Star Trek fans lost a member of the family in Star Trek Into Darkness, namely Christopher Pike. His demise felt all the more crushing because of the bond that had been forged between Kirk and Pike and between actors Chris Pine and Bruce Greenwood in both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. It surely surprised no one that Greenwood made the most of his screen time as Pike. After all, he’s one of Hollywood’s go-to character actors, as adept at playing father figures as he is at playing baddies and everything in between. Star Trek Into Darkness lands on Blu-ray today, and Greenwood took some time out of his schedule to talk about portraying Pike, recount his death scenes and preview some of his upcoming projects, among them a stage musical that brings together Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett. Here’s what he had to say:
Did J.J. Abrams warn you in advance that Pike would die or did you find out when you reached that page in the script?
GREENWOOD: Well, both, in a way. The script was delivered and then I got a text from J.J., who wrote, “Call me before you read the script. Call me right away.” I went, “Oh, what does that mean? Have they decided they’re going to do a different script? Something that doesn’t have Pike in it at all?” I didn’t know what was happening. So I called him and he said, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that he’s integral part of the show and a lot of the action hinges on what happens to you. The bad news is, well… you don’t survive.” So that’s how it went down.
What was your immediate reaction?
GREENWOOD: Oh, I was crushed initially, but that was before I read it. Once I read it, I realized it was a good way to go out, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
The Pike-Kirk scenes gave both films some genuine heart and emotional resonance. How quickly did you and Pine realize you had the chemistry needed to make those scenes fly?
GREENWOOD: It was pretty quick. We got along really well right off the bat and just found it really easy to talk to each other on camera. It’s just one of those things where you think, “Man, I’m grateful that it feels this smooth.”
How often had you done death scenes in the past, and what was it like to play this one?
GREENWOOD: I’ve done a handful of them. I’ve done some violent ones, where you get sort of yanked across the room and tumble down stairs or you get blown up or burned… all kinds of things. This one was different because I got to have that moment with Zach (Quinto). So we got a chance to go out somewhat slowly and I really had something to play?
Was that also your last day on set?
GREENWOOD: No, it wasn’t. We did the scenes in the bar after that.
The film performed well at the box office, and many fans and a good number of critics gave it strong reviews. However, there are some hardcore fans who feel that the film – aside from the Kirk-Pike scenes -- missed the mark as Star Trek. Your thoughts?
GREENWOOD: I think you’re referencing that disaffection of the “hardcore fans,” and I’m not really sure what the percentage of hardcore fans who wanted something different really is. I think people can focus on that, but I think by and large fans of the franchise were happy with it.
How pleased were you with the film?
GREENWOOD: I thought it was great. I’m so part of it that it’s very difficult for me to be objective. I’m so connected with the people who did it and I know the phenomenal amount of work that into it. So I’m predisposed to liking it… and I do.
How much will you miss this franchise and the cast?
GREENWOOD: My not-so-secret wish is that somehow there’s a memory lane scene where Pike gets to come back and talk to Kirk in some way. I don’t think they can give me a drop of Khan’s blood because that would render my death somewhat meaningless if they could reanimate me. But of course I’m hoping they’ll reach into memory lane and bring me back.
As always, you have a stack of projects on the way: The Challenger Disaster, And Now a Word from Our Sponsor, Endless Love, Devil’s Knot, Queen of the Night, WildLike, etc. We won’t ask you to talk in detail about all of them, but are there one or two you’re particularly happy with?
GREENWOOD: WildLike is a little movie we shot in Alaska last year, and it’s a beautiful story. Endless Love, we had a lot of fun shooting that in Atlanta this summer. Devil’s Knot is at the Toronto Film Festival. A project that I’m incredibly excited about isn’t a film, but a play. It’s actually a musical that I’m about to start rehearsing, and it’s written by Stephen King and John Mellencamp. We’ll be taking it on tour in the Midwest in the middle of October. It’s called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. It’s about this guy who has a secret that’s torn him apart for, lo, these 40 years. He brings his family together to tell them about the secret and he imagines that when he finally reveals this thing that’s tortured him for so long his warring sons will lay off each other. Of course, it doesn’t go according to play.
And you are singing, right?
GREENWOOD: Yes. We’re using John’s band as the rock and roll band that’s backing us up. We work-shopped it in New York and they actually mounted a full-blown production a couple of years ago in Atlanta. This version that we’re doing will be a really pared-down, live radio-play version. We’re playing the Ryman in Nashville and some other great venues all across the Midwest. It’s funny; I was singing in a cover band 30 years ago and doing Mellencamp when they were John Cougar songs. So I guess I’ve been singing his stuff for a long time.
Last question: Is the goal to bring it back to New York, to Broadway?
GREENWOOD: I think so. I think ultimately the goal is to bring it to Broadway, but they really need to find out if this pared-down presentation can satisfy a large crowd. It’s a Spartan effort to a certain degree.
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