Pegg, Cho & Money In Trek

Now here’s some unexpected, but delightful casting news.

“Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” leading man Simon Pegg is set to play chief engineer ‘Scotty’ in J.J. Abrams reinvention of the “Star Trek” film franchise. Pegg had a small but memorable role in Abrams “Mission: Impossible III” last year, so the re-teaming of the two doesn’t come as a shock.

Also Asian-American comedy actor John Cho, best known as Harold in “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle”, is set to play the ship’s pilot Sulu. Chris Pine remains the favourite to play Kirk, leaving the roles of Kirk’s parents and the Enterprise’s first captain Christopher Pike to yet be cast.

Finally comes word at Moviehole that the film’s budget will be on the big side – the whopping $130 million initial estimate has been expanded upwards to as high as $150-160 million – and that’s before any marketing or publicity, a number that’s expected to be up in the $50 million range (Paramount is going “Transformers” sized with its promotions).

Previous Trek films (except for the ultra-expensive very first one in 1979) were always a model of economic efficiency with budgets usually hovering in the low-moderate range. The best film in the series, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” cost a mere $12 million, whilst one of the worst “Star Trek: Insurrection” was the most expensive but still a mere $70 million.

It’s a big gamble for the studio. Whilst the property remains hugely profitable for Paramount in its various TV incarnations, the most successful previous film was “Star Trek: First Contact” which took in a relatively modest $150 million worldwide in 1996. That’s a number that will have to be more than doubled before it even starts making a profit.

Shooting begins November 5th on the Paramount lot and will incorporate eleven sets. Two weeks of location shoots in Iceland will also take place.