Timothy Olyphant is one of those actors you love to see pop up in things, either as a leading man or a reliable character actor. Over the years, he’s made a name for himself thanks to leading hit shows like Justified and Deadwood and popping up in guest roles like Cobb Vanth for The Mandalorian and Joel in Santa Clarita Diet. His movie roles don’t get talked about quite as much, but as it turns out, the stars nearly aligned for him to have a meaty Star Trek role.
During a recent episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Olyphant said he was in the running for playing one of the younger Enterprise crew members for JJ Abrams’ trilogy of films. He was originally auditioning for Leonard McCoy, a role which was eventually nabbed by Karl Urban, but that then pivoted to being considered for Kirk. To his recollection, “[Abrams] was like, ‘I already got a guy for Doc, so I don’t need you for that, but I don’t have a Kirk.’ I believe it was one of those things where it’s like they might have been prepared to hire me, but they wanted somebody younger, and [Abrams] was having a hard time finding somebody younger.”
Eventually, that “somebody younger” wound up being Chris Pine, who’s 13 years younger than Olyphant. The Justified actor is 55 years old as of this past May, making him 41 in 2009 when that first Trek reboot hit, and Pine, who turns 43 at the end of August, would’ve been 29 or 30 around back then. “Somewhere along the line,” said Olyphant, “J.J. called and said, ‘I found a guy, younger, who’s really good.’” Even though he got passed for the part, the actor had nothing but nice things to say about both the audition and Pine himself, calling Pine “a good dude. […] I really like his work. He’s one of those guys who makes it look simple and easy.”
Hearing about which actor was this close to playing an important role in a film, franchise or otherwise, is always interesting. Had he gone on to play Kirk or Bones, those Star Trek reboots would’ve been a huge boost to Olyphant’s star power, but possibly also at the expense of the relatively comfortable TV life he’s been enjoying for decades now. And it’s a fun thought exercise to wonder what would’ve happened if they did swap trajectories in their respective filmographies after Star Trek. Would Olyphant have been a fun bard in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves? Could Pine have been a great Cobb in Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett? We’ll never know.
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