RETRIBUTION (2001).  Returning to the costume adventure genre where Warner first got started, Warner played Captain James Sawyer in two installments of the brilliant and exciting Horatio Hornblower series from A&E.  Sawyer was the vile and cruel taskmaster of the HMS Renown.

PLANET OF THE APES (2001).  As Helena Bonham Carter’s ape’s white-haired father Senator Sandar, Warner showed that he is nowhere near finished amassing sci-fi film franchises.

DOCTOR WHO: UNBOUND (Audio) (2003 and 2008). Warner played the famous Doctor (an alternate Third Doctor, that is) opposite David Tennant, before Tennant was to play the 10th TV version of The Doctor, in the installment Sympathy for the Devil.  Warner reprised the role five years later in Masters of War.

DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND (Animated) (2009).  Warner played in the world of Doctor Who yet again as Lord Azlok, Lord Knight of the Imperial Viperox War Horde in this animated production.

And to wrap it up, at this link you will find a 10-minute feature involving Dillinger’s character from the original Tron, first appearing on the Tron: Legacy DVD release special features.  It has been suggested that this is a bridge for Warner to reprise his role as Dillinger and Sark in the sequel to Tron: Legacy.

We can only hope!

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C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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