Entertainment & Arts

Star Trek actors stand behind gay Sulu revelation

John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto Image copyright PA
Image caption Simon Pegg (second left) receives a kiss from Chris Pine at Star Trek Beyond's UK premiere

The stars of the latest Star Trek film have stood behind its revelation that long-standing character Sulu is gay.

"It is definitely high time for an LGBT character to be included in the Star Trek universe," Zachary Quinto, who plays Mr Spock, told the BBC.

"I'm a little stunned there's been so much attention given to it," Chris Pine, the current Captain Kirk, added.

George Takei - Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series - described the move last week as "really unfortunate".

"I'm delighted that there's a gay character [in the film]," the 79-year-old told the Hollywood Reporter.

Yet he claimed the "outing" of Hikaru Sulu was "a twisting" of Gene [Roddenberry]'s creation, "to which he put in so much thought".

Takei said Star Trek creator Roddenberry "was a strong supporter of LGBT equality" but had always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual. The actor - who went on to play Sulu in the six Star Trek films made between 1979 and 1991 - announced he was gay in 2005.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George Takei (left) and John Cho share the role of Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise

Speaking on Tuesday before Star Trek Beyond's UK premiere, Simon Pegg said the revelation about Sulu's sexuality "doesn't change George's Sulu in any way".

"Whatever he wants that to be, that is how that Sulu is," said the British actor, a cast member and co-writer on the new film.

"But in this universe, it felt like a smart way of introducing an aspect of the character we hadn't previously known."

Partner and daughter

In Star Trek Beyond, Enterprise helmsman Sulu is briefly seen being greeted at the end of a voyage by his male partner and daughter.

Sulu's partner, whose name is Ben according to the IMDB website, is played in the film by Doug Jung, the film's other co-writer.

John Cho, who has played Sulu since the film series was rebooted in 2009, said he had initially been concerned about Takei's reaction.

"I was worried because I knew [George] was a gay man who had played a straight character," he told the BBC.

"I know he felt a fair bit of ownership of that character, and legitimately so. I was also worried that it might be inferred that we were somehow suggesting that sexuality was a choice. But I don't think anyone has inferred that, and we're certainly not saying that."

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Media captionSimon Pegg: 'This is our reality'

"It was not something that was flippant," director Justin Lin said. "It was something a lot of thought went into.

"George is entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day I'm the gatekeeper for this and I think it's in the spirit of what Roddenberry wanted."

Quinto, who is also openly gay, added: "The LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community has long advocated for representation in the Star Trek universe.

"We've been really excited by the response, particularly from young people, who have been inspired and motivated by this turn toward progress."

The decision has also been applauded by Roddenberry's son Rod, who has said his late father would have been "100% in favour".

"I can understand why [George] feels strongly about it [but] I don't see why everyone is bickering about it," he told the Associated Press.

Image copyright Paramount Pictures
Image caption Chris Pine (right) said he felt "lucky and blessed" to have shared scenes with Anton Yelchin (left)

The release of the new Star Trek film follows the sudden death of cast member Anton Yelchin, who died in a car accident at his home.

The 27-year-old, who is seen in the film reprising his role as navigator Pavel Chekov, died last month after his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backwards and pinned him against a fence.

Pine, who shares a number of scenes with Yelchin in the film, told the BBC he felt "lucky and blessed to have had a deeper experience with Anton this time around".

Dedications

Lin's film carries dedications not just to Yelchin but also to actor Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr Spock, who died last year at the age of 83.

"It was very important for all of us to find a way to carry his spirit through this film and through the work we continue to do," said Quinto.

The release of Star Trek Beyond coincides with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, an occasion to which Lin hopes his film will be a fitting accompaniment.

"Hopefully we can reaffirm why we love [Star Trek] and build a foundation for another 50 years," the director said.

Star Trek Beyond, which also stars Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Idris Elba as chief villain Krall, opens in the UK and Ireland on 22 July.


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