Here is what he had to say:
IAR: To begin with, after the success of the first film, at want point did you decide to use Khan Noonien Singh as your villain in Star Trek Into Darkness and did you and your co-writers have any reservations about rebooting such an iconic character?
Alex Kurtzman: Look you can’t think about Star Trek and think about Star Trek villains without thinking about Khan so for that reason initially we rejected out right. We knew everybody was asking and we knew everybody was wondering if we were going to do Khan. So we said for that reason, and because we were under a microscope, lets see if we cannot do the story with Khan and see how it works. We built the story around the big ideas that we knew we wanted the movie to be about, which were Kirk and Spock, the Starfleet, the federation, and terrorism. So we sort of went down this road and we decided that we needed a bad guy to force Kirk and Spock towards each other. We needed a bad guy who could make Spock understand what Kirk means when he is talking about the definition of friendship. We needed a character that could put to the test Gene Roddenberry’s thesis that a utopian future is possible where all different alien species come together under one roof to explore space. So we talked about who that could be, and there was a lot of speculation online about who that could be. The more was started getting into it, the more another theme emerged. That theme was family, and the idea of the crew as family. As well as Kirk having to face his first his first real challenge as captain of the starship and put the lives of the people that he came to perceive as his family at risk. So how does he deal with that? Is he willing to put their lives on the chopping block for what ever the mission is for the greater good? It was particularly interesting to us because, as you know, Kirk is a man who doesn’t believe in the no win scenario. So we figured that we needed to put a character in there that could put Kirk to that ultimate test. The more we worked on it the more that we realized it had to be a character that had a similar perception of family and crew. Then Khan started coming back into our conversations a little bit because he, ultimately in both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Star Trek series, was after essentially the same thing, the protection of his family and crew. That made for a bad guy who was experiencing and feeling things similar to Kirk. Suddenly we had a reason to go back to Khan at that point. So we did, but even when we did that we knew that it was going to be under so much scrutiny and a microscope that what we didn’t want to do was remake The Wrath of Khan. That film is a priceless film. It can’t be touched and we didn’t want to. But because we are playing in the original cannon there will be things that echo from that iteration of Trek. So there are elements we can use as touch points, and that is how we got to it ultimately. It was a complicated decision and we the more we kept writing the more we realized that Khan was our guy.
Once you decided to use Khan as a character there was a lot of secrecy surrounding that choice. I know as a writer and producer you probably don’t have a lot of control over the film’s marketing campaign, and I understand why in our current spoiler culture you’d want to keep the fact that Khan is the film’s villain a secret during pre-production, production, and even post-production, but why not embrace it once the marketing campaign begins? Most fans were hoping for Khan to be in the movie if not expecting it, and non-fans probably wouldn’t know who Khan is, so did you think it was really that much of a spoiler?
Kurtzman: Yea, we were all involved with that decision. Most of it is all coming from one very honest place truthfully. We live in a world now where it is impossible to go to the movies without knowing an enormous amount about where it is going before you walk in the door. So the days, for example, of us standing in line for six hours going to see The Empire Strikes Back and having no idea what was coming then finding out that Darth Vader was Luke’s dad, and leaving Han Solo frozen in carbonite knowing that we would have to wait another four years to find out what would happen next, as painful as that was it was also glorious. That is an experience that completely robbed now by the way that people talk about movies. Because there was so much scrutiny on what we were going to do we felt like it’s our responsibility to ask people to come to the theater and hopefully know very little and we’ll get to surprise them. They’ll get to be wide eyed and wondered again when they come to the movies. Some people just reject that and say, “That is not the world we live in anymore. I need to know everything before I go in or I’m going to hate it.” That’s okay, if that’s the way you want it, everybody has a right. But it’s our feeling that you go to the movies for wonderment and discovery, and we didn’t want to rob anybody of that. We didn’t want to be “cool and secretive,” we more just wanted to protect a dying art form now.
Are you and Roberto Orci currently working on the script for Star Trek 3?
Kurtzman: The story is being broken on Star Trek 3 now.
How does it feel to be writing it knowing that J.J. Abrams will not be returning as director?
Kurtzman: Well, he actually has been involved. It is his baby too. Obviously he is going off to do Star Wars, and Damon (Lindelof) not around now and it’s different. It is different. But we are also in the third movie so I think it is fine to shake things up and it’s time for a change anyway. That’s fine, you know.
Finally, since we were talking about Khan and great movie villains, can you discuss how you chose which villains from the history of Spider-Man comics to use for The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Kurtzman: Well, it’s interesting because the first movie asks all these questions and what I loved about it in so many ways is that it didn’t answer them. So part of what we were drawn to and intrigued by was wanting to know the answers to a lot of those questions. So the villains emerge from the a lot of unanswered questions at the end of that movie and none of them are random at all, they are all tied together by a theme, an idea, and I think they come from our curiosity about what was going on in the life of Peter Parker and his parents.
Star Trek Into Darkness is available on Blu-ray and DVD beginning September 10th.
To watch our exclusive video interview with director J.J. Abrams about Star Trek Into Darkness, please click here.
To watch our exclusive interview with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto about Star Trek Into Darkness, please click here.
To watch our exclusive interview with Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, and Alice Eve about Star Trek Into Darkness, please click here.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters on May 2nd 2014.