Development of Star Trek 4

Star Trek 4 is the working title for an American science fiction film in development at Paramount Pictures, based on the television series Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry. It is intended to be the 14th film in the Star Trek film series. There have been several different iterations of the film in development since 2015.

Development of a sequel to Star Trek Beyond (2016) was revealed before the release of that film, with J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay writing. In December 2017, Quentin Tarantino pitched his own idea for a new Star Trek film to producer J. J. Abrams, and development began separately from the Beyond sequel. S. J. Clarkson was hired to direct the latter in April 2018, but negotiations with stars Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth ended that August with the actors leaving the project. Noah Hawley was hired in November 2019 to write and direct a new version of the franchise. Tarantino revealed in January 2020 that he had decided not to direct his Star Trek film. Hawley's version was placed on hold that August to allow Paramount to decide on the best direction for the franchise. Kalinda Vazquez was set to write the script for a new film based on her own original idea in March 2021, while a separate script was developed by Lindsey Beer and Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Matt Shakman was hired to direct the latter film in July, and the script was being re-written by Josh Friedman and Cameron Squires in November. The film is scheduled for release on December 22, 2023.

BackgroundEdit

Shortly before filming for Star Trek Beyond began in June 2015, Paramount Pictures completed last-minute contract re-negotiations with the main cast members of the Star Trek franchise's reboot films. This gave the actors pay rises while signing Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to return for a fourth film in their respective roles as James T. Kirk and Spock.[1] While promoting the release of Beyond, producer J. J. Abrams revealed on July 15, 2016, that the fourth film would see Chris Hemsworth reprising the role of George Kirk, father of James, from the prologue of Star Trek (2009).[2] Abrams added that the role of Pavel Chekov would not be recast following the death of actor Anton Yelchin a month earlier.[3] On July 18, Paramount Pictures officially announced a fourth film with the temporary title Star Trek 4. The announcement confirmed the return of Hemsworth and Pine as well as "most of the cast from Star Trek Beyond", with Abrams producing alongside Lindsey Weber under their company Bad Robot Productions. J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay were set to write the screenplay for the sequel after doing uncredited writing work on Beyond. David Ellison and Dana Goldberg of Skydance Media were set as executive producers.[4]

While a guest on The Nerdist Podcast in December 2015, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in making a Star Trek film. He stated that he was a fan of the original Star Trek series as well as Abrams' 2009 reboot film, and felt that many classic Star Trek episodes could be "easily expanded" into a feature film; he gave the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" (1990) as an example.[5][6] In September 2017, after a clip of this discussion resurfaced on YouTube, Tarantino was asked about directing a Star Trek film and said "It would be worth having a meeting about". He noted that he planned to retire after directing ten films and had already made eight.[7][6] Both Pine and Quinto separately stated earlier in 2017 that they had not heard any updates about a new Star Trek film other than it was being written.[8][9] Karl Urban, who portrays Leonard McCoy in the films, reiterated this in September and expressed interest in having the fourth film introduce McCoy's ex-wife and daughter.[10] That December, Tarantino approached Abrams and Paramount about an idea he had for a new Star Trek film, and development on the project began at the studio.[11] It was unclear what effect this would have on the already planned sequel to Beyond,[12] but at CinemaCon in April 2018, Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos stated that both Star Trek films were in development separately.[13]

Quentin TarantinoEdit

 
Quentin Tarantino began developing a Star Trek film in December 2017, but chose not to direct the film in January 2020

A few days after Tarantino's project was announced, he and Abrams convened a writers room consisting of Mark L. Smith, Lindsey Beer, Drew Pearce and Megan Amram, to hear Tarantino's idea and begin developing it into a film.[11][14] One of the group would be chosen to write a screenplay for the film while Tarantino focused on his ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019); Smith was considered the frontrunner. As part of the initial discussion for the project, Abrams and Paramount had agreed that the film could be rated R like Tarantino's previous films, which would have made it the first R-rated Star Trek film.[14] Smith was hired to write the screenplay by the end of December.[15]

Both Patrick Stewart and William Shatner expressed interest in returning to the franchise to work with Tarantino on his project, after they respectively portrayed Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series.[16][17] In April 2018, Tarantino's film was said to be set in a different timeline from the Beyond sequel,[18] and had the potential to be another reboot of the franchise.[19] In June, Quinto said that he assumed the cast of Abrams' films would be starring in Tarantino's.[20] Simon Pegg, who portrayed Montgomery Scott in the Abrams films, reiterated this in July 2018.[21] In January 2019, Paramount president Wyck Godfrey gave Tarantino's Star Trek film as an example of how Paramount was rejuvenating its existing franchises, believing that "people’s eyes light up" at the thought of the filmmaker joining the franchise.[22]

