John Cho, of Harold and Kumar, will play Sulu in the upcoming new Star Trek movie

John Cho (left), of Harold and Kumar, will play Sulu in the upcoming new Star Trek movie

John Cho has been cast to play Hikaru Sulu, in the new Star Trek XI movie to begin shooting by the end of this year. Directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias), the film will tell the story of the original Trek-series characters as they first meet each other in their younger years. Paramount has given a new crop of actors the daunting task of filling the large boots of immortalized characters Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov and others – and hopefully revitalize a “tent-pole” franchise that has been sagging in its absence the past few years, hampered by less-than-stellar interest in it the later (post-Next Generation) TV shows and competition from other sci-fi properties like Star Wars, Stargate SG-1 and the phenomenal Battlestar Galactica reboot.

Other actors confirmed for the film include Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Eric Bana (Troy, Munich, The Incredible Hulk) as a villain character. In what sources say will be a smaller role than the name suggests, Kirk is yet uncast, but they are in talks with Chris Pine who was apparently one of the three strange “country brothers” in the disappointing Smoking Aces. Sure, Pine looks the part but his resumé makes me ask, for Kirk, really??? (for pictures, follow the link at the bottom there.)

Back to John Cho. Though he’s been in the business for nearly a decade, Cho has become one of the most recognizable Korean faces in Tinseltown only after playing Harold in the buddy(stoner)-comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (remember that before this movie he was only known, if at all, as “the MILF guy from American Pie“). For a commercial project like the Star Trek franchise right now, this recognizability or star-power is probably the best reason to pick some one like Cho. He’s been in numerous sitcoms (like the shortlived Off-Centre *youtube link* with American Pie co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas) as main characters to extra-bits and of course had the feature films recently. After some more dramatic ones in the Asian-American films Better Luck Tomorrow (dir. Justin Lin, 2003) and West 32nd (dir. Michael Kang, 2007, with Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica), he reprises his role in the yet-untitled Harold & Kumar sequel to give us another round of laughs in the next year some time (probably before Star Trek warps wraps).

Though I’m more familiar and trusting of his comic portrayals, I certainly hope the best for John Cho. Sulu (portrayed by George Takei in the TV series and films) was a very stoic, honorable character. Apparently Takei “had previously given his blessing if a non-Japanese actor was cast in the role” so I hope Cho can make fans, and his fellow senior Asian actor, proud. Being a Trekkie myself, I’ve sorely missed watching some good Trek recently. Star Trek XI is looking for a Christmas 2008 release.

Tags: george takei, john cho, sci-fi, simon pegg, star trek