Writer reveals reason Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ film died


‘The script is still sitting there on his desk’

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Until he settled on The Movie Critic for his 10th and final feature film, Quentin Tarantino flirted with directing a Star Trek movie.

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After plans for a sequel to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond stalled, Tarantino pitched producer J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot an idea which The Revenant screenwriter Mark L. Smith then fashioned into an R-rated “Pulp Fiction in space.”

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According to Deadline, Tarantino’s story was “based on an episode of the classic Star Trek series that takes place largely earthbound in a ‘30s gangster setting.” The cast would have seen Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Karl Urban (Leonard McCoy), John Cho (Lieutenant  Sulu) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) reprising their roles for a fourth go-around.

“That Pulp Fiction-y aspect, when I read the script, I felt, I have never read a science-fiction movie that has this s*** in it, ever. There’s no science-fiction movie that has this in it. And they said, I know, that’s why we want to make it. It’s, at the very least, unique in that regard,” Tarantino said in a 2019 interview with Deadline.

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But the Oscar winner had long maintained that he will only direct 10 feature films, and his interest in the Star Trek idea started to wane.

“I think they might make that movie, but I just don’t think I’m going to direct it,” he told Deadline. “It’s a good idea. They should definitely do it and I’ll be happy to come in and give them some notes on the first rough cut.”

Smith has shed new light on Tarantino’s decision to pump the brakes on the project in an interview with Collider, telling the website that the filmmaker didn’t want to end his career by helming a franchise film that he didn’t write himself.

“Quentin and I went back and forth, he was gonna do some stuff on it, and then he started worrying about the number, his kind of unofficial number of films,” Smith told the outlet. “I remember we were talking, and he goes, ‘If I can just wrap my head around the idea that Star Trek could be my last movie, the last thing I ever do. Is this how I want to end it?’ And I think that was the bump he could never get across, so the script is still sitting there on his desk.”

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Smith says the unmade film would have been the best Star Trek feature in the franchise’s nearly 60-year history.

“I know he said a lot of nice things about it. I would love for it to happen. It’s just one of those that I can’t ever see happening,” he said. “But it would be the greatest Star Trek film, not for my writing, but just for what Tarantino was gonna do with it. It was just a balls-out kind of thing.”

Smith recounted how after he heard Tarantino’s pitch, he was enthusiastic to sit down and write it.

“It was a different thing, but this was such a particular different type of story that Quentin wanted to tell with it that it fit my kind of sensibilities,” he said. “I think his vision was just to go hard. It was a hard R. It was going to be some Pulp Fiction violence. Not a lot of the language, we saved a couple things for just special characters to kind of drop that into the Star Trek world, but it was just really the edginess and the kind of that Tarantino flair, man, that he was bringing to it. It would have been cool.”

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Quentin Tarantino behind the camera
Quentin Tarantino directs a scene from 2019’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. Photo by Sony Pictures

In 2016, Tarantino, now 60, emphatically confirmed he would retire after he finished his 10th film.

“I’m planning on stopping at 10. So it’ll be two more,” Tarantino said from the stage of the 2016 Jerusalem Film Festival.

In 2012, he told Playboy [per USA Today], “I want to stop at a certain point. Directors don’t get better as they get older. Usually, the worst films in their filmography are those last four at the end. I am all about my filmography, and one bad film f***s up three good ones. I don’t want that bad, out-of-touch comedy in my filmography, the movie that makes people think, ‘Oh man, he still thinks it’s 20 years ago.’ When directors get out-of-date, it’s not pretty.”

“I don’t believe you should stay onstage until people are begging you to get off,” Tarantino added in an interview with Deadline in 2014. “I like the idea of leaving them wanting a bit more.”

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This past May, Tarantino revealed that his final film will be called The Movie Critic. Set to go before cameras next year, it is inspired by a journalist who covered film for a porno magazine.

“[It] is based on a guy who really lived, but was never really famous, and he used to write movie reviews for a porno rag,” Tarantino told Deadline at the Cannes Film Festival.

“He wrote about mainstream movies and he was the second-string critic. I think he was a very good critic. He was as cynical as hell. His reviews were a cross between early Howard Stern and what Travis Bickle [Robert De Niro’s character in Taxi Driver] might be if he were a film critic.”

After working with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt multiple times, Tarantino said that his leading man will be a fresh face. He also shared more information on his real-life inspiration for The Movie Critic.

“He wrote like he was 55 but he was only in his early to mid-30s. He died in his late thirties. It wasn’t clear for a while but now I’ve done some more research and I think it was complications due to alcoholism.”

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X: @markhdaniell

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