Tarantino confirmed in May 2019 that his Star Trek film was still in development, explaining that the script had been written and he would return to the project following the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that July.[23] A month later he said he would be giving notes on the script once he had the chance to, and confirmed that the film would be rated R.[24] In July, Tarantino said he had read Smith's script and "like[d] it a lot", but there were elements that he wanted to work on. He described the film as "Pulp Fiction in space".[25] He also said that he was a fan of the performances of Pine and Quinto in Abrams' films and wanted them to star in his film, but he wanted his story to be a direct prequel to the original Star Trek series rather than being set in an alternate timeline like Abrams' films are; Abrams encouraged Tarantino to ignore the different timelines after Tarantino had said "I don’t understand this, I don’t like it" when discussing them.[26] Tarantino was also asked how a Star Trek film would fit into his ten film plan. He acknowledged that he could use a loophole by saying "Star Trek doesn't count" and then make a tenth original film, but suggested that he would rather commit to making ten films whether that tenth film is part of the Star Trek franchise or not.[27]

In December 2019, Tarantino said he was "steering away" from directing the film but had made no official decision yet.[28] A month later he said that he was not going to direct the film, but he thought it was a good idea for a Star Trek film and suggested that it still be made, offering to give notes on the first cut.[29] Tarantino's story was later revealed to be based on the original Star Trek series episode "A Piece of the Action" (1968), which is set on an alien planet with an "Earth-like 1920s gangster culture".[30][31]

S. J. ClarksonEdit

 
S. J. Clarkson was hired to be the first female director for a Star Trek film, but her version of the project was canceled by January 2020

S. J. Clarkson entered talks to direct the Beyond sequel in April 2018. This would have made her the first woman to direct a Star Trek film, a development that came after an extensive search for a female director which had been a mandate from Abrams and Paramount. Payne and McKay had completed a screenplay at that time, but Paramount had yet to sign new contracts for the main cast outside of Pine and Quinto, including Urban, Pegg, John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), and Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura).[18] After Clarkson joined the film, Quinto said the project was entering the "logistical kind of phase" and expressed excitement at working with the director again after they both worked on the television series Heroes.[32][33] In July 2018, Jennifer Morrison expressed interest in reprising her role as George Kirk's wife Winona from Star Trek (2009).[34] Also that month, Danai Gurira neared a role in the film,[35] while Pegg met with Clarkson to discuss the film and expected production to begin in early 2019.[36][37]

Contract negotiations between Pine, Hemsworth, and the studios ended with Pine and Hemsworth leaving the film in August 2018. The pair had existing deals for the film after Pine had signed on in June 2015 and Hemsworth had been attached in July 2016, but Paramount and Skydance wanted to lower the budget for the film following the financial underperformance of Beyond and wanted to decrease the actors' salaries as part of this. Development of the film was expected to continue without Pine and Hemsworth, as it was considered a priority project for the two studios. Negotiations with Saldana, Quinto, Urban, Pegg and Cho had not yet begun by that point, as they had been waiting until talks with Pine and Hemsworth had been completed.[38] At the end of the month, Urban said production for the film was expected to take place in the United Kingdom where Clarkson is based, and that it was just waiting on negotiations with Pine and Hemsworth to continue.[39] Pine said a month later that he still wanted to make the film, adding, "we will see what happens".[40] Despite this, the film had been cancelled by January 2019 and Clarkson moved on to other projects.[41] That May, Hemsworth said he had turned down the film because he was underwhelmed by the script.[42]

Noah HawleyEdit

 
Noah Hawley was hired to write and direct a new Star Trek film in November 2019, but it was placed on hold in August 2020

Noah Hawley was hired to write and direct a new Star Trek film for Paramount in November 2019, which he would produce under his 26 Keys Production company alongside Abrams. The film was set to feature a new plot different from the George Kirk time travel premise and also separate from Tarantino's story idea, though the film was expected to be a sequel to Beyond and see Pine, Quinto, Urban and Saldana all return. Paramount and Skydance were said to be hopeful that negotiations would be more successful without Hemsworth and with a new story.[43]

In January 2020, Hawley said he would be beginning work on the film "as soon as possible" after completing the fourth season of his television series Fargo.[44] He added that calling the film Star Trek 4 was "kind of a misnomer" and reports of the Beyond cast returning for the film were not necessarily correct, explaining that he had approached Paramount with his own vision for the franchise that was "going to be different" from previous films, and would likely involve new characters.[45] It was important to Hawley to tell a new story that was respectful of the source material as he did with Fargo and Legion, and specifically he talked about evoking the Star Trek values of "exploration and humanity at its best, and diversity and creative problem solving".[44] A month later, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish stated that Paramount was only developing one new Star Trek film.[46]

