Star Trek fans around the globe surely smiled when word spread that the veteran actor Peter Weller had signed on to co-star in Star Trek Into Darkness. After all, he’s a genre favorite, with credits including Of Unknown Origin, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, RoboCop, Leviathan, RoboCop 2, Naked Lunch, Screamers, Odyssey 5, Prey and Fringe. And, of course, he’d previously ventured into the Star Trek universe with his appearances as the xenophobic figure John Frederick Paxton in the Enterprise episodes “Demons” and “Terra Prime.”
In fact – spoilers ahead -- more than a few fans initially thought that his then-unrevealed character in Star Trek Into Darkness might somehow be related to Paxton. Of course, Weller was actually playing Admiral Alexander Marcus, the Starfleet leader who, among other things, was the father of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), the mentor of Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), the man whose actions drove Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) to seek vengeance, and the zealot who was willing to let the Enterprise and her crew perish in order to both more fully militarize Starfleet and instigate a war with the Klingons. StarTrek.com caught up with the effusive actor-director Weller for a candid, extensive and spoiler-filled interview. Below is part two of our conversation.
How did you enjoy working with Chris Pine, Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch on Star Trek Into Darkness?
WELLER: Alice, I absolutely love. Chris is divine. I only had the one scene with Benedict, but I loved working with him. They’re all just supremely intelligent and talented. You usually go on a set and all people talk about is their careers and what they’re doing next and Los Angeles. I talked about Italy incessantly with Zach Quinto. Chris had just gotten back from Delphi, from visiting the ruins of the oracle. Anton was 22 or 23, and he’s like a savant about 19th century philosophy. It’s a credit to J.J. He hires people of intelligence and passion, who are fun and have verve and enthusiasm. I just had the best time. There wasn’t a rotten apple in the bunch and I just enjoyed the whole thing.
A lot of people loved you in Star Trek Into Darkness, but many felt there wasn’t enough of the admiral’s motivations. So, a few questions: To your thinking, what were his motivations? Did you feel we saw enough of his motivations? Was anything shot but cut that might have fleshed things out more?
WELLER: There were no other scenes shot that would have filled in the blanks. To me, for the amount of screen time J.J. had, I take it as a compliment that people wanted more to flesh it out, because it speak to me executing that part as written. But what Marcus wants… Marcus is no different than Curtis LeMay, with a conscience. I don’t know if people remember who Curtis LeMay, but he hid 18 nuclear missiles from President John F. Kennedy. He was the guy who wanted to pull the trigger on the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you see Fog of War, it was all about “First strike! First strike!” That’s a warmonger. So these warmongers exist, man, and LeMay personifies that. They were real. They ARE real. The thing that Marcus doesn’t have is faith in the pacifistic attitude of this particular terrestrial organization because the Klingons are aggressive. A war is coming. They’re encroaching. And what Marcus is thinking is he wants to get a jump on them, just like Curtis LeMay. Anybody who is critical of this, just watch the Errol Morris documentary Fog of War. It’s from 2003, and listen to (Robert McNamara) talk about LeMay.
Again, LeMay felt first strike was the way to get the upper hand, and that’s what Marcus feels. Here are the facts as Marcus sees them: “The Klingons are coming. They’re aggressive. I don’t believe in the pacifistic whoo-ha, touchy-feely, go-out-five-years-and-explore-brave-new-worlds… horsesh-t. There’s a war coming on.” So what I do is I take out the plutonium nukes, if you will, called Khan. I take them out. And I made a mistake. I even say it. So I don’t know what people are missing. He’s a guy who did it, by his own conscience, to protect his own particular world and then realizes that he f—ked up. Now, the thing that makes him bad, from a moralistic view, is that he’s willing to sacrifice Kirk and the Enterprise to put this thing back in its shell. And he feels that’s a calculated risk. “I was never going to spare your crew.”
And he’s undone by his love for his daughter…
WELLER: That’s right. He is undone by his love for his daughter, man. That’s right. I mean, for 25 minutes of screen time, I think it’s pretty well rounded-out.
Star Trek Into Darkness is not your first Trek experience. What do you remember of your two Enterprise episodes as Paxton?
WELLER: I can’t remember it. I can’t remember it. I just remember enjoying the hell out of LeVar Burton, who’s been my friend for so long. He directed the first part of it. I remember that I had a lot of fun as Paxton, but I can’t remember the script. And I remember that it was very quick because it was done on a television schedule.
Last question: What else are you working on?
WELLER: When you direct television, you get into a groove with certain shows, and directing an episode is a month and change out of your life. You start prep and that’s 10 days. You shoot one, and that can be 10 or 11 days. Editing it can be another three or four days. I do seven or eight episodes a year. I do three for Sons of Anarchy. I do Hawaii Five-0. I do Longmire. I did The Mob Doctor and House. I love doing heavy drama television. I’m about to crank up for a summer of Sons of Anarchy. There are 12 episodes this season and I’ll do three. I usually do number two, then number eight, which is the big midseason hiatus, and number 11. Paris Barclay, the executive producer, usually does number one and number 12, so I’ve got to follow him with number two, which is hard, and set up the finale with number 11, which is a climax of sorts. Sons of Anarchy has been a home to me for several years. I ride motorcycles. I love the show. If you’re a redneck biker, you love it. If you’re just a regular biker, you love it. If you like Shakespeare, you love that about the show. If you want to investigate right-wing politics, where business should be taking over everything and deregulated, you love it. And that, by the way, was the fantastic, anthropological, enduring theme of RoboCop. So, Sons of Anarchy is really great. It’s got everything.
What else? I spend a month in Italy, where I lived for many years. I’m finishing a Ph.D. I’ve to file that in October. I’ll certainly go back and teach (literature and fine art) at Syracuse University, my Masters alma mater. I’m now pitching two classes to UCLA’s theater and film department that I taught before at Syracuse University. I’ve got another episode of Hawaii Five-0 to direct. I’m working on a small film called The Meaning of Nowhere. It’s a thriller about a very bad woman who, by mistake, finds an opportunity to lead a very different life. But it’s by mistake, not desire. And I’ve got my wife and our young son. I couldn’t be happier.
Click HERE to read part one of our exclusive StarTrek.com interview with Peter Weller.
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