"Director's Commentary for Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan"
Transcript of Commentary by Nicholas Meyer
Director's Edition DVD (2002)
Nicholas Meyer: "..."
[Speaking of the scene where the genetically engineered renegade Khan Noonian Singh reveals himself to Reliant Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) and First Officer Pavel Chekhov (Walter Koenig)]
"I said [to the actor Ricardo Montalban]: 'Don't take off the other glove,' and people have always said 'Why doesn't he take off the other glove?' And I always turn the question around and say: 'Why do you think he doesn't take off the other glove?' It isn't my job to supply answers. It's your job as an audience to supply answers. This is about the Navy. This is about gunboat diplomacy. Art is not in the business of answering questions. It is in the business of raising questions, issues, and so forth."
"All the traditional artistic venues -- literature, music, painting – they exercise a good deal of their impact by virtue of what they leave out. A painting does not move. Music has no image. In each case, it is the willing and unskilled participation of the imagination on the part of the viewing listener that completes the work of art. The painting moves when it meets your eye, and so forth. Only movies, the twentieth century art medium has the hideous capacity to do it all for you. And in doing so, it tends to render the audience passive. The great commercial directors who make movies are taught to put everything in. And the result is that sometimes I find myself sitting at these movies which are visually stunning. Every image is perfect. There is no distinction in priority between what is an important image and what is an unimportant image. It's all perfect. Everything is in it. And, as a director, I'm always looking to leave things out."
"... serious to the point of being pompous. Fortunate that I was not a Star Trek fan for it induced in me, gave me, a friendly irreverence for the whole thing in a non-malicious fashion.
"Life is not always the same thing as TV one-issue..."
"get them out of port without making a meal out of it like they did in Star Trek the Motion Picture. We sort of got the lead out."
"When you create something, you have to be prepared to reconcile the shortfall between what you intended and what you achieved. Gene Roddenberry had his own sort of Utopian vision about the perfectability of man. And I never believed that. And I don't think the show demonstrates that. It is about gunboat diplomacy. In the final analysis, the Enterprise fires. They're always shooting, bringinng "civilization" to worlds where they do not approve of tyrannical "enterprises" (no pun intended) and substitute their own [quote-unquote] "enlightened" idea of how society is supposed to work, which is essentially American."
"The first screening I saw of Star Trek II was at Paramount studios in their then-big theater, and there were many many issues hotly contested between me and the producers and the studio, and me getting very beat up. But the movie played so well that all these issues were laid to rest and we just locked the picture."
I think it's really important when making a Captain Hornblower or Captain Blood movie to know your audience. This is not a movie for what they call an "adult" audience, by which they mean an 'R' or 'NC-17' or 'X' rating. This is a movie for young people, kids. It's an adventure story. It is not -- unpleasant as it is -- but it leaves things to the imagination. This is not a movie shot like "Behind Enemy Lines" which takes place in Bosnia, and it's a pretty horrifying tale and intended for a different audience."
If you make a pirate movie, you're making a pirate movie for a teenage, or post-teenage early 20's audience. You're not making it for itty-bitty kids or grown-up, sophisticated people. This is middle-brow entertainment. We didn't want to bounce off the charts or bounce you out of the movie where you say 'Oh, god. That's so disgusting.' It's not that kind of movie."
"All works of art: music, books, literature, painting, movies -- all works of art -- are inevitably and ineluctably products of the time and circumstances in which they were created. ... you would still look at this movie as early 1980s."
"... sound always dominates picture. There are no exceptions."
The intersting thing about previews, how it plays the first preview is how it is always going to play. The jokes or tension work or they don't, and there's very little you can do. If it's organic, really pat of the story, then no one is going to object."
"We were filming this scene [Spock's death scene] and I turned to Gayne Rescher, the cinematographer, and saw that he was crying. And then I looked around at all the other people in the crew who we were filming this, and people were standing there crying, putting fists in their mouths to not make noise. And I began to realize that this was sort of bigger than I knew."
"Henry James said that life is hot but art is cool. If you are the puppetteer you can't be out front sobbing at the performance. You must be backstage holding the strings and making sure that they don't get tangled. So my objectivity -- or as some have characterized it, my irreverence -- served me well here."
"This movie was a learning process. I earned my way into my affection for this material. It grew on me. And it grew on me to this point: that when we got to this scene, which was deliberately scheduled for just about the end of the movie, I had by this time become sufficiently immersed in these actors, these people, this experience as to make it legitimately -- as opposed to dementedly or nostalgically -- meaningful to me. But it was really good to stay outside it. My job is not to cry. My job is to make you cry.
"... like a family. They were used to the fact by this point whether you liked it or didn't like it, The Fickle Finger of Fate had chosen these actors years ago to be in this television series that was the thing that wouldn't die. And many, if not all of them may have felt that in other venues and other projects, they had done better work. They are not the first, nor will they be the last artists to be saddled with an ambivalent relationship to the thing for which they are most well known ... [Gilbert and Sullivan ... Count of Monte Christo] ...] This is who you are. This is who they want you to be. The Lone Ranger. The Crew of the Enterprise is the Crew of the Enterprise. This is cult classic. This is it. And I think that most of them are basically very sweet people, and as befuddled by the success of this and its impact on their lives, as anybody else. They have their own theories and their own reactions. But they don't know. They can't understand. They can either be grateful or angry. But they recognize it as a fact."
"Once they [the producers] realized that this was a good movie, that the franchise would continue, and once they realized that they wanted to bring Spock back and that we should at least leave the door open to that possibility [we came up with the line for Doctor McCoy to say at the end of the film]:
"He's not dead, as long as we remember him."
[speaking of the ILM sequence showing the photon torpedo "coffin" of Spock in the San Francisco Park (i.e., "Genesis Planet") setting up an obvious sequel]
Nicholas Meyer: "I'm not a big believer in resurrections. And I thought, if you make people cry that he's dead, then don't turn around and say, 'Oh, we were just kidding.' I found that unconscionable. And when they asked me if I wanted to direct III or be involved with it, I declined. This is not a subject matter that I can relate to. Once he's back, in another story, I can do whatever ..."