Dubai will undergo a galactic makeover during the next two weeks as shooting begins on the next installment of the popular sci-fi franchise, Star Trek.
Cast and crew from the new film, Star Trek Beyond, the third installment of the sci-fi reboot, held a Press conference on Wednesday at Burj Al Arab to discuss details of the project. Guests included the film's director and producer Justin Lin, executive producer Jeffrey Chernov, writers Douglas Jung and Simon Pegg and stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and Idris Elba. Actress Zoe Saldana, who plays the role of Nyota Uhura, was not in attendance.
Following three months of principal photography in Vancouver, an intensive shooting schedule will continue today in what promises to be the largest Hollywood production the emirate has witnessed since Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was shot here in 2011. The box office hit starring Tom Cruise prominently featured many of Dubai's most famous landmarks like the Burj Khalifa and was credited with introducing the city to a new generation of Hollywood filmmakers while also boosting tourism.
Producers revealed that filming would be done at the sound stages in Dubai Studio City as well as other indoor and outdoor locations throughout the city, without specifying where, but that Dubai would be featured as a "vertical" alien city. About 1,000 extras chosen during a casting call held here in August will also be on set, while an internship programme is also in place for local film students.
"We came searching for the future and we found it in Dubai," said producer Jeffrey Chernov, who first became familiar with the city while working on Ghost Protocol and scouted locations here for the upcoming shoot.
Director Justin Lin will be taking his first crack at the franchise following the departure of J.J. Abrams, who directed the previous two films and is working as a producer on this latest installment.
"I come from the indie world and I feel like I'm making the biggest budget indie movie of all time," he said.
Zachary Quinto will reprise his role as Spock, famously played by actor Leonard Nimoy in the original Star Trek series, though it will mark the first time he portrays the character following the death of Nimoy in February.
Chris Pine is returning to his role as Captain James T Kirk, originally played by William Shatner, who was a headlining guest at the Middle East Film & Comic Con in April. The actor's first impressions of the city left him impressed. "I love discovering new places and Dubai is such a stunning city. I woke up this morning, opened the blinds and it looks like whatever tomorrow will be - it's futureland."
New to the cast is British actor and musician Idris Elba, who shed little light on whether or not his character in the film would be a villain. Once filming has wrapped, Elba will stay on in Dubai to perform at the upcoming DXBeach music festival as a headline act.
Producer Simon Pegg, who will also play the role of Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, commented on the intense fandom that still surrounds the timeless sci-fi franchise.
The release of Star Trek Beyond is scheduled for July 22 next year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the franchise, originally created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966.
By Mohamad Kadry