EXCLUSIVE: Alice Eve Star Trek Into Darkness Interview

With Star Trek Into Darkness approaching at warp speed, SFX spoke to Brit star Alice Eve, the new incarnation of Dr Carol Marcus…

Is there much Trekkie in your blood?

Well, my grandfather used to watch the series, so yes, I suppose that’s in my blood – he thought it was the best thing on television, and he’s right. It was so clever.

Did you go back and watch the old episodes?

I watched every episode of the first season and I really got into it. And I saw The Wrath Of Khan. And then I stopped watching, because I then wanted to enter our universe, and JJ’s vision, his version of it. But I definitely did a little bit of research.

What did you make of the 60s show in terms of acting style?

Acting style is such an interesting thing, isn’t it? It’s so often totally married to its time. What I found with the original series was that there was such an innocence to it, and such a beauty in the morality that’s at the heart of Star Trek. In a world where we’re rapidly losing religion, especially in the Western world, it’s nice to have something that provides some sort of moral structure, and I think these big summer movies, when they do it right, Nolan and JJ, they definitely endeavor to give some sort of other story. But it’s really the special effects that aged for me. There are times when they’re just comedic – which is going to happen to ours, probably, in 30 years, when it’s all interactive cinema! It’ll be like “Ha, they just used to sit down and watch something…” It’s not really so much the acting. Shatner has some lovely moments where he is really open-hearted and just present, so that aged less for me than the special effects.

Shatner once said his performance had to be big because he had to bring so much energy to hold the show together, because he always felt the whole thing was on the verge of falling apart…

That’s an interesting thing about his psyche, rather than whether that’s true or not about the actual show. Because the show wasn’t falling apart, was it? But yeah, the leading man has to bring a lot of energy.

So what did you make of The Wrath Of Khan?

It’s a great film. It’s crazy and weird – and just such a brave vision, really, the Star Trek vision, because it’s so weird! I guess it appeals to our inner weirdness that we’re not allowed to show in society. And the guy in that, with all those chains around his neck and stuff… Ricardo Montalban. He was a real character, that bloke, wasn’t he? That’s kind of entered the canon as one of the great performances in Star Trek, hasn’t it?

Bibi Besch as the original Carol Marcus in The Wrath Of Khan

So you’ve seen the future of your character, Carol Marcus. Does that inform the way you play her or do you have to blank all that out?

Oh, it’s information you have to carry, definitely. It doesn’t shape it, but it will maybe inform certain choices. You can’t ignore the universe that exists.

What did you think that Bibi Besch brought to the role?

She had great composure. The thing about Dr Marcus is her intellectual capability. She was a little older and had a full-grown child so she had a maturity about her. She was authoritative, especially with Kirk – in fact she seemed to be the only person who could really tell Kirk what for, and that came from her superior intelligence. She’s cleverer than Kirk, in The Wrath Of Khan, at least. So I didn’t forget that! (laughs)

There was a melancholy to her as well…

That was age. That was lost dreams, and lost relationships and lost loves. I wasn’t at that stage. Too early. I’m at the beginning of my journey, in that way, in the grown-up world. And I actually think that in this movie you see Carol Marcus go from girl to woman – I think you do with Kirk, too; not from boy but from young adult to adult.

Were there any cues that you took from Bibi Besch?

The composure, that has to be tempered to allow for a little more youth. I’m not young, but I have more youth than she had in that movie. So her composure and her conviction and her thoughts, her belief in her intellect.

What dynamic does your character bring to the established Star Trek ensemble?

She does the same sort of thing that Carol Marcus does in The Wrath Of Khan, which is keep Kirk in line. She has a sort of overview of proceedings. She also has a secret…

And how does she affect the whole bromance thing going on between Kirk and Spock?

Bromance! (laughs) Well, Spock has Uhura…

Yes, but…

You don’t believe in that?

Well, I do, but I’m picking up a major bromance there as well – Kirk and Spock is one of the great friendships, isn’t it?

