By Adam B. Vary
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – They’re boldly going back.
Paramount is planning to enter negotiations for “Star Trek” stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho and Simon Pegg to return to the Enterprise for their fourth tour of duty in the venerable sci-fi franchise.
The announcement was made by J.J.Abrams during the Paramount Investors Day Presentation on Feb. 15.
“We are thrilled to say that we are hard at work on a new ‘Star Trek’ film that will be shooting by the end of the year that will be featuring our original cast and some new characters that I think are going to be really fun and exciting and help take ‘Star Trek’ into areas that you’ve just never seen before,” Abrams said.”We’re thrilled about this film, we have a bunch of other stories that we’re talking about that we think will be really exciting so can’t wait for you to see what we’re cooking up. But until then, live long and prosper.”
The six actors first stepped into their respective iconic roles as Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, Sulu, and Scotty in 2009’s “Star Trek,” directed by Abrams, which reset the “Trek” timeline and allowed for the reboot to exist unencumbered from the hundreds hours of “Trek” continuity that had come before.The actors returned in two sequels, 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” also directed by Abrams, and 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond,” directed by Justin Lin.
Abrams is producing the new, as-yet-untitled film through Bad Robot, with Matt Shakman (“WandaVision”) directing from a screenplay by Josh Friedman (“Avatar 2”) and Cameron Squires (“WandaVision”) based on a earlier draft by Lindsey Beer (“Sierra Burgess Is a Loser”) and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (“Captain Marvel”).
Paramount was close to bringing back this cast once before: In 2018, S.J.Clarkson (“Jessica Jones”) had signed up to direct a sequel that would have reunited Pine’s Kirk with his late father, played by Chris Hemsworth reprising his performance from the 2009 “Star Trek.” That film never materialized, however, after Paramount reportedly couldn’t close a deal with Pine and Hemsworth.
Since then, insiders say the studio has done market research to determine audience interest in the rebooted cast, given the long wait period between “Beyond” — which lost money for Paramount — and a prospective new “Trek” film.Execs determined that there was still lasting audience enthusiasm for Pine, Quinto and the rest of the cast in their established roles, which allowed the studio to feel comfortable with moving forward with bringing them back.
Paramount has also explored several other avenues for “Trek” features, none of which seem to have ultimately borne fruit.
Quentin Tarantino reportedly cooled on a “Star Trek” script he was pursuing with “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark L. Smith. In late 2019, Paramount tapped “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley to write and direct a “Trek” movie that Hawley planned to feature new actors playing new characters.
But when Emma Watts became president of the Paramount Motion Picture Group a few months later, insiders say she paused all “Trek” development, including Hawley’s film, to decide how best to move forward with one of the studio’s crown jewel franchises. With Watts’ departure from Paramount in September, it’s unclear what the current “Trek” film portends for other development for the franchise, including a screenplay by “Fear the Walking Dead” co-executive producer Kalinda Vazquez.
Bringing the 2009 “Trek” cast back could prove a challenge given they’ve all had busy schedules since “Beyond.” Pine added the “Wonder Woman” franchise to his resume and he’ll next appear in Olivia Wilde’s thriller “Don’t Worry Darling” and the black-ops film “Violence of Action.” Quinto headlined the AMC series “NOS4A2,” and starred in the Broadway revival of “The Boys in the Band” and its 2020 Netflix film adaptation. Saldana continued her run as Gamora in several Marvel Studios films, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Avengers: Endgame”; she’ll star in “Avatar 2” this year and in “Guardians Vol. 3” in 2023.Urban appeared in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and he’ll continue his performance as Billy Butcher on Season 3 of Amazon’s “The Boys” in June. Cho starred in acclaimed indies “Columbus” and “Searching,” and he starred in Netflix’s live-action adaption of the anime xmas series “Cowboy Bebop.” And Pegg starred with Nick Frost on Amazon’s horror comedy series “Truth Seekers,” and he’ll reprise his role as Benji in “Mission: Impossible 7” in 2023.
One member of the 2009 “Trek” cast, however, sadly cannot join them.Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov, died in an accident in June 2016, a month before “Beyond” opened in theaters. At that film’s premiere at San Diego Comic Con, the cast, filmmakers and invited guests sat in a full minute of silence in tribute to the late actor.
Brent Lang contributed to this story.