There was heavy duty security – and for the thousands of hopefuls who turned up, hours of waiting – inside three days of casting sessions for Star Trek Beyond at Dubai Studio City from Tuesday, August 11, and wrapping up tonight, Thursday, August 13.
While the media was not invited, fortunately everybody knows a Trekkie. So it wasn’t hard to find out what had taken place behind the gates of the not-so-open casting session, which was organised by the talent agency Miranda Davidson Studios via a call-out on its Facebook page.
Hardcore fans began forming queues by 9am on Tuesday, despite the fact that the casting session didn’t actually begin until 2pm.
Ian Maddocks, from the UK, told us: "I'm a big Star Trek fan, I love the whole genre, the whole thing. I've watched Star Trek all the way back to the 60s and the movies are amazing. I wanted to see William Shatner at Middle East Film & Comic Con in April this year, but some friends let us down and we couldn't make it. Today was a very lengthy process to get there, but reasonably easy once you finally get there. Once you're through the holding bay it's just photo, measure you up, and bye! I really hope they put me in a big alien costume."
His friend David Smith was lucky enough to catch Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original, cult Star Trek series, at Comic Con: "Shatner was a great, affable, witty old man. He obviously has done those things before, and he really knows how to work a crowd," he said. He then added somewhat unconvincingly "I'm not really a massive Trekkie, but I've seen everything they've ever produced. Just being in a massive movie would be great."
It wasn't only the huge fans that were in attendance. Croatian sisters Elena and Heleriin Haine were sent by parental orders, Heleriin told us: "We're not really big fans. But our dad's a massive fan and he saw the story in The National and told us to come. We got there at 3pm. Finally we got to the front of the queue and thought 'oh, the queueings over."
Elena interjects: “Yeah – then they sent us to another room to wait some more! But we got there eventually, and it was great!’”
Australian Sarah Jemes explains how she spent her day: “First, I reached there at 5.30pm and was told to sit in a gigantic room to wait in rows. After about three hours, my row was up and we went to stand in a long queue. Another 30 mins passed by, then we were handed a tablet to insert our information in. After that, we had to wait in another room until our name was called out. When I was called, they handed me a small white board with my name and phone number on it. Then we had to enter another room where pictures were taken. I had to stand still with the board in order for the picture to be taken from the front and side. After that, we had to go into another room for body measurements for costume. And that was the end of it. The whole process took about 5 hours and the queues were a bit too long, but nevertheless, it was a nice experience.”
There is so much that isn't known about the Star Trek shoot, which is scheduled to start shooting in September in and around Dubai. The production has not said how many extras they have been looking for this week, or what roles they would play: only that they could be between the ages of 6 and 70. As a reference point, when Mission Impossible IV cast in Dubai in 2011, local agency Dotcasting cast 1,033 extras. They also did so via the internet – the first time such a time- and environmentally-friendly process had taken place on a major Hollywood movie.