When news broke that John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu would be revealed in the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond” as gay — in a tribute to original Sulu actor George Takei — the revelation was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Except, as it turns out, from Takei himself.
“I think it’s really unfortunate,” the veteran actor and gay icon — who came out to much fanfare in 2005 –tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The upcoming film depicts Sulu as being in a same-sex relationship while fathering a little girl. Writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin devised the reinvention as a nod to Takei’s portrayal of Sulu in the classic “Trek” TV show and seven feature films. But according to the 79-year-old, the notion isn’t so much a gay rights victory as a misguided re-write of the character created by Takei’s long-deceased friend Gene Roddenberry.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” Takei says of the plot development. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
According to Takei, in 1968 he had a conversation with the "Trek" creator about addressing gay rights issues on the show. "He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality," Takei says of Roddenberry, who died in 1991 and often used the show's outer space setting for allegories about everything from civil rights to the Vietnam war. "But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope -- and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air."
Because of a complicated alternate timeline scenario -- in which Cho's Sulu exists -- Takei's Sulu can still exist as well, in the meticulously-developed manner for which Roddenberry became so beloved. So, when Takei was informed of the new slant, he simply offered one request to Cho: Make the character your own.
"I said, 'This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century," Takei says of his advice. "Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen."