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Actors You Didn't Know Almost Starred In Star Trek Movies

Since 1966, "Star Trek" has been known for its many memorable guest stars, and that only got truer when it moved to the big screen. Stars like Christopher Plummer, James Cromwell, Christopher Lloyd, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Idris Elba have all appeared in "Star Trek" films, and made their mark as some of the most iconic heroes and villains the series has ever known.

But for each of those many incredible actors who've appeared in "Star Trek" films through the years, there are more who came close to landing one of those interstellar roles. It's a firmament that includes everything from major Hollywood superstars and screen legends, to up-and-coming rising stars on the verge of hitting the big time. Some departed due to scheduling conflicts or contractual disputes, while others were simply passed over by producers in favor of another actor come decision time.

From "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" through "Star Trek Beyond," here are some surprising actors who almost appeared in "Star Trek" movies.

Eddie Murphy

At the height of his rising fame in 1986, former "Saturday Night Live" star Eddie Murphy was coming off of several big comedy hits for Paramount Pictures, including "48 Hrs," "Beverly Hills Cop," and "Trading Places." But Murphy was more than one of the funniest stars in Hollywood — he was also an avowed "Star Trek" fan when the franchise was hitting it big on the silver screen. Paramount already had three "Trek" movies under its belt with a fourth already in the pipeline, and executives smelled synergy. 

Knowing Murphy was a fan, studio honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg had the bright idea to put "Trek" and Murphy together, and pitched the idea of having the star appear in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," according to StarTrek.com. A script was assembled that saw a major role for Murphy, but it wouldn't be until a 2016 interview with writer Steve Meerson in The Hollywood Reporter – celebrating the film's 30th anniversary — that we'd learn what might have been.

According to Meerson, Murphy was slated to play an astrophysicist at Berkeley in the story, which saw Kirk and the Enterprise travel back to 1986 San Francisco. Eventually, though, talks between Murphy and the studio fell through, and his part was rewritten into that of marine biologist Dr. Gillian Taylor, who would be played by "7th Heaven" star Catherine Hicks.

Matt Damon

In late 2006, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be producing and directing a reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise for the big screen, and one of the earliest names to be bandied about in the rumor mill (per TrekMovie.com) was "Jason Bourne" star Matt Damon. A fan-favorite pick for the role of Enterprise captain James T. Kirk, the talk got so hot that the star himself had to tamp down the gossip, claiming in 2007 that he was not involved, telling IGN (again via TrekMovie.com) that Abrams had told him that they were eyeing someone younger. So what's he doing on our list?

Well, after the movie's release in 2009, Damon would admit to being offered a role — just not Captain Kirk. According to the actor, he was indeed offered a role in the film after all. In an interview with MTV, the director too confirmed it, saying, "I did [offer Damon a part], but not for the role of James Kirk. I went to Damon for the role of Kirk's father, and he declined in the most gracious and understandable and logical of reasons."

Eventually, they'd turn to then-unknown Chris Hemsworth to fill the part, with Abrams admitting that it was probably for the best. "Maybe it would have been distracting to have someone as massively famous as Matt Damon in that role," the director reasoned. "The decision was made very early on to have actors who were not necessarily the most famous but the most right for the role."

Sean Connery

As Paramount prepped its fifth "Star Trek" feature, this time with William Shatner stepping behind the camera as director, executives began casting the major parts for the next adventure. The story would see the Enterprise encounter a mysterious quasi-religious leader on a crusade to find nothing less than God, who he claimed was located on a world at the center of the galaxy. That character would turn out to be Sybok, Mr. Spock's long-lost half brother. And for the part, producers were hoping to land none other than Hollywood legend Sean Connery, says StarTrek.com.

But it may not have been a lack of interest in venturing to the Final Frontier that kept the actor from appearing in the film. The timing suggests that Connery was likely too busy filming his role as Henry Jones, Sr. in the blockbuster sequel "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," released the same year as "Star Trek V." And according to some (per StarTrek.com), that's exactly what happened, with many Trekkies lamenting that the franchise missed out on Connery. 

