Paramount Thought Event Horizon Would Hurt Star Trek, Says Director

Sometimes studios imagine bizarre results.

By Michileen Martin | Published

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You wouldn’t think the disturbing 1997 sci-fi horror Event Horizon would be much of a threat to Star Trek. With a history spanning over 55 years, Trek has enjoyed eight live-action TV series, three animated shows, and 13 films with a 14th on the way. The universe Gene Roddenberry built has infiltrated our every day speech and inspired our technology. Event Horizon on the other hand was a commercial and critical failure upon release and has never produced so much as a single sequel. Yet, according to director Paul W.S. Anderson, some execs at Paramount Studios were so threatened by Event Horizon, they thought it would ruin Trek forever.

Variety spoke to Anderson on the eve of the 25th anniversary of Event Horizon‘s release, and the director recalled Paramount’s concerns. “Someone actually said to me, ‘We’re the studio that makes Star Trek,'” Anderson recalled. “They weren’t only horrified by my movie; they felt I was besmirching Star Trek somehow, because I was also in space and doing all this terrible stuff.” It does seem curious that any studio executives thought a movie outside the franchise — simply by sharing the setting of space — would some how poorly rub off on Trek. After all, before 1997 the Alien filmmakers had already gotten audiences used to space horror with three films; not to mention — while they weren’t in space, they did mix strong elements of sci-fi and horror — two Predator flicks and two Terminator movies. Apparently the studio eventually got over its fears because Paramount wound up producing and distributing Event Horizon.

Event Horizon Jason Isaacs
Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, and Jason Isaacs in Event Horizon (1997)

Directed by Anderson from a script by Philip Eisner (Sweet Girl), Event Horizon was about as far from Star Trek as you can get while staying in space. The film featured the impressive cast of Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Jason Isaacs, Joely Richardson, and Sean Pertwee as a team of space explorers sent to discover why a spaceship that vanished years ago had suddenly reappeared. The heroes wind up regretting their mission as they discover about as literal a portal to Hell as one could imagine and experience unthinkable horrors.

Considering its performance at the time, it doesn’t seem likely Event Horizon could have had much of an impact on Star Trek or any other big franchise. Critically panned and failing to make back its $60 million production budget, the movie seemed it would be forgotten and perhaps would be if it weren’t for the cult following that’s built up around it over the years. According to a 2019 report from Variety, that following was enough to inspire an Event Horizon TV show to be put into development at Amazon, though few details have emerged since.

It’s interesting to note that while we don’t think it would be accurate to say Event Horizon somehow caused a decline in Star Trek ticket sales, Anderson’s film released in 1997 and the movie returns for Trek did decline steeply between 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact and 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection; and they kept dropping until 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis ended the pre-Kelvin Timeline film series. On the other hand, 1997 also marked the year Voyager ratings hit an up-swing with their fourth season, as well as marking the beginning of Deep Space Nine‘s fan-favorite Dominion War arc. So we think it’s safe to say that except for both taking place in space — and Jason Isaacs showing up in both franchises — Event Horizon and Star Trek don’t have a lot to do with one another.