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Comic-Con ’07’s Fantastic Filmmakers: Star Trek’s Search for Spock Ends and Zachary Quinto Speaks

[IMG:L]Lost super-producers J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof may specialize in storytelling that can often be confounding, but as they move forward on their re-invention of the big-screen Star Trek franchise their first decisions seem eminently logical.

On a brief but dramatic panel at Comic-Con International, the producers, who are toiling away on a story that will tell how the original crew of the starship Enterprise came together, proudly beamed in their choice to boldly step into the role of the legendary half-human, half-Vulcan Starfleet officer Mr. Spock: actor Zachary Quinto, best known to genre fans as the villainous Sylar on NBC’s Heroes.

It took the crowd – Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike – all of about two seconds after Quinto stepped on stage, revealing his tall, lean frame, cool demeanor, dark looks and uncanny resemblance to the famous First Officer,  to decide that this was a choice that they wanted to live long and prosper, bursting into approving applause.

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“It’s really pretty incredible to be a part of something that is so iconic,” said Quinto, who revealed that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who originated the role, had personally approved his casting. “To be doing it with the support and involvement of the man who created the role is a true honor. I certainly intend to bring my own spin on it, working with these guys I am sure we’ll be able to find that, but it’s really nice to know that he’s behind it himself.

And then the producers topped it with an Even Bigger Reveal that would almost make the most stone-faced Vulcan break into a grin: Nimoy will be back in uniform as well. In a surprise moment that caused near-pandemonium among the crowd, Nimoy joined the filmmakers and Quinto on stage.

“The coolest thing was being backstage with both of you,” said Abrams, who’ll be directing the film. “Mr. Nimoy’s wife Susan [Bay] was back there. She was looking at Zachary and she said ‘This is creepy,’ which was cool.”

“People have been asking me why I am doing this movie,” Nimoy, who last played Spock 15 years ago in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, told the fans. “I think the answer is pretty simple: We have a great director, [and] a wonderful actor playing Spock, the young Spock. The answer is: it was logical.”

Abrams also revealed that he’s working hard to bring another Trek veteran back to the Final Frontier. “William Shatner, with whom I’ve met a number of times – he’s the greatest. We are desperately trying to figure out a way to put him in this movie,” said Abrams. “The truth is, it needs to be worthy of him. It needs to be worthy of you. It needs to be worthy of the movie. We can’t just shove him in – it would be a disaster. You would hate it, he wouldn’t like it, and it would be bad.”

Spock Speaks!
A day after the dramatic announcement, Hollywood.com chatted exclusively with Quinto in the green room for the Heroes panel, and got his thoughts on the rather large shoes – and ears – he’ll be filling.

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Hollywod.com: Have you been having people freak out in the Convention Center when they spot you – first you’re Sylar and now you’re Spock?
Zachary Quinto:
Yeah, so now we have the devil and the other. It hasn’t been too invasive I have to say. I’ve been pretty able to go from place to place and I hope that continues. I mean, people are really supportive and encouraging and excited about what we’re making here and what we’re going to be making with the movie. But nobody’s literally impeded with any progress that I’ve needed to make, so that feels good.

HW: What did it mean to you to land the Spock role?
You can’t get more iconic than Spock in terms of the zeitgeist. And I feel incredibly honored that J.J. supported me, that Damon supported me, that Leonard Nimoy, who had to approve the actor to play the role, approved me and is involved in this. I mean, it’s like literally an opportunity of a lifetime and none of its lost on me, so I feel incredibly honored.

HW: How was that experience meeting Leonard Nimoy?
Well, you know, I think we met on Thursday when they made the announcement and I don’t really think of the interaction as the kind of thing where he can just give me some tips. Like I feel like I’m really going to get to know the man I hope. And he’s going to be an integral part of this process for me and I think for the film in general. And I think that having his blessing and his involvement is going to go a long way in ensuring that we stay true to what was created. But also with a whole new vision and a whole new imagination of Damon and J.J. and [screenwriters] Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman] and the guys that are making the movie. Who are of the most imaginative people in Hollywood right now. So I feel like it’s a pretty good. Like I stand in this line and I look to my left and there’s Leonard Nimoy. I look to my right and there’s JJ and Damon and Bob and Alex and Stratton [Leopold] and these people. I’m like I don’t know how it’s going to be other than thrilling.

HW: Is there a special Spock moment you’re dying to play in the role? Like when you get to do the Vulcan nerve pinch, the mind-meld or the eyebrow raise?
I just feel like the whole experience for me is what’s in front of me right now. And I’m sure that those things will reveal themselves and I’ll be able to specify what aspects of the role I really connect to. But for right now I’m just digesting the reality of it and preparing for the experience of it.

HW: Is Star Trek a show you were very familiar with?
It’s something that I had exposure to as a kid. I say that I was a fan, but I wasn’t a fanatic, you know? So I don’t really have a complete attachment to the mythology of it yet. And that’s one of the things that I’m really excited about. I mean, my history as an actor – I come from theater school where we would sit with the text for two weeks before we would even get up off our chairs. So I’m really excited to learn that part of it and to really immerse myself in the lexicon of it.

HW: Did you get any gift when they gave you the part? Your first set of ears?
No, just a contract. That was my memento. [Laughs]

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HW: Was it hard to keep getting the part quiet for so long?
It got harder as the time went on. And then [Greg Grunberg] spilled the beans.

HW: Greg’s close friends with J.J., right?
Yeah, they’ve been friends since kindergarten.

HW: Did he introduce you guys at all?
No. I mean, I’m sure that if J.J. needed a character reference, I’m sure he could have gotten one from Greg, and I hope that Greg would have done nothing but supported me. But no, I know he was really supportive of me through this process. Both emotionally, personally and I’m sure with J.J. too.

HW: J.J. said that the team is still attempting to create the perfect role for William Shatner, while casting for his younger version continues. Who do you think would make a great Captain Kirk?
Well, I know that they were talking about Matt Damon. At some point there was a rumor mill about it. I don’t think that’s happening, but I think he’s a fantastic actor and it would be an incredible honor to work with him. But I also think that maybe they’re going to go a little bit in the other direction and maybe get someone who will be introduced or brought to a larger platform by this role, rather than somebody who is already on that platform – which I think is also really smart, because it really is a re-imagination of this world. So I don’t think that’s a bad way to go at all. But I’m sure whatever they do they’re going to do it right.

HW: And next year at this time, you’re going to own Comic-Con, right?
I don’t know – we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a long journey.

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