It was three years ago this week that news first broke that Quentin Tarantino pitched a Star Trek movie project to producer J.J. Abrams. This generated two years of buzz, including hype from Paramount brass, and actors from Patrick Stewart to William Shatner raising their hands for parts.
With Tarantino busy with Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, screenwriter Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) was tapped to write a script for Tarantino’s Trek, which he did. However by the end of 2019, the buzz died down when Tarantino indicated he had “steered away,” from directing the project. But this summer Tarantino’s Trek was reported to be “still viable” at Paramount, and now the screenwriter is dropping some hints about the script.
Mark L. Smith talks Tarantino Star Trek… and Kirks
Not much has been confirmed about the film. Tarantino has described it as “Pulp Fiction in space,” and it is intended to be R-rated. And that report in the summer hinted the film would be tied into the classic mobster-themed Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action.”
Speaking to SFX Magazine about penning the new George Clooney Netflix sci-fi movie Midnight Sky, Mark L. Smith also talked a little about the Tarantino Trek project, at first contrasting it with the Clooney film:
“I wrote a Star Trek with Tarantino, and that was a sci-fi script on which I could have fun and lean into some bigger, broader things.”
While SFX didn’t press Smith on details from his script, some sense of his approach can be gleaned from when he talked about his level of Star Trek fandom:
“I’m more a casual fan. But I was always much more Star Trek than Star Wars. There was something about the characters and the relationships. I could get so invested in the friendships, and the dynamics between them, that I was drawn to all the different Star Trek iterations: The Next Generation, all those things. The characters were so deep, and had so many levels and layers. The relationships all felt real, and something I could relate to.”
And when asked the venerable “Kirk or Picard?” question, he dropped another clue about Tarantino Trek:
“I love Picard. And Kirk is always just so fun. Tarantino and I had so much fun with him, because Kirk is just William Shatner, y’know? It’s like: you’re not sure who is who, so you can kinda lean into that! Because you watch Chris Pine and he’s playing Kirk, but he’s also playing William Shatner a touch.”
Smith’s comment is as close as we have got to a confirmation that the Tarantino film would include James T. Kirk as a character. Of course, it isn’t entirely clear which Kirk he is talking about. He mentions both William Shatner’s Kirk Prime and Chris Pine’s Kelvin Kirk. Last year Tarantino admitted “I don’t get it” when it comes to the Prime and Kelvin timelines. Quentin is an avowed fan of both actors, but Shatner is his first love, as he explained last year:
I love William Shatner as James T. Kirk. That’s why I like Star Trek. The reason I like Star Trek more than I like Star Wars is: William Shatner is not in Star Wars…William Shatner as James T. Kirk, that is my connection. That is why I liked it…So the reason I was actually intrigued by the J.J. Abrams version of it is because I thought Chris Pine did a fantastic job, not just playing Captain Kirk, but playing William Shatner’s captain.
Could Tarantino’s “bananas” Trek work?
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Tarantino project, which Karl Urban once called “bananas,” has room for both Kirks, and maybe other actors and/or characters from both the Kelvin and Prime Universes. It is almost certainly not going to be the next Star Trek film to come from Paramount, but if the studio can successfully get the franchise going again on the big screen, it could be an interesting addition to the Trek universe, even if it doesn’t exactly tie in with what is going on with other films or TV shows.
Both the DC and Marvel film franchises are having success with films that aren’t tied into their main universes, so why not Star Trek? And Trek has actually dabbled in this before. One of the greatest episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” takes place primarily in an alternative universe. And in 2015, two years before his project even started at Paramount, Quentin Tarantino cited “Yesterday’s Enterprise” as an example of a Star Trek episode that could work as a feature film.
ICYMI: Nerdist vision of Tarantino Trek
Three years ago, the folks at Nerdist had some fun with the idea of Tarantino Trek. Check it out.
More from Smith in SFX
To get the full interview with Mark L. Smith and more, pick up the latest issue of SFX Magazine.
Keep up with all the news on upcoming Trek films at TrekMovie.com.