Emmanuel Itier: How are you doing these days? What do you think about what’s going on in the world?
Bruce Greenwood: Well, like everyone, I have great expectations and I do hope for the best…
EI: What about the financial crisis -- even in our industry, where we see one lay-off after another?
BG: That worries me for sure. You meet with your financial advisor and he is telling you your savings are almost gone, and so I better find another job quickly…
EI: So, tell us, since it’s in everyone’s mind, about Star Trek.
BG: Yes, good old, grand Star Trek! I’m not the type that lets myself get too exited about one of my upcoming movies, but for this one, I am! I grew up with the TV show, and even though I wasn’t a huge fan of it -- it’s not like if I was watching each episode -- but still, being part of this film and meeting with JJ Abrams was such a great experience. And getting on the set was so phenomenal -- being on board the ship, I mean.
EI: Tell us about working with JJ Abrams...
BG: He is a very articulate man and he has such a high level of energy. He is such a great, motivating person. The vibe on the set is always positive and he loves to laugh. If you have a concern or a thought, his attention is right there. Even in an environment of chaos, he can look carefully to you -- he can hear you, he is so focus, and this is amazing.
EI: Overall, what is going to be your most moving moment doing Star Trek?
BG: For sure walking on the bridge of the Enterprise -- seeing the actual deck of the bridge. It was like walking into a kind of a time warp -- walking into the future and into the past at the same time.
EI: What do you think is different with this movie, compared to what has been done with the Star Trek franchise before?
BG: Well, I haven’t seen the movie -- only some 20 minutes, but I heard we might see it very soon with JJ Abrams. Based on the script and having filmed it, I’ll say the emotional arc of the characters is very well crafted. Even though it has amazing effects and technology, I think it’s the story that makes this film so good. It’s so story- and emotion-driven.
EI: Any metaphors or messages that one can get from this film, since Star Trek has always been loaded with social comments?
BG: Yes, but I wouldn’t want to impose on the audience my metaphors or what I see as a message…
EI: But without imposing, what do you think Star Trek is about...for yourself?
BG: Well, for sure this is a movie that makes you think about certain things, but this doesn’t mean the metaphor should become a lesson. It addresses issues like where you come from and asks you how much where you come from affects who you are and what your potential is -- are you the master of your own change; are you programmed to some degree...? And of course, there are so many other thoughts that come from asking a question like yours. Maybe in ten minutes or after this interview, other thoughts might come to my mind. For sure, no matter what, this is one of these movies that invites you to have a conversation with yourself.
EI: What’s coming up next?
BG: Well, I just finished another movie with Bruce Beresford called Mao’s Last Dancer. It’s based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. It was standard practice to force many children into doing something the government wanted them to do. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Balltet and as a principal artist with the Australian ballet. I’m playing Ben Stevenson, who is the artistic director who is going to pick Li. The movie is a great ensemble with actors like Kyle MacLachlan, Amanda Schull and Joan Chen.
EI: So you went to China…?
BG: Yes, I went, and even though it was only for two weeks versus five weeks for productions, this was an amazing experience. And I went to Australia after that. China is really a different culture. I don’t speak any Mandarin, and very little English is spoken over there, so I was truly lost in translation. I speak German, but that didn’t help either. In any case, I was amazed by China.
EI: What inspires you -- going around the world and meeting other cultures? And does this inform the choices you make in picking up such-and-such film projects?
BG: Yes, for sure. If two scripts with the same components come to me but one is shooting in Australia, you bet I’m going to go to Australia. I always try, in any case, to choose films that are interesting and exciting. Sometimes I don’t have, in any case, the luxury to choose -- it’s only one job, but it’s plenty. It’s very competitive out there…
EI: To overcome this competition, some actors develop and finance their own movies. Have you tried to do this?
BG: Yes, I have tried, but I was not very successful at it. I’m not that organized as a producer. I’m much better at acting; I’m very focused as an actor, and I do all the homework necessary, but producing is not my thing. But I do a lot of music -- I write and I produce music.
EI: Any music that was in some movies we know of?
BG: Well, since you’re asking, I had a song in Dumb and Dumber! But I didn’t get any credit in the movie, even though I recorded a complete song, sung it and played the guitar. It’s a little bit annoying, but what can you do? But I produce a guy named Gregg Lee Henry, and we just finished a new album -- it’s in the style of Lyle Lovett meets Randy Newman. We will play a few gigs around town. It’s great and challenging, and I love to play.
JJ Abrams' 'Star Trek' is in theaters now. Lots and lots of theaters.