Nicholas Meyer, director of ABC’s groundbreaking 1983 TV movie The Day After, is set to executive produce Paul Jay’s How to Stop a Nuclear War feature documentary, based on the book Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by the late Daniel Ellsberg.
The Day After, which aired Nov. 20, 1983 on ABC, vividly depicted a fictional full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and the then Soviet Union and included an attack on Kansas. But 40 years on, Meyer told The Hollywood Reporter global nuclear powers remain on a collision course and the Star Trek franchise director feels a need to pull the alarm again.
“We’re going to blow ourselves to kingdom come, it’s only a question of when and whether any of us are prepared to take any steps to mitigate or postpone this finale,” Meyer warned.
In extensive interviews with Canadian director Jay for the feature doc, Ellsberg, who passed away at 92 years in June 2023, explains the “institutional madness” of American nuclear war plans and how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made the world far more dangerous, according to a synopsis by the filmmakers.
The Emmy-nominated The Day After film not only terrified around 100 million viewers, but had an influence on President Ronald Reagan’s decision to co-sign a peace treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev. Meyer argues the world earned a reprieve when then U.S. president Donald Trump never pulled the nuclear trigger, despite controlling the launch codes and having the U.S. leave a longstanding arms control treaty with Russia.
But Russian president Vladimir Putin repeatedly touting his country’s nuclear might amid his invasion of Ukraine, and deadly weaponry in the hands of bad actors worldwide, has Meyer backing the How to Stop a Nuclear War doc to once again avert global catastrophe.
“We are seemingly headed for annihilation. I have three daughters. So here I am trying again,” Meyer added.
Jay’s How to Stop a Nuclear War focuses on Ellsberg, who famously made copies of the Pentagon Papers and other classified nuclear documents during the Nixon administration and leaked the documents to the New York Times and other media outlets in 1971. As a high-level Pentagon analyst, Ellsberg was charged by the U.S. with breaking the Espionage Act, but the case was dismissed because of government misconduct in evidence-gathering.
In the upcoming feature doc, still in production, Ellsberg warns that the nuclear weapons arsenals of the U.S. and Russia are still very much a threat to global peace and that an all-out nuclear war remains capable of being launched from missile silos or submarines on a few minutes’ notice.
Meyer directed the 1982 movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country installment, and co-wrote the 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home movie.