Star Trek director J.J. Abrams told SCI FI Wire that Bruce Greenwood and Eric Bana are "massively important" and expressed his pleasure at having Majel Barrett Roddenberry's participation in the film before her passing. (Spoilers ahead!)
"Nero is the character that we go up against," Abrams said in an exclusive interview a few weeks ago. "He's the guy who is the catalyst for the story and the one that really tests our heroes. It's been said that the hero is as strong as the villain. Not only do we have a villain that we can identify with and in some ways even sympathize with, but you've got an actor in Eric Bana who's brought this role to life in a way that was really remarkably considered. He did some amazing stuff. Here's a guy who's playing a bald-headed, tattoo-faced space villain. It really is as preposterous as it gets, but as an actor Bana just brought a gravity, a sense of humor and an emotionality to it that was just wonderful to see."
Nero is a Romulan who travels back in time to the period before that of the original Star Trek series, and his actions affect the initial meetings of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Greenwood plays Christopher Pike, the first captain of the starship. "Pike, who is in many ways the grownup in the movie," Abrams said. "The other characters, though they're hardly teenagers, they're still young enough that they're starting out their careers in Starfleet. And you've got Pike, who's the father figure for Kirk [Chris Pine] in many ways and a captain himself when we first meet him."
Abrams added: "Bruce Greenwood is so good in everything he does, and he was able to take this role and make him not just a figure of authority, but a figure of compassion and caring and just wonderful depth. He really, in my mind, over-delivered."
Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, provided the computer voice for the film. "It was a wonderful thing to have Majel come to the set and hang out and be present and be as lovely and supportive as she was," Abrams said. "It was equally a thrill to get her to record her voice for the movie. Obviously, we knew that she was ill, and we wanted to do anything we could for her. The fact that she was able to be part of this, it's a wonderful thing that I think the fans will really appreciate." Star Trek opens May 8.