The actor has revealed he actively campaigned against the move, which was designed to honour his work in the LGBT community
Yesterday evening, the news emerged that when the third instalment of the new Star Trek cinematic franchise arrives in cinemas in two weeks time, the character Hikaru Sulu will be revealed to have a same-sex partner, with whom he is raising a child. According to John Cho, the actor currently playing the role, the decision is a nod to George Takei, the Japanese American actor who first played the role 50 years ago, and who is famously a gay man and a gay rights activist.
But while the general response from the public has been warm, it turns out that Takei was more stunned than a phaser-shot Klingon and actively tried to dissuade the filmmakers from the plot point.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Takei said: “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
John Cho star as Hikaru Sulu in the current cinematic franchise of Star Trek [Paramount]
Takei explained how John Cho had telephoned him to reveal the decision, and that Takei responded with his concerns. “I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’”
The convoluted timeline of the Star Trek universe – Star Trek Beyond, despite being the 13th film in the canon, is both a prequel and takes place in an alternative timeline to the original Takei-starring series – there’s some ambiguity as to just how long Mr Sulu spent in the closet at all. But Takei says he pushed the franchise’s new director Justin Lin to celebrate the golden anniversary of Star Trek’s TV debut by creating an entirely new LGBTQ character, rather than ascribing homosexuality to a pre-existing one.
Takei also claims that his discussion with Lin left him “felling that that was going to happen,” and his assumption was buoyed after he received a letter from Simon Pegg, the British actor who plays Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott and wrote the screenplay for the new film. In Pegg’s letter, the actor praised Takei for his commitment to advocating for the LGBTQ movement. It was only when he finally answered the call from Cho that he realised what was actually happening.
“I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed,” Takei said. “I thought after that conversation with Justin that was going to happen. Months later, when I got the email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard.”
In short, it appears that producers of the movie decided to honour one of the original cast members, but in a way he desperately went to great lengths to explain he thought was wrong.