It Took Some Convincing Before Simon Pegg Agreed To Be Star Trek's Scotty

After the cancelation of "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2005, it looked like the book had shut on "Star Trek." After four TV shows and six movies starting in 1987, it seemed like the property was to be set to pasture, remaining pleasant in our memories and in reruns ad infinitum. After all, all good things must come to an end. 

Weirdly, thanks to the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime show featuring an incident wherein Justin Timberlake was too zealous in removing Janet Jackson's costume on live TV, there was a grand split in Viacom, the company that owned "Star Trek." MTV, also a Viacom subsidiary, produced that show, and was banned from hosting the Halftime show thereafter. Les Moonves and Tom Freston, the two heads of Viacom, went their separate ways with one of them gaining CBS (and other companies as well), and the other half retaining Paramount (and MTV, etc.). The issue with that split is that the CBS corner had rights to the "Star Trek" TV shows, and the Paramount corner had rights to the movie the movies. 

CBS enthusiastically began selling broadcast rights, as well as DVDs, of the myriad "Star Trek" shows already available; as a result, "Star Trek" is widely available most everywhere, not just on Paramount+. With only ten movies to their name, however, Paramount had no such sweet deal. The only way Paramount was going to make money on this ultra-lucrative property they were sitting on was to make more movies. For legal reasons, a new "Star Trek" feature film had to look distinct from the old "Star Trek," but a film could indeed be made. With the legal restriction in place, screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote a new "Star Trek" feature film with all of the show's most recognizable characters, now recast by younger actors under the auspices of the film taking place in an alternate timeline. Now they had to assemble the cast. And one potential cast member, Simon Pegg, took some convincing. 


TV impresario and helmsman of "Mission: Impossible III" J.J. Abrams was brought on to direct, even though he had professed to not be much of a "Star Trek" fan. A new cast was assembled, each of them bringing high-energy, hyper-charged renditions of the characters to back to the big screen for the first time since 1991. Leonard Nimoy was to reprise his role as Spock, having traveled back in time to meet his younger self. 

As detailed in "The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek" by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, the casting of Enterprise engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, previously played by James Doohan, kept on circling back to Simon Pegg. Pegg, an English actor and comedian, had made a name for himself in beloved geek-friendly properties like his sitcom "Spaced" and the cult film "Shaun of the Dead." Abrams had cast Pegg as the tech expert Benji in "Mission," and it didn't seem like much of a leap to have him play "Star Trek's" own tech expert. 

Casting director April Webster explains: 

"We love Simon Pegg. He did 'Mission: Impossible III' for us, so any time we do a film we have to try and have Simon in it. He's so delightful, so inventive. He always brings something special to the part. We saw lots of Scottys, but we kept coming back to Simon. We didn't know what his availability was and ultimately we went to him, because he and J.J. have a great relationship. Simon is a character actor, so he becomes whoever you want him to be. You look at Mission Impossible and he was that tech guy. You look at him in this and he is Scotty. I think people like seeing him, as opposed to feeling, like, 'Oh, what's Simon Pegg doing in that movie?'"

Pegg already did the tech genius...

Pegg, something of a Trekkie himself, didn't initially think he'd be asked to appear in "Star Trek," as he felt he had already been "taken" by one hot Paramount commodity already:

"Because I'd worked with J.J. on 'Mission: Impossible,' I didn't think there was a chance for 'Star Trek.' But then I received an email asking if I would be interested in playing Scotty. I couldn't believe it. I told my wife and she laughed, because she's Scottish and also because it's a major iconic sci-fi character. I thought about it for a few days and I just wasn't sure. But then J.J. came back to me and said, 'The worst thing that can happen is that every couple of years we get together and have some fun.' That seemed like a very good argument for me, and I said yes. Next thing I knew, I was on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Not to mention, Pegg would join a vast pop culture legacy that would involve merchandise, conventions, and endless online speculation as to the clarity of the timeline from whence he came. Indeed, Pegg would have to fill the boots of James Doohan, who had passed away in 2005. In order to assure that he was doing Doohan justice, he attempted to reach out to the actor's family. It turns out that Doohan's son already knew of Pegg's casting and reached out first: 

"I wanted to reach out to someone in Doohan's family, but his son, Chris, beat me to the punch. I said to him, 'Look, I'm not going to do anything that disrespects your dad. This is something I want to do in honor of him and in tribute to him and carry on in the spirit of a character that he created.' And, really, one that he made one of the most iconic sci-fi characters ever. For a supporting player, if you say 'Star Trek' to people, chances are they'll bring up, 'Beam me up, Scotty.'"

Webster was effusive about Pegg's casting, and added that he was able to respect Doohan, but also make the part his own: 

"Simon brings wit and speed and cleverness and a very dry humor to him that I just adore. I know I use the word 'unexpected' a lot, but you never know what's really going to come out of Scotty's mouth. That's the way you feel when you're watching Simon, because he just embodies the character so well that the character has his own language and rhythm. It's not just him reading lines. He adds a little bit here and there. It's like when Will Smith did 'Independence Day.' There were a lot of things that they let him improvise, because he brings so much of his Will Smith-ness to it. It's the same thing with Simon."

Through the unknowable caprices of streaming, the 2009 "Star Trek" is not on Paramount+, but you can rent it from various outlets.