But considering how beloved the third "Indiana Jones" film became, it was probably for the best — it's as hard to imagine anyone else playing Henry Sr. as it is to imagine Connery's presence improving the mess that was "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier."

Benicio Del Toro

After successfully reviving the "Star Trek" franchise in 2009, director J.J. Abrams was handed the reins to a sequel that would ultimately become "Star Trek Into Darkness." The film would pit Captain Kirk and the Enterprise against arguably the biggest villain the franchise had ever seen, a reimagined version of Khan Noonien Singh, the big bad who terrorized William Shatner's Kirk in the 1982 film "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan."

The role was eventually played by British superstar Benedict Cumberbatch, and the "Sherlock" star delivered a truly scary performance as the 21st century madman revived from cryogenic sleep. But Cumberbatch, a controversial pick for its white-washing of the POC character Khan, wasn't the actually first choice for the role. Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro, known for roles in iconic films like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "The Usual Suspects," had been rumored for months to take the role of Khan, but it wasn't until he had dropped out that we'd learn more. 

According to reports, the actor was indeed attached as the villain, but left the project when he couldn't come to terms with the studio on a deal. A major loss for the film, his presence would have helped avoid the criticism that dogged Cumberbatch's casting. Still, it's hard to fault the "Doctor Strange" star for his otherwise stellar performance.

Tom Hanks

Mostly known for his many '80s comedy performances, in the mid-1990s star Tom Hanks' dramatic turn was still relatively recent, with films like "Philadelphia" and "Apollo 13" earning him some serious accolades, including two Academy Awards for Best Actor. But Hanks was (and is) a self-described Trekkie – "My entire family worshipped at the feet of 'Star Trek'," he once told Graham Norton. Hanks even once snuck onto the set of the Enterprise while filming another project (per Time).

As big a fan as he is, Hanks seemingly has long hoped for a role in the franchise. The closest he's come was in 1996 when he was reported to be in consideration for the second "Next Generation" film, "Star Trek: First Contact." Apparently, writers and producers had always had actor James Cromwell in mind for the role of legendary warp drive inventor Zephram Cochrane, but the studio was drooling over the thought of bringing in award-winning superstar and superfan Hanks.

More recently, the film's writer, Ron Moore, downplayed how serious the talk was, telling The Hollywood Reporter it never really got very far. But according to StarTrek.com, the studio had officially offered him the role. Whether it was over a contract dispute or a scheduling conflict, Hanks obviously passed. But he still dreams of showing up in "Trek" some day, as he told Simon Pegg during that Graham Norton appearance 2019.

Chris Pratt

With Paramount hiring J.J. Abrams — fresh off of directing "Mission Impossible III" — to reboot their crown jewel franchise, the message was loud and clear that they were taking next "Star Trek" film seriously. This was not going to be some low budget sci-fi film catering to the most diehard Trekkies only. This was going to be a major blockbuster, and would reinvent the brand with a big budget, fast-paced action film. They also wanted a hot young cast, eventually landing the likes of Zoe Saldana ("Avatar"), Zachary Quinto ("Heroes"), and Simon Pegg ("Hot Fuzz"), among others. For the key role of Captain Kirk, however, a wide net was cast to ensure that the critical recasting of the franchise's most iconic character lived up to fan expectations.

One name on the list was "Parks and Recreation" star Chris Pratt, then known for his comedy work, and a long way from the action hero he's since become. Five years before snagging the coveted role of Star-Lord in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pratt would audition for the role of James T. Kirk, as was reported in Entertainment Weekly in 2014, just ahead of the release of "Guardians of the Galaxy." In fact, his disappointment losing out on the part to emerging star Chris Pine (and getting passed over for the lead role of Jake Sully in "Avatar") almost led Pratt to pass on "Guardians of the Galaxy."

"I didn't want another Captain Kirk or 'Avatar' moment," he told the outlet.

Jack Palance

Though younger audiences might be hard pressed to recognize both his name and his face, Jack Palance was a major Hollywood star. In his twilight years, he played key roles in hit films like "Batman," "Tango and Cash," and "City Slickers." But in 1991 he almost joined the cast of "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," the sixth and final film to feature the famed cast of the original "Star Trek" series. The movie saw Kirk and the Enterprise get dragged into a plot to sabotage peace talks between the Federation and the Klingons when the Klingon Chancellor is assassinated while being escorted by Kirk and his crew.

