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Star Trek: Who Plays Nero & Which Academy Award Winner Was Rumored For The Part?

The "Star Trek" universe has had a brilliant collection of villains causing trouble for Starfleet and whichever hot-shot team leader we follow on their particular five-year mission. In the case of the "Star Trek" reboot in 2009, Chris Pine's charismatic James T. Kirk faces off against a rebellious Romulan named Nero, who was responsible for the death of Kirk's father (Chris Hemsworth). Considered one of the most dangerous foes in "Star Trek" history, such a role demanded some serious acting chops — someone who could deliver menace that stretched beyond the prosthetics and makeup covering their face. The filmmakers found it in none other than "Chopper" and "Munich" star Eric Bana, who managed to find some humanity in an alien enemy who was ferocious when he needed to be.

Taking on the antagonist gig in what he described to The Guardian as a film that's "almost made for the non 'Star Trek' fan," Bana, as brilliant as he was in the role, wasn't the initial choice for Nero. Instead, J.J. Abrams had another star in mind for the part — one who originated not too far from Bana's homeland. It was "Gladiator" star and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe got offered to face off with Kirk in Abrams' Star Trek

Perhaps in another timeline (one where the Academy Award winner wasn't so busy at the time), Russell Crowe may have accepted the initial offer to take on the role of Nero when J.J. Abrams tried to beam him aboard. According to CourierMail, Crowe was "definitely considering J.J. Abrams' offer. Russell was always a 'Star Trek' fan as a kid, which is a big bonus." Unfortunately, that casting never came to be, but at least the result we got was still worth a watch when Bana came aboard.

As Nero, Bana provided one of those rare but always welcome foes that, as evil as they are, are relatable in their actions and aims. "I hate films where the villain just turns up, and we have to accept that they're the villain for no real reason," explained Bana, whose character swore vengeance against Spock both past (Leonard Nimoy) and present (Zachary Quinto). "We can at least connect to some human quality in the rage and the revenge." While Crowe's involvement never came to pass, given that "Star Trek" has gained a resurgence with the likes of "Strange New Worlds" and "Star Trek: Discovery," there still might be some space aboard the bridge for Crowe to turn up eventually, in this parsec or the next.