Star Trek Beyond Editors Say Sulu Kiss Was Never Actually Filmed

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Several days ago, we reported on a statement that John Cho made about the scene in Star Trek Beyond where Hikaru Sulu greets his family his daughter and husband after arriving at Yorktown Station on leave. According to Cho, there was a kiss that happened that “got cut” from the film. According to the film’s editors, the ones responsible for “cutting” everything, no such kiss ever existed on film.

One of Star Trek Beyond‘s four editors, Dylan Highsmith, reached out to me after seeing my original post to draw my attention to a statement given by his colleague, editor Steven Sprung, that had since been added to the Collider piece I linked to in my original post (and has since been updated). Sprung said:

“[I] was very surprised to hear that people were saying we had cut their kiss out of the movie, since I had looked at every frame shot for that scene and I never once saw a kiss. As a gay man, I was particularly excited to help bring this milestone moment into the Star Trek universe and would have loved to have been able to include such an intimate moment.

I can’t speak for John Cho’s recollection, but I can assure you that what you see in the final film is the most touching and heartfelt take we had and one that we considered the most fitting for this moment in the film.”

When directing me to Sprung’s statement, Highsmith said the following to me:

“I too can vouch that there was a never a kiss in dailies that was omitted from the final film. While I take issue with the premise of your article (that we cut out a kiss from the final product) I agree with the message, that it’s important for Hollywood to include more portrayals of LGBTQIA issues and characters. Which is part of why we felt it was important to include the scene in the first place.”

Here is a larger portion of the original interview with Cho over at Vulture (which is a great read if you haven’t yet read it) for context:

Is there any sort of intimacy in that scene?
There was a kiss that I think is not there anymore.

They cut it?

That’s too bad.
It wasn’t like a make-out session. We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss. I’m actually proud of that scene, because it was pretty tough. Obviously, I just met the kid, and then Doug is not an actor. I just wanted that to look convincingly intimate. We’re two straight guys and had to get to a very loving, intimate place. It was hard to do on the fly. We had to open up. It came off well, in my view.

So, it seems that there is a bit of a discrepancy between the actor and the editors. The only reason for this that I can come up with — because I don’t think that Cho would invent a kiss that never happened — is that perhaps a kiss was rehearsed but never ended up actually getting filmed, but he thought it did? Unless you think there’s some huge conspiracy where the Illuminati somehow got rid of that filmed shot for reasons.

All we have to go on are the recollections of the people who worked on the film (Justin Lin? Care to add your two cents?). Howver, regardless of whether an actual kiss was ever put on film, several things remain true:

The scene as appears in the film was a lovely moment. 
We still got to see a gay character in the (well, a) Star Trek Universe. That’s huge. Nothing can, or should, take away from that.

That said, would the scene have been filmed differently had it been a heterosexual couple having the same moment? 
It’s tricky to think about stuff like this, because there’s nothing to compare it to within the context this film, but one has to wonder if the scene involved a heterosexual couple if it would’ve been filmed the same way. Would a kiss have been par for the course in that case? Would it have even have been expected and directed?

Kirk’s Look
I clarified this in the comments on the Facebook post of my original article, but just to be clear as to what I meant when I cited the way Kirk looks at Sulu greeting his family, I’m not saying that his look in-story was one of approval. The character was just happy for his friend, and maybe hoped for something like that himself one day. What I’m saying is that it felt as though the film gave us that look to make us “more comfortable” with what was happening. The film gave us his look as its own stamp of approval on the moment. That may not have been intentional, but that’s how it read to me.

However, it’s nice to know that this isn’t as clear-cut a matter as making the conscious decision to cut a kiss out. There may be subconscious biases here, which also need looking into, but the attempt at inclusion was real, and that is definitely something to be happy about.

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.