Following well over a year of radio silence and months of public confusion following the announcement of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ project, it seemed as though we finally knew what was going on with ‘Star Trek 4’. The film had a script by Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne and had even found a director in the form of S.J. Clarkson. By all appearances, things were moving forward. But now it seems all that may be on the verge of derailment.
When ‘Star Trek 4’ was first announced (days after the 2016 release of ‘Star Trek Beyond’), the hook for the film was that Chris Hemsworth would be returning to the series to reprise his role as Captain Kirk’s father. Or perhaps not. By the time Clarkson was signed in April of this year, there was considerable ambiguity as to whether or not any of the cast were on board. Though both Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine had signed for a fourth film in 2015 and Hemsworth had been attached since at least the summer of 2016, the Hollywood Reporter stated at the time that none of the cast was under contract, and both they and other trades suggested that whatever contracts may have been signed in 2015 had since lapsed.
Now, that certainly appears to be the case, as the Hollywood Reporter is, well, reporting that contract negotiations with both Pine and Hemsworth have fallen apart, as both the actors and the studio have reportedly walked away from the table. In addition to further stalling the film, this development also leaves the remainder of the cast – Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, and Karl Urban – in limbo, as their contracts were expected to be ironed out once deals had been inked with the two Chrises.
So what brought the negotiations to a halt? Well, while neither Paramount and Skydance (who are co-producing the film) nor either of the actors’ representatives offered a comment, THR sites unnamed sources in reporting that it’s a matter of – surprise! – money. Though the post-2009 ‘Star Trek’ films have been among the highest grossing in the franchise’s history, only one of the three – 2013’s ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ – managed to crack $400 million at the box office, and ‘Beyond’ was the lowest grossing of the three. Compare that to the Marvel, ‘Star Wars’, and even DC movies, which routinely gross double that amount and you’ll get a sense of why Paramount is trying to hold the line on the budget, and perhaps even tighten their belt. Also recall that ‘Star Trek 4’ is being developed in parallel with the Tarantino film, so Paramount has to keep that in mind as well. For their parts, Pine and especially Hemsworth are much higher profile actors than they were in 2009. In Pine’s case, that’s thanks in large part to the ‘Trek’ films, not to mention his role in ‘Wonder Woman’, while Hemsworth of course, owes his newfound notoriety to his years as Thor. That, of course, makes them all much more costly.
To be sure, walking away from the table is often a negotiating tactic unto itself. But while Paramount remains committed to the film, there’s no telling what impact there would be if Pine and Hemsworth walked away for good. After all, neither is exactly a minor character in the proposed story.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more updates on ‘Star Trek 4’ and other upcoming ‘Star Trek’ film and television projects as they become available.