Paramount confirmed this week that “WandaVision” director Matt Shakman will head into production on a new “Star Trek” movie later this year with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho and Simon Pegg reprising their roles for a fourth go-around on the big screen. For Quentin Tarantino fans, the news is the latest reminder that the Oscar winner’s “Stark Trek” movie remains dead. At least for now.
Tarantino fans were sent into a frenzy in late 2017 after it was announced that Paramount and “Star Trek” producer J.J. Abrams loved Tarantino’s pitch for a new “Star Trek” movie and were assembling a writers room to flesh out the idea. Tarantino ultimately partnered with “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark L. Smith, who was tasked with writing a “Star Trek” film script based on Tarantino’s idea while Tarantino was busy finishing post-production and touring the world for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Smith revealed on the “Bulletproof Screenwriting” podcast in August 2021 that J.J. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot gave him a call on Tarantino’s behalf.
“They just called me and said, ‘Hey, are you up for it? Do you want to go? Quentin wants to hook up.’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’” the screenwriter said. “And that was the first day I met Quentin, in the room and he’s reading a scene that he wrote and it was this awesome, cool gangster scene, and he’s acting it out and back and forth. I told him, I was so mad I didn’t record it on my phone. It would be so valuable. It was amazing.”
Tarantino intended to bring a “Pulp Fiction” vibe to “Star Trek” with an idea that was a largely earthbound story set in a 1930s gangster setting. Tarantino’s pitch appeared to take inspiration from “A Piece of the Action,” the 17th episode of the second season of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The installment, which aired in 1968, followed the Enterprise crew as they visit a planet with an Earth-like 1920s gangster culture.
Smith told “Bulletproof Screenwriting” that the screenwriting process started almost immediately after he agreed to work with Tarantino, adding, “I would go hang out at his house one night and we would watch old gangster films. We were there for hours…We were just kicking back watching gangster films, laughing at the bad dialogue, but talking about how it would bleed into what we wanted to do.”
According to Smith, Tarantino’s “Star Trek” idea was “really wild” and like “its own very cool episode.” The plot included “a little time travel stuff going on” and “had a lot of fun” with Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk. Tarantino fans expected the director to go all in on Pine considering Tarantino’s outspoken love for the actor. Tarantino has called the Pine-starring “Unstoppable” one of his favorite action films, and he had nothing but raves for Pine’s performance as Kirk in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot
“I thought Chris Pine did a fantastic job, not just playing Capt. Kirk but playing William Shatner’s captain — he is William Shatner,” Tarantino once told MTV. “He’s not just another guy, he’s William Shatner’s Capt. Kirk. And Zachary Quinto is literally Leonard Nimoy’s — because they both have the same scene together — he’s his Spock. They fucking nail it. They just nail it.”
Tarantino’s “Star Trek” was widely believed to be rated R, although it was never confirmed. Fans expected the R-rating given the graphic nature of Tarantino’s movies. It was also never confirmed that Tarantino would direct the script himself. Tarantino has maintained that he is retiring from feature filmmaking after his 10th directorial effort, which means he only has one movie left to make, post-“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Fans questioned whether or not Tarantino would want an IP-based movie like “Star Trek” to be his curtain call.
Tarantino revealed to Consequence of Sound in December 2019 that he was “steering away” from directing the “Trek” movie. A final blow arrived in January 2020 when Tarantino confirmed, “I think they might make that movie, but I just don’t think I’m going to direct it. It’s a good idea. They should definitely do it and I’ll be happy to come in and give them some notes on the first rough cut.”
After Justin Lin’s 2016 entry “Star Trek Beyond” underwhelmed at the box office with less than $400 million worldwide, Paramount put a pause on the film franchise as it figured out what to do next. Tarantino and Smith’s script was one of three potential “Star Trek” films in development at the same time. “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley was working on his own “Star Trek” film that was to feature a new cast, while Paramount was also developing a more traditional sequel to “Beyond” with the same cast. Filmmaker S.J. Clarkson was attached to this third “Trek” idea for a time.
The “Star Trek” announcement this week confirmed that a “Beyond” sequel with the returning cast is officially a go. Paramount announced in July 2021 that Shakman was hired to helm a new “Star Trek” movie, the cast for which was unclear at the time. Shakman is a prolific television director with credits that include “WandaVision,” “Six Feet Under,” “House,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Game of Thrones” and “Succession.” He’s only directed one previous feature, the 2015 indie “Cut Bank” with Liam Hemsworth and Billy Bob Thornton.
As reported by Variety, Paramount did market research to determine whether or not there was still audience interest in Chris Pine and the 2009 reboot cast given the long wait period between “Beyond” and a new “Trek” film. Insiders said that studio executives determined there was still lasting audience enthusiasm for Pine, Quinto and the rest of the cast, which allowed the studio to feel comfortable with moving forward with bringing them back.
One person most likely relieved that Paramount is moving ahead on a “Star Trek” movie without Tarantino is Rod Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment. Roddenberry, who serves as an executive producer on several “Star Trek” series on Paramount Plus (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” etc.), told Forbes in September 2021 that he had mixed feelings on Tarantino coming into the “Star Trek” fold.
“I struggle with that because the way I’m pretty myopic with the way I see ‘Star Trek,’” Roddenberry said when asked about Tarantino’s “Star Trek” idea. “I mentioned that I grew up with fans coming up to me out saying how ‘Star Trek’ inspired them and gave them hope for the future. It’s the optimism and the messaging in there that make ‘Star Trek’ what it was. I truly believe that. If you create a ‘Star Trek,’ that is just action; that is not ‘Star Trek,’ in my opinion. That’s what makes it different than ‘Star Wars,’ and I love ‘Star Wars,’ but they can both coexist. And I love Tarantino’s work and the kind of films that he does. I am trying to have an open mind.”
Roddenberry continued, “I would be curious to read a script on his take. I do not think you could say we’re going to do a ‘Reservoir Dog-Star Trek.’ I’ll be honest, that doesn’t work for me, but he is a fan, and I think as a fan, he probably understands to some degree that ‘Star Trek’ has to have some of this messaging.”
Production on the Tarantino-less new “Star Trek” movie will begin later this year.