Ultimately played by character actor David Warner, it was Palance who was producers' first choice for Chancellor Gorkon, a relatively modest but crucial role early in the film (per Cinefantastique). But it seems that while director Nick Meyer was high on the actor for the part, he proved too costly for the studio to afford. Instead, Palance turned his attention to a small Billy Crystal comedy, "City Slickers." It worked out for him and "Star Trek," as the modern western netted Palance his first and only Academy Award, while "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" went on to become a hit with critics and audiences with Warner in the role.

Ricky Gervais

With Paramount looking for hip, young new crew, British comedian Ricky Gervais might not be the first person to spring to mind for J.J. Abrams' 2009 franchise reboot. But before geek god Simon Pegg was cast as the Enterprise's quirky chief engineer Montgomery Scott — better known as "Scotty" — Gervais, creator of British sitcom "The Office," was in fact nearly cast in the role. 

Like Pegg, Gervais is an Englishman, not a Scot, but that didn't stop director Abrams from offering him the part of Scotty, with the actor revealing that the role came his way in an interview with Entertainment Weekly (via TrekMovie.com). But the comedian turned it down, seemingly due to lack of interest. "I was never a big fan [of 'Star Trek']," he told the outlet, "so I would've felt guilty taking the part just to be in a blockbuster. To what? Boost my profile?"

In the end, Simon — eight years younger than Gervais, and much more of a fixture in the world of sci-fi — proved a much better fit for the role anyway.

Marlon Brando

One of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1960s and '70s, Marlon Brando's legendary roles included famous parts in "Apocalypse Now," "The Godfather," and Richard Donner's "Superman." By the '90s his star had faded, following appearances in poorly-received oddities like "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Depending on how you look at it, his near-appearance in a "Star Trek" film might seem either incredibly surprising or somehow oddly appropriate. He was, in fact, considered for a major role in the 1994 film "Star Trek: Generations."

The first film to feature the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," it also saw the return of original series star William Shatner, passing the torch from Kirk to Picard (Patrick Stewart). In the film, the two captains must team up to take on the villainous Soran, who in his quest for immortality is willing to obliterate entire worlds. News of Brando's brief attachment comes from "Generations" writer Ron Moore, who told SyFy in 2021 that producer Rick Berman had told him that Brando was interested in starring opposite Shatner and Stewart as Soran. 

It would seem either Brando's price tag was too high or he chose another project — such as the 1994 drama "Don Juan DeMarco" — as Malcolm McDowall wound up playing the sinister cosmic baddie.

Adrien Brody

Following the announcement that J.J. Abrams would be directing a new "Star Trek" movie, and that the film would tell the story of a younger Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, the casting rumors began flying. In addition to Matt Damon for Kirk and Gary Sinise getting tossed around for Dr. McCoy (per TrekMovie.com), one name that kept surfacing for the Vulcan science officer Spock was Adrien Brody, Academy Award-winning star of "The Pianist" just a few years before. While the role would end up going to "Heroes" star Zachary Quinto, it seems Brody was indeed nearer to securing the role of Spock than many realized at the time.

In an interview with MTV, the actor said he did indeed meet with director J.J. Abrams about the part of Mr. Spock in the then-upcoming film. Seemingly miffed to have lost out, he lamented, "Oh, well. Could have been cool." He also noted that perhaps not attempting the Vulcan salute is what dashed his chances during his meeting with the director. "No. Didn't do [the Vulcan salute]," he said. "Maybe I should have. Would have had a better shot at the role."

Toshiro Mifune

Japanese superstar actor Toshiro Mifune might be less-known to American audiences, but if you've ever seen any classic film from visionary director Akira Kurosowa, you've almost certainly seen him at work. Star of such landmark Japanese films as "Rashomon," "Seven Samurai," and "Hidden Fortress," his contribution to cinema is immeasurable. And if producers hadn't scuttled the project entirely, Mifune may have wound up as the lead villain in the first "Star Trek" feature film when it was being developed under the title of "Planet of the Titans."

