The Big Picture

  • Paramount Pictures has struggled to find success with its
    Star Trek
    movies despite the franchise’s popularity on Paramount+.
  • The studio has explored various approaches to future
    Star Trek
    films, including Quentin Tarantino’s proposed R-rated feature and Noah Hawley’s vision for a brand new
    Star Trek
    film that may have starred Cate Blanchett.
  • Hawley’s
    Star Trek
    movie, which would have featured a new cast of characters, ultimately fell through, adding to the string of unsuccessful attempts to bring the franchise back to the big screen.


Paramount Pictures can’t quite get a handle on what it wants to do with its Star Trek movies, to put it mildly. The franchise has seen a resurgence on the Paramount+ platform thanks to programs like Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks that have expanded the saga’s fan base. However, in the world of theatrical films, Star Trek is in a weirder position. These features have been hitting theaters since 1979, and the lead actors of the Kelvin timeline films (which began in 2009) are quite popular. Yet only one Star Trek movie in history has ever cracked the $400 million mark worldwide, despite Paramount goosing up the budgets on these titles to the $185-190 million range. Even in the pre-Kelvin days, titles like the $70 million budgeted Star Trek: Insurrection failed to double their price tags worldwide.


Paramount wants and finances Star Trek installments to perform like Marvel Studios titles globally, but they just never get there at the box office. This problem has led to a cacophony of different approaches being floated by the studio in terms of what kind of Star Trek movies should be produced in the wake of the 2016 installment Star Trek Beyond. Quentin Tarantino famously proposed an R-rated Star Trek feature that never got realized. Madame Web director S.J. Clarkson was supposed to helm a Beyond sequel that never happened either. And then there’s the Noah HawleyStar Trek movie. The TV auteur most famous for Fargo and Legion was set to helm a big-screen Star Trek movie that could’ve featured no less than Cate Blanchett and Rami Malek, but it never got to soar out into the stars.


Why Was Noah Hawley Selected For ‘Star Trek’?

Noah Hawley clutching an Emmy Award with an accomplished expression
Image via NBC


When Hawley became a big deal in his television exploits, the writer/director naturally looked at motion pictures as his next field to conquer. 20th Century Fox, sister company to FX (where Hawley’s shows had aired), was especially eager to get Hawley into movies, having commissioned him to write a script for a Doctor Doom movie and collaborating with Hawley on a feature film adaptation of To Be Read Backwards. Meanwhile, Fox’s arthouse studio, Fox Searchlight, was releasing Hawley’s feature-film directorial debut Lucy in the Sky, which had begun shooting in June 2018. Hawley was a hot commodity in the late 2010s, and Hollywood beckoned him with the promise of becoming as big of a deal in movies as he was in television.


Just a month after Lucy in the Sky crashed and burned at the box office (and became a punchline with critics) in October 2019, Hawley got called up to direct a fresh Star Trek movie for Paramount Pictures. It was a massive new gig that played upon Hawley’s comfort with working in pre-existing IP. After all, his big TV shows Fargo and Legion were properties inhabiting the universes of the 1996 Coen Brothers’ movie and the larger X-Men mythos, respectively. Studio executives seemed to like how Hawley could play in a larger sandbox while delivering something idiosyncratic (and acclaimed). In that respect, trusting him with Star Trek was, as Spock would put it, a logical choice.


When Hawley began publicly talking about this Star Trek property in January 2020, his words indicated that he’d be making a motion picture focusing on an entirely new cast of characters rather than continuing the exploits of young Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Kelvin timeline crew. This reality was confirmed in May 2020 when Simon Pegg was asked about any potential opportunities he’d have to reprise the role of Scotty in the future. This led the actor to note that he wasn’t involved in Hawley’s proposed Star Trek movie in any capacity.


Hawley’s vision for Star Trek was coming together well enough that Hawley’s go-to composer, Jeff Russo, began drumming up themes for this potential movie. In January 2020, Hawley explained in a Deadline Q&A that his vision for the movie was an old-fashioned one built on classical ideals of unity and hope that the very first Star Trek properties had been built on. Hawley’s old-school approach to these characters was so firmly entrenched in his mind that the filmmaker kept dutifully working on this blockbuster even as the COVID-19 pandemic turned the entertainment world on its head. In this director’s mind, such a tragedy just made an optimistic Star Trek movie even more urgently essential. Alas, this health crisis would help seal the fate of this unrealized Star Trek title.


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How Was Cate Blanchett Involved in Noah Hawley’s ‘Star Trek’ Project?

Blended image showing Cate Blanchett and her characters in Nightmare Alley and The Lord of the Rings.
Custom Image by Federico Napoli.


By July 2020, former 20th Century Fox president of production Emma Watts was engaging in president of production duties over at Paramount Pictures. Once she scored this gig, one of her main priorities was to figure out what to do with Star Trek. By August 2020, her ambitions for this franchise had shifted away from whatever Noah Hawley had in mind. At the time, it was rumored that Hawley’s Star Trek movie concerned an intergalactic plague. Given the existence of the COVID-19 virus in the real world, this plotline likely seemed a little too close to reality for Paramount executives, making it an easy target for cancelation.


Meanwhile, other Hawley projects were crumbling thanks to the fallout of the Disney/Fox merger. The merger gave Disney control of Marvel characters like Doctor Doom, rendering Hawley’s proposed feature about the supervillain irrelevant to the studio. Watts had moved to Paramount after being fired from Fox by Disney brass. While the Disney/Fox merger migtht have pleased CEO Bob Iger, it seemed to damage Hawley’s ambitions to move into feature film directing, even when it came to titles made outside the Mouse House.


Hawley would confirm in November 2020 that his Star Trek movie had been permanently docked. Since then, the director has given fans numerous glimpses into what might have been regarding his proposed Trek. And, just this month, Hawley let it slip that he had big names lined up for the film, telling Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast, “I was going to make a Star Trek movie with Cate Blanchett and Rami Malek. Could have had that, America.” It’s unclear if these two actors were officially signed on or if they were just being eyeballed for lead roles in the film, but Hawley must have been confident enough in their participation to talk about it now.

Paramount Has Struggled With Launching a New Big-Screen ‘Star Trek’


Hawley losing out on his Star Trek movie was a bummer for the filmmaker, but at least he’s kept consistently busy with other endeavors thanks to the fifth season of Fargo and his Alien TV show (which will allow him to explore the realm of another big sci-fi franchise). Plus, if it’s any consolation to this filmmaker, his unrealized feature isn’t the only proposed Star Trek movie that’s been unable to make liftoff. In fact, the world of Star Trek movies has become downright cursed in recent years, particularly when it comes to plans for a fourth Kelvin timeline title. After director Matt Shakman left that production in August 2022, plans to launch this proposed sequel in 2023 went down the drain.


While folks like screenwriter Lindsey Anderson Beer have insisted this third sequel is moving forward, and Paramount has even announced a separate Star Trek film to be directed by Toby Haynes, the Star Trek franchise still seems no closer to producing a brand-new movie than it was back in 2019. Neither the attachment of big talent like Tarantino and Hawley, nor the success of all those Star Trek TV shows, has been enough to get this property back on the big screen. Regardless of the quality of Hawley’s script or the fact that we could have gotten Cate Blanchett on the bridge of Starfleet vessel, maybe his Star Trek installment was never meant to materialize. It certainly seems like, for the moment anyway, Star Trek on the big screen is a doomed notion.


Star Trek (2009), the first Kelvin timeline film, is available to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S.


Watch on Paramount+

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