Oh my! ‘Star Trek’ icon revealed to be gay
Enterprise helmsman Sulu boldly goes where no man has gone before
LOS ANGELES: The actor playing Hikaru Sulu in the upcoming film Star Trek Beyond has revealed that the fan favourite character is openly gay and married in the new film.
Actor John Cho, who plays the role of Sulu first made famous by George Takei in the 1966 Star Trek television series, said the helmsman of the starship Enterprise, is married to a man and is a father to a daughter with his partner.
However, actor Takei, who played Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series and films – and who is openly gay and married in real life – is not happy about the change to the character.
He told the Hollywood Reporter the Star Trek Beyond development for his character was “out of step with what creator Gene Roddenberry would have wanted”.
Star Trek was notable for featuring a diverse, multiracial and multicultural cast of characters who were portrayed as equals, albeit against a 23rd century sci-fi backdrop.
“(Rodenberry) was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” Takei, 79, told the publication.
Takei said he had spoken to Rodenberry privately about tackling the issue of gay equal- ity on the show, but Roddenberry, said Takei, “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.”
Takei said he’d much prefer that Sulu remained a straight character. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Takei said that Roddenberry had been exhaustive in conceiving his Star Trek characters.
The name Sulu, for example, was based on the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines, so as to render his Asian nationality indeterminate.
And Roddenberry had always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual.
The decision to make a longtime franchise staple character gay comes as Hollywood faces growing pressure to include more diversity in its blockbuster films. There is yet to be an openly gay superhero or action star leading a film franchise.
Cho said scriptwriter Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin made the decision to make Sulu gay to pay homage to Takei.
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one’s personal orientations,” Cho said.
Some fans of Marvel films sparked the online hashtag “Give Captain America A Boyfriend” in May, pushing for a same-sex relationship between the hero and Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.
Other fans for Disney’s animated film Frozen also started an online movement for “Give Elsa A Girlfriend,” asking Disney to make the princess character a lesbian in the upcoming sequel, gaining support from actress Idina Menzel, who voices Elsa.
Cho was joined by other cast members of Star Trek Beyond in Australia this week as they start promotions for the upcoming film, released in the US on July 22 and in SA in August.
The film has been cast under a dark shadow after one of its stars, Anton Yelchin, was tragically killed after being crushed by his car in Los Angeles last month. – Reuters
John Cho and George Takei.