The Toronto Sun spoke with J.J. Abrams, who remained on as a producer on Star Trek Beyond while Justin Lin took over as director. The producer revealed that he has heard several pitches throughout the years about how to bring William Shatner back into this timeline, but nothing has worked so far. Here's what he had to say.
"Obviously it's Star Trek, nearly anything is possible. There's the fairly simple notion that on the day Kirk was born another timeline began. But in the other timeline, Kirk died onscreen (in Generations). I don't know how he would come back unless we went into this other reality and we did a timeline and reality jump. In all the years we've been working on this, I've yet to hear a pitch that didn't sound too contorted and contrived for an audience to swallow. And I've talked to him (Shatner) about it. If Kirk had lived there'd be an answer. But there's something about his having died that makes it impossible."As you may well know, William Shatner has been quite outspoken in the past about not being cast in any of the reboot movies. At one point, when J.J. Abrams signed on to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Shatner even called the filmmaker a "franchise pig," saying he thinks that the filmmaker not casting him yet is "foolhardy." Still, J.J. Abrams did say that "anything is possible," so perhaps we may see William Shatner's Captain Kirk in the future.
It's also worth noting that, just a few days ago, Paramount Pictures confirmed that Star Trek 4 is happening, with Chris Hemsworth, who made his feature film debut in the first Star Trek as James Tiberius Kirk's father, George Kirk, set to return in this sequel. George Kirk died in the opening scenes of the first Star Trek reboot, but in Star Trek 4, he will reportedly reunite with his son James Kirk. It's clear that there will certainly be some sort of time travel element in Star Trek 4, which could alter the current timelines and open the door for William Shatner to be cast as a future version of Captain Kirk, much like how Leonard Nimoy was portrayed as a future version of Spock.
Still, we don't exactly know how the time travel elements of this story will play out yet, but hopefully we'll learn more soon. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Karl Urban are expected to return, with J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay set to write the screenplay for this new Star Trek sequel. J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber will produce through Bad Robot Productions. We'll keep you posted with any updates about William Shatner's future in the Star Trek franchise as soon as we have more information.