That’ll be til death, won’t it? The thing about Spock and Bones is that they are sort of satellite versions of Kirk. It’s so the debate can take place. They invented them so that we could see a triumvirate of the same man, and have the arguments and the dialogue, like any great play. Spock is in metaphorical terms a facet of Kirk’s imagination. The three of them, perhaps, would be the perfect man. So that will never change, but Kirk could definitely do with a little less logical bullying and just more… practical. And that’s what Carol brings.

Your character’s fallen for what has to be the greatest womaniser in the galaxy…

We’ll have to wait and see whether that actually happens in our movie, but that’s funny that you call him the greatest womaniser in the galaxy…

In every episode of the 60s show, anything in chiffon robes, he was there…

But there’s that line in my favourite episode, “Charlie X”, when Charlie says “I’m in love, I’m in love”, and Kirk goes “Be gentle and go slow…” Those are not the words of a womaniser! Be gentle and go slow? They’re the words of a man that you want to take home!

Come on, Kirk’s a notorious womaniser…

I suppose all good heroes are, aren’t they?

Well, there’s Bond…

Batman…  He is too, isn’t he?

Or does he just live in the Batcave, by himself, alone, broken…

Well, in this last one he got Anne Hathaway. Is Batman not, then? He’s just a very lonely soul?

He never struck me as a womaniser. Or Superman. I don’t think any of the superheroes are, except for Tony Stark…

Yeah. And he’s not a very successful one, though. Not as successful as Bond.

So “Charlie X” is one of your favourites. Which other stories did you like?

I couldn’t remember the names of any of the other ones… “Charlie X” just stood out in my mind because that whole episode was just so epic for me – when he took off his t-shirt and was wrestling… Also I sort of felt for Kirk in that, because he was falling for this clearly autistic lunatic, and normally he’s more cynical than that. There was an innocence to Kirk in that episode that I really liked, when he’s giving him advice on love and things. It revealed a side to him that I liked a lot.

Did you see all the speculation that you might have been playing Janice Rand?

On the internet? I don’t read it… the speculation goes round in circles.

There was endless speculation as to who you were playing…

Oh, really…

People photoshopping your face onto Janice’s body, adding a 60s beehive…

Janice is the one that Charlie is in love with? Yeah, I can see that…

You filmed this in IMAX. What’s it like working with that all-seeing eye?

It’s worth it, but it’s not fun, because the camera is like this demanding child who only has seconds of film and is REALLY LOUD – you can hear when it’s running out and you’re thinking “It’s running out and we’re going to have to go again!”. It’s huge, and all you hear when the IMAX camera is on set is people shouting “IMAX?” “IMAX?” “IMAX!” Everyone is just so worried about it. But it’s worth it, though. You get Lawrence Of Arabia style shots…

Does it change your perception of what you’re doing? Do you suddenly see every gesture as some huge 70 ft hand coming out of the screen?

No… I mean, you always have to bear in mind the medium you’re working in. It’s not theatre – people aren’t seeing the whole thing from far away, it’s film and if they’re close then they’re close. But no, you don’t think oh, I won’t move my hand because it’s IMAX.

And it’s all in 3D, too…

Oh my god, it’s just crazy – it’s like being inside JJ’s head. I imagine it’s exactly like that in his head.

There’s 3D lava inside JJ’s head?

3D lava, things coming at you, people debating, people dying… He’s just so speedy and so active.

Lens flare, maybe?

Well, naturellement.

Was that a bit of a joke on set?

The lens flare? Yeah, a little bit… He can take a joke, though, JJ. He can really take a joke. He’s a good humoured man.

So he’s still working through the whole lens flare thing…

Well, I don’t think he’s working through anything, that’s one of his signature moves. It’s a visual motif. He should be allowed that. That’s what makes him great!

Nick Setchfield

Star Trek Into Darkness is released 9 May by Paramount Pictures