Hawley had discussed the film with his frequent composer Jeff Russo by January 2020. Russo was already the composer for the television series Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard,[47] which he said was a coincidence.[48] He was excited about the possibility of working on Hawley's film, but was not officially composing for it yet.[47] In April, Russo elaborated that they had discussed Hawley's story and intentions for the film's music.[48] Hawley was still working on the film in May, during the COVID-19 pandemic.[49] That July, Robert Sallin—the producer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)—revealed that he had a concept for a new Star Trek film that he was writing a script for. He said it would be "unlike anything that has been done in Star Trek" before. Sallin had discussed his concept with Paramount, but had been told that the studio would not consider any other pitches for Star Trek films until they had seen Hawley's script.[50] Russo began composing musical themes for the film after reading Hawley's script.[51]

Re-assessmentEdit

"There's nothing better than that moment when William Shatner puts on his reading glasses and lowers Khan's shields. It doesn't cost anything. But it's that triumphant feeling about [out]smarting your enemy [that I want to recreate]."

—Noah Hawley on his plans for Star Trek, referencing a scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, before his version of the project was placed on hold in August 2020[44]

Hawley's project was placed on hold in August 2020 by new Paramount Pictures president Emma Watts, whose top priority at the studio was to "figure out" the direction of the Star Trek franchise. She was weighing several options, including Hawley's film, which he still intended to direct and for which "soft prep" had already begun. Hawley's script was confirmed to focus on new characters and was said to potentially feature a deadly virus plot that could be considered "awkward" due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other options that Watts was considering included a new attempt at a sequel to Beyond featuring the cast of the previous films, as well as Tarantino's project which was considered to still be a viable option with a new director hired to work from Tarantino's story. Deadline Hollywood's Mike Fleming Jr suggested that a film featuring the previous cast may have "the cleanest path" forward, with the Hawley and Tarantino films deemed more suitable as spin-offs from the core franchise akin to the X-Men franchise's Logan (2017). Fleming added that the next film would need "an emphasis on boosting overseas gross numbers which have never been the franchise’s strong suit".[30]

In September, Hawley said his film was "still alive, just in stasis". He reiterated that it featured new characters, describing it as a "start from scratch". Hawley did clarify that his story had an explicit connection to the existing Star Trek canon in a similar way to how the first season of Fargo has a story connection to the 1996 film of the same name.[52] At the end of November, Hawley said the film was "very close to production" when Watts put it on hold,[53] with casting underway and Hawley preparing to move to Australia where filming was planned to take place.[54] He added that the film "doesn't appear to be in [his] immediate future" anymore.[53] Also during 2020, The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer wrote a detailed proposal with his producing partner Steven-Charles Jaffe for a new Star Trek project, including a treatment and illustrations. Meyer said the project was not connected to any of the franchise's previous films and was set in a gap in the Star Trek timeline where an original story could be told with new characters. He described the project as a feature film, but said it could also be a television series or a combination of television and film. Meyer and Jaffe presented this proposal to Star Trek television producer Alex Kurtzman, Abrams, and Watts, but had not heard anything back from Paramount by March 2021.[55] At that time, Paramount set Star Trek: Discovery writer Kalinda Vazquez to write the script for a new Star Trek film, based on her own original idea, with Abrams' Bad Robot producing.[56] A month later, the studio scheduled an untitled Star Trek film for release on June 9, 2023.[57]

Matt ShakmanEdit

After his success directing the limited television series WandaVision (2021), Matt Shakman turned down several offers to become director of the next Star Trek film, signing a deal by mid-July 2021. Watts had "pushed hard" to hire Shakman for the project, and his signing was considered to be a "coup" for her.[58] Abrams was confirmed to be producing the film, with a screenplay written by Beer and Geneva Robertson-Dworet that was separate from the script that Vazquez was hired to write.[59] Shakman's film was set for the June 2023 release date,[60] and was said to be moving at "warp speed" after his hiring ahead of a planned filming start in early-to-mid 2022.[58] No deals with cast members had been made at that point, but Paramount hoped for Pine and the other main cast from his previous films to return.[61] In November 2021, the film's release was pushed to December 22, 2023, to make room for the delayed Transformers: Rise of the Beasts in Paramount's schedule. By then, Josh Friedman and Cameron Squires were re-writing the film's script.[62]

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External linksEdit