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Feature: Star Trek Nemesis
As the tenth Star Trek adventure, Nemesis, beams onto DVD, director Stuart Baird discusses his first foray into the final frontier…
Stuart Baird wasn’t an obvious choice to helm the tenth Star Trek movie. But when Paramount Pictures sought an established film-maker from outside the Trek fold to direct Captain Picard and crew’s latest big-screen voyage, Baird soon found himself taking the helm of Star Trek Nemesis.
“My main responsibility on Nemesis was to satisfy the fan base, not to reinvent the wheel,” says Baird, who originally made his name as the Academy Award-nominated editor of such movies as Superman, The Omen and Gorillas in the Mist before launching his directorial career with the action flicks Executive Decision and US Marshalls. “Star Trek is a very successful and beloved franchise, and there are huge limitations on what a director can bring to it. There’s so much already set in stone – the main cast, a lot of the crew, the look of the Enterprise and so on – and there’s only so much one can do. So my contribution could only be to tell the story with all the thrills and spills and emotion and action and entertainment value I could possibly put into it.
“My intention was to make this the best Star Trek picture,” the British director states. “I wanted it to be a movie that really stood alone in its own right and appealed to outside audiences as well as the fan base. But the movie is still very much in the Star Trek tradition.”
Written by Gladiator scribe (and lifelong Trek fan) John Logan, Star Trek Nemesis pits Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) against his Romulan-created clone, Shinzon, in a struggle that will seal the fate of the Federation. Baird was initially drawn to the project by Logan’s script, as he was intrigued by the issues raised by Picard’s struggle with his clone and the interaction between the Starship Enterprise’s resident android, Data (Brent Spiner), and his prototype, B-4. And once he had secured the director’s chair, he took something of a crash course in Star Trek to prepare himself for life in the final frontier.
“I looked at the other movies and some of the [Next Generation] episodes and got a feel for what I wanted to do with Nemesis” he reveals. “I liked The Wrath of Khan very much, that had more of a cinematic energy to it, and I tried to impose a little more energy into Nemesis [than the previous Trek films]. I also decided to use the camera in a sort of operatic way and photographed the Enterprise a little darker than it’s been done before, because the whole movie is darker and has an ominous feel to it.”
With the film’s main players already in place, one of Baird’s most important tasks was to supervise the casting of Nemesis’s supporting characters – including the villainous Shinzon.
“The whole movie was going to work or fail on the casting of Shinzon,” he notes. “Rick [Berman, producer] and I considered hundreds of actors, because we both agreed that we wanted someone who looked like Patrick Stewart to some degree, and we wanted someone who was young, or could play under 25, because of the dynamic between the older man and the younger man. We also wanted an unknown who didn’t have any screen baggage, and we needed an actor who could go head to head with Patrick Stewart in lots of long dialogue scenes.
“It was no small list of requirements and we were really lucky to find Tom Hardy, who came up trumps.”
by David Bassom
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