Star Trek actor George Takei said that while he appreciates Star Trek Beyond screenwriter Simon Pegg's decision to include a gay character in the film, revealing that Hikaru Sulu is gay was a "really unfortunate" decision.
Takei, who portrayed the character during Star Trek's initial run between 1966 and 1969 and an advocate for the LGBT community, told The Hollywood Reporter that series creator Gene Roddenberry always imagined Sulu as a straight man. Although Sulu's sexuality was never explicitly addressed, Takei said that to make the character gay when Roddenberry never thought of him that way was a "twisting of Gene's creation."
The actor said he reached out to Pegg and director Justin Lin to talk about the decision, and thought they had decided to scrap the idea. It wasn't until John Cho called to ask about how he should handle press that he realized they decided to stick with it. While Takei is pleased that Star Trek is embracing gay characters, he wished Pegg had created a new character instead of using one that Roddenberry was deeply attached to.
"I told him, 'Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted'," Takei said.
"He or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality"
Pegg, who said previously that he made his decision in part to pay homage to Takei, issued a statement to The Guardian about the actor's disappointment. Pegg said that one of the reasons they decided to go with Sulu was because people were already attached to his character and it would have more of an impact on fans. Introducing a new, gay character, while also fine, would have been the audience's main takeaway.
"We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the 'gay character', rather than simply for who they are, and isn't that tokenism," Pegg asked in the statement.
Pegg added that it was very important people acknowledged they never once referred to Sulu as someone who hid his sexual orientation. The writer said that because it's never come up before, there's no workaround to explain it.
Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the new series, hits theaters July 22.