In 1996’ Star Trek: First Contact, the USS Enterprise-E traveled back in time from the 24th century to the mid-21st century to stop the cybernetic Borg from conquering Earth by changing their past. To do so, they seek out Zephram Cochrane (played by James Cromwell) – a pilot and creator of Earth’s first warp-capable vessel. While the character was written with actor James Cromwell in mind, Tom Hanks was approached for the role by Paramount first.
But the Oscar-winning actor, who also happened to be a big Star Trek fan, had already committed to another project and had to reject the part. After the film’s release, however, producer Jonathan Frakes said it would have been a mistake to cast Tom Hanks as Cochrane because he was so well known. Moreover, James Cromwell had a long association with the franchise, having played characters in episodes of The Next Generation (The Hunted and Birthright), as well as a role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Now, to commemorate Star Trek: First Contact’s 25th anniversary, co-writer Ronald D. Moore gave The Hollywood Reporter some insight into what transpired behind the scenes while filming the movie. That included those Tom Hanks casting rumors. According to Moore, Hanks was on their wishlist from the earliest stages of the film’s development. But they never seriously considered him at all.
“It never got that far,” the Star Trek writer told the publication. “At that point in the process, there are lots of names on a wishlist for many, many reasons. I’m sure his [Tom Hanks’] name was floated in some capacity, but it was never really on the table,” he added. Moore also talked about how he and co-writer Brannon Braga split the Star Trek: First Contact script between the action on the ship against the Borg and the developments on Earth with Cochrane.
First Officer Will Riker was originally going to do battle with the Borg while Captain Picard dealt with Cochrane. But Patrick Stewart asked the writers to swap those roles. Braga previously recalled the moment, and now Moore remembers it in more specifics (via ComicBook). He said they did at least two drafts of that version of Star Trek: First Contact because Patrick Stewart wanted to be on the ship.
“Patrick had really liked doing the Starship Mine episode where he was alone on the Enterprise-D and running around,” Moore explained. “And I think he overtly referenced that in a way like, ‘I would really like to be the one on the ship fighting the Borg, instead of down on the surface.’ And I think Brannon and I just immediately went, ‘That’s better. That makes more sense.’ So we flipped it.” The biggest takeaway from Star Trek: First Contact’s anniversary interview is that Moore is happy with the final result.
Released in 1996, Star Trek: First Contact was directed by Jonathan Frakes in his motion picture directorial debut. It is the eighth film in the Star Trek film series, and the second to feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The movie received positive reviews from critics and earned approximately $30.7 million its first week, making it the top movie at the US box office at the time. Its also become a solid favorite with Star Trek fans the world over.
Meanwhile, Tom Hanks can be seen playing an engineer in Finch. The story follows Tom Hanks, his dog, and his robot as they explore a post-apocalyptic Earth. Speaking to Jimmy Kimmel about the film, the actor joked about how he could probably recreate a space trip for free. He rocked in his chair to simulate a bumpy ride in a spacecraft and pretended to be weightless much to the audience’s delight. Finch is directed by Miguel Sapochnik from a script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell. It stars Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones, Samira Wiley, Laura Harrier, and Skeet Ulrich. The film is currently available to stream on Apple TV+.