In August, Paramount’s new head of movies put the Star Trek film franchise on hold as she considered her next steps. Up until his project was put “in stasis,” writer/director Noah Hawley was tasked to be the one to bring Star Trek back to the big screen. In a new interview, he joins the chorus of those pondering what Star Trek should do next, and how things have changed since he was originally hired a year ago.
Hawley talks Trek movie challenge
In a wide-ranging interview with Collider, of course the subject of Star Trek came up. Instead of getting into details about his project, Hawley talked about the challenge of making a Star Trek film for Paramount after the ViacomCBS merger, with CBS All Access (soon to be Paramount+) expanding their output of Star Trek TV shows.
COLLIDER: Do you think with the amount of Star Trek TV series that are on the air, making a feature film is that much harder because there is so much in the marketplace with Star Trek?
HAWLEY: One of the biggest challenges that anybody has right now is, what is the feature film business? Certainly, we are at a moment when the movie theater experience is dormant, at least for a year or two. And the only way to make your money back on a $100 million-plus movie is box office. If you can’t rely on that, how do you run that business unless you have a really strong streaming play, which Disney tried with Mulan by charging $30 for it. You can make your money that way, but it’s yet to be proven out that people will spend $30 for a home viewing experience. I think that is one of the biggest challenges out of making a film out of a brand that people who are already getting a taste of. It’s making sure that it is going to justify the expense of it.
Zachary Quinto, who starred as Spock in the last three Trek films, also recently pondered the same issue, noting that the world of Star Trek is “a saturated market at this point, so I am not sure what the plans are for the feature film versions of the franchise.” And there is no indication that ViacomCBS will be letting up; Alex Kurtzman said just last week that they are already mapping out plans for Star Trek on TV through 2027.
Hawley was brought in by Paramount in 2019 after the Star Trek 4 project with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth movie was shelved. Even after 2016’s Star Trek Beyond underperformed, Paramount had hoped to still move forward with the project, but with a reduced budget; however, Hemsworth and Pine would not agree to a salary cut. Hawley has previously indicated that his Star Trek film would introduce a new cast and be less focused on action, all of which translates to a smaller budget.
Collider asked Hawley about going low budget (perhaps even very low budget) with a Star Trek film:
COLLIDER: Is it possible to make a $25-$50 million Star Trek movie that hard sci-fi that is appealing to maybe one quadrant, the die-hard fans, the people that love the genre? A very smart, intelligent sci-fi movie without the big action set pieces. And maybe that is the way that a Star Trek film needs to be made.
HAWLEY: I think that’s possible, although what you get into with the film companies that don’t have a strong streaming play, is they are not in the business of making a little bit of money. The only business they can be in is the making a lot of money business. It’s the tentpole business. So if you were to offer them a $20 million Star Trek movie that could at best earn $80, $90, or $100 million, it might not even be worth the price of admission for them, if that makes sense. I’m sure you could go to CBS All Access and say, “Let me make a 2-hour Star Trek movie for streaming.” That might be worth it.
When news first broke over the summer about Paramount’s Emma Watts putting Hawley’s project on hold, it was reported she was considering bringing back the Star Trek 4 project with Chris Hemsworth in hopes of getting Star Trek to perform well at the global box office. Reading between the lines of what Hawley has to say, it’s possible his more modest Star Trek project may not fit with the latest thinking from the studio.
Keep up with all the news upcoming Trek films at TrekMovie.com.