LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Veteran “Star Trek” actor George Takei may have been the inspiration to make fan favorite character Hikaru Sulu gay in the franchise’s new film, but he called the decision “really unfortunate,” media outlets reported on Friday.
Takei, who is gay in real life, told the Hollywood Reporter that while he was “delighted” that “Star Trek Beyond” included a gay character, the new version of Sulu does not reflect the original vision of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, who died in 1991 at age 70.
Sulu was conceived as a heterosexual character, Takei said.
“Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate,” the 79-year-old Takei told the publication.
Actor John Cho, who plays Sulu, the helmsman of the starship USS Enterprise in “Star Trek Beyond,” told Australia’s Herald Sun this week that his character is married to a man and is a father to a daughter with his partner.
“Star Trek Beyond” will be released in theaters on July 22.
Cho told the newspaper that the decision to make Sulu gay was to pay homage to Takei, a longtime advocate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Takei’s response came as a surprise to actor Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in “Star Trek Beyond” and co-wrote the script.
Pegg said in a statement to media outlets, “I must respectfully disagree” with Takei, and that by making a franchise staple gay, the character would not be defined by it.
“We could have introduced a new gay character but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are and isn’t that tokenism?” Pegg said.
“The audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning … that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange,” Pegg added.
Representatives for Takei, Pegg and Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the franchise, did not return requests for comment on Friday.
The decision to make the long-time franchise staple character gay comes as Hollywood faces growing pressure to include more diversity in its blockbuster films.
There has yet to be an openly gay superhero or action star leading a film franchise.