Flash back to the mid 1970s — "Star Trek" was seeing a surge in popularity airing in reruns, and studio Paramount wanted to capitalize on its resurgence. Preparing to turn the TV series into a big-budget movie, they moved forward with a film script that saw the Enterprise uncover an ancient alien race that influenced Earth's origins. Director Philip Kaufman had been planning to cast the legendary Mifune as a Klingon commander in the film, according to The Washington Post. Unfortunately, with the budget coming in high, the studio got nervous and pulled the plug on the project.

Of course, not long after, the arrival of "Star Wars" would bring Paramount back to the idea of a "Trek" film, resulting in "The Motion Picture" in 1979. Mifune was nowhere to be found in its cast.

Mark Wahlberg

'80s rap star turned actor Mark Wahlberg is a bonafide action A-lister, known these days for leading "Transformers" films and the video game adaptation "Uncharted" alongside Tom Holland. In the mid 2000s, he was coming off big budget films like "Planet of the Apes," "The Departed," and "The Italian Job," but he almost added "Star Trek" to his resume. Were it not for his dismissive attitude towards the sci-fi franchise and its techno-babble-laden script, he might have joined Chris Pine in the 2009 reboot "Star Trek," as according to the actor himself, he was offered a role by director J.J. Abrams. The filmmaker apparently wanted Wahlberg for the role of George Kirk, father of Captain Kirk, who appears in the film's opening scene.

"I tried to read the script," the actor told Total Film. "I didn't understand the words or the dialogue or anything." Despite not grasping the material, he came around when the Abrams' film was finally released. "Then I saw the movie ... He did a great job." Though he missed out on being part of an iconic hit franchise, Wahlberg used the experience as a learning opportunity, and swore he wouldn't make the same mistake again.

"If he wanted me to do something that I didn't understand, I'd probably give it a shot."

Joshua Jackson

Former star of '90s teen sitcom "Dawson's Creek," Joshua Jackson had begun branching out into film after the series' end in 2003. Still, he had done little of note when J.J. Abrams began prepping his big budget "Star Trek" reboot. Looking for a hot young actor to take on the role of Captain James T. Kirk, the actor — like Chris Pratt — auditioned for the role. Though he was never among the fan favorite choices and his name didn't quite do the rounds the way Matt Damon's had, Jackson himself admitted to the audition ahead of the film's release in 2009, in an interview with MTV.

"The only audition my darling girlfriend has ever been upset with me for not getting the role is Captain Kirk," Jackson told MTV. "She was like, 'Look honey, don't screw this up. It's Captain Kirk. It's a legendary role. It is a tough act to follow.'" History, of course, tells us he did not get the role, which went to Chris Pine instead. But don't feel too bad for Jackson — the meeting with Abrams put him in front of one of Hollywood's hottest superstar directors, and lead almost directly to the actor getting the lead part in Abrams' next television series, the sci-fi procedural "Fringe."

Edward James Olmos

Best known today for his five-year run as Admiral William Adama on the 2005 reboot of "Battlestar Galactica," actor Edward James Olmos is certainly no stranger to massive science fiction franchises. In fact, one of his other most memorable roles was in the groundbreaking 1982 cyberpunk film noir thriller "Blade Runner," in which he played Gaff, the hard-boiled LAPD detective who assisted Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard.

Well, not a year later, Olmos would come very close to joining the "Star Trek" franchise too. For the third feature film, "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock," director (and star) Leonard Nimoy hand-picked Olmos to play the film's lead villain, the Klingon called Kruge. But studio Paramount wasn't entirely sold on the relatively unknown actor and nixed the casting, according to StarTrek.com. In the end, eventual "Back to the Future" star Christopher Lloyd would put on the prosthetic forehead ridges to play the terrifying Klingon Kruge, who menaces Kirk throughout the film.

But that wasn't the last time he'd come to the studio's attention, as just a few years later, Olmos was on the short list of actors to play Captain Picard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." According to some reports, he was even offered the role, but turned it down (per Gizmodo).