Today -- September 10, 2015 -- would have been Robert Wise's 101st birthday. The esteemed director, however, passed away on September 14, 2005, at the age of 91. Wise left moviegoers several wonderful gifts. He edited Orson Welles’ iconic Citizen Kane, earning an Academy Award nomination in the Best Editing category for his work. He later directed such disparate films as The Magnificent Ambersons, The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Haunting, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, The Andromeda Strain, Audrey Rose and, of course, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, winning Oscars as Best Director for both West Side Story and The Sound of Music.
“By far, and for various reasons, it wasn't one of my favorite experiences," Wise went on to say. “The day-to-day on the set, directing the actors and working with Gene (Roddenberry), was fine, but we were rewriting the script every day, to the very last day of shooting.”
At the time of the Daily News' interview with Wise, Star Trek Generations – the seventh Star Trek feature – had been released. Also, Star Trek: The Next Generation had ended its run, while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was in its third season. Wise likened himself to a guinea pig used to see if Star Trek could succeed on the big screen. "We proved it (could)," he said. "I sure had no idea it would spawn all those films and series. They're up to what, a seventh film? And another series. That amazes me."
There's a segment of the Star Trek fan base that actually don’t realize the importance of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Paramount took a huge gamble on the film and it paid off, if not so much financially with that first film, then in the long run. The Motion Picture fed the fans’ desire for more – and new -- Trek productions; after all, how many times could fans watch repeats of The Original Series? It turned out to be event movie-going; fans attended screenings in costume and, most importantly, they turned up: no fans for The Motion Picture would have meant no Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, etc. And for all the troubles with the creation and delivery of the special effects, the work of Oscar-winning effects pros Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra – who swooped in late and saved the day -- broke new ground and raised the bar for every science fiction film that followed.
In advance of this article, which originally ran on StarTrek.com last year, David C. Fein, longtime Wise friend, colleague and producer of The Director’s Edition, shared his memories of realizing that upgraded, re-edited version, which really does improve on the theatrical release.
“To Bob, Star Trek was always ‘The one that got away...,’” Fein told StarTrek.com. “He was a perfectionist who methodically and precisely guided his films with complete confidence and vision. It was an honor and a privilege to journey back with him and bring it back home. He had a certain unique smile that I only saw when he spoke of the pride he had knowing it was finally his vision. The Director's Edition is his version, and the version he wanted people to enjoy long after he passed. I'll forever miss my mentor and friend.”