SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 21, 2000 – Today's your day, Captain Sulu! Hundreds, maybe even thousands of costumed "Star Trek" aficionados plan to demonstrate outside Paramount Studios in Hollywood today, and at TV stations across the U.S. and Canada, to drum up support for a new TV series fronted by old-school Trekker (and perennial fan favorite) George "Sulu" Takei.
You see, "Star Trek" is going to hell in a hand basket – many fans think the current series, "Star Trek: Voyager," has veered too far from the ideals espoused by creator Gene Roddenberry. And "Voyager" is slated to end after the 2001 season, anyway.
Members of the Excelsior Campaign want the next "Trek" show to pick up where the feature film "Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country" left off. In that one, Takei piloted his own starship, the Excelsior.
Takei, of course, isn't complaining about all the attention. Earlier this month he stood in solidarity with the Excelsior Campaign's creator at a "Star Trek" convention in California, and on his web site (www.georgetakei.com), the actor notes that the groundswell of support for a Sulu series was "like a revival meeting … impressive, flattering and humbling."
If it all comes true, the show would also be one of the best gigs George has had in a long time (right now, he's working on "Overload," a low-budget sci-fi movie directed by Tony "Leave It To Beaver" Dow and featuring Bill "Lost In Space" Mumy.
Paramount officials haven't reacted to the Sulu campaign, but rumors have circulated recently among parties supposedly in-the-know that the studio has already green-lighted a fifth "Trek" series, to be called "Star Trek: Birth of the Federation." The word is that this series would pre-date the original "Trek" series and tell its origins, similar to the current skein of "Star Wars" prequels.
BEAM ME UP SOME VIAGRA, SCOTTY: In other "Star Trek" news, James Doohan became a father for the third time this week. He's 80. His wife is 43. Way to go.
SPIDEY SURVEY: While all the mainstream rumor-meisters were concerned this week with who'll play Anakin Skywalker in the next "Star Wars" installment, the folks over at Ain't It Cool (www.aint-it-cool-news.com) were tracking movement on the "Spider-Man" front. According to AICN's insiders (who are right more often than they're wrong), Australian actor Heath Ledger is Sony and director Sam Raimi's No. 1 candidate to play Peter Parker, the nerdy teen who inherits the ability to walk on walls and swing from a thread via a radioactive spider bite.
Here's the interesting part: This week, the Sci-Fi Channel's website (scifi.com) conducted a public opinion poll, asking readers which of six actors, all of whom are speculated to be "Spider-Man" candidates, is right for the role. As of Friday afternoon, with 800 votes tallied, Heath Ledger wasn't exactly the top choice. The results were: Ewan McGregor, 55 percent; Wes Bentley, 15 percent; Tobey Maguire, 11 percent; Chris Klein, eight percent; Ledger, five percent; and Leonardo DiCaprio, four percent.
SOMETHING WE'D REALLY LIKE TO SEE: With the soon-to-be-released "X-Men" movie, and the forthcoming "Spider-Man," Marvel super-heroes are no longer viewed askance by Hollywood. So it's little surprise to hear, via Coming Attractions (www.corona.bc.ca) that Fox may be getting ready to shift their long-in-development-hell "Fantastic Four" movie into gear. The website says Fox ahs hired "X-Men" producer Ralph Winter and that there is "sudden movement" behind closed doors on this one at the studio.
So, if you can't get Matt Damon for your movie, what's a studio to do? Get the guy who kinda looks like Matt Damon. And so it has come to pass that Mark Wahlberg -- a somewhat leathery-looking version of the "Good Will Hunting" golden boy -- has been tapped to headline Fox's long-awaited "Planet of the Apes" remake, The Hollywood Reporter says.
Damon's name had been floated in recent months as a possible "Apes" star. Then Wahlberg entered the game.
The 29-year-old former Calvin Klein underwear model, next up in "The Perfect Storm" (opening Friday), let the "Apes" deal out of the bag in a recent interview with Hollywood.com.
When asked if he was looking forward to taking a break from action flicks with "Ocean's Eleven" (the Vegas heist flick he's to make with George Clooney), Wahlberg replied: "'Ocean’s Eleven' is gonna be easy. I’m looking forward to it. If I do 'Planet of the Apes' with Tim Burton, that’s one I don’t know if I’ll get out of alive. But it shoots in Hawaii, so that’s cool."
The all-new "Planet of the Apes" (as opposed to the all-original one from 1968 that spawned four sequels, a TV series and official line of trash cans) is set to start shooting this fall with Tim Burton ("Batman") directing. A July 4, 2001, release is planned.