‘Star Trek’ Earmarks A ‘Hero’ To Play New Spock In J.J. Abrams Flick

Original Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, helped make announcement at Comic-Con Thursday.

SAN DIEGO — Over the last 10 months, millions of TV fans have come to despise 30-year-old actor Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar on TV’s “Heroes.” They’ve learned to fear him, pray for an end to his killing spree and hope that one of his co-stars would stab, shoot or blow him to smithereens.

Now they’re likely to hope he’ll live long and prosper.

In the biggest announcement yet at this year’s ongoing Comic-Con (see ” ‘Iron Man’ Details, ’300′ Bash, Life-Size Black Pearl: What To Expect At Comic-Con 2007″ ), the stoic actor was unveiled on Thursday (July 26) as the new Mr. Spock. Quinto took the stage alongside director/producer J.J. Abrams, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman — after which another major announcement was made.

“He’s going to put the ears on one more time,” Abrams said. “Ladies and gentlemen, Leonard Nimoy.”

“People have asked me why I’m doing this movie, and I think it’s simple: It’s logical,” cracked the 76-year-old Nimoy, who, like Quinto, had similarly been unannounced to the throngs filling the convention hall. But while Nimoy — who will have a cameo in the flick — drew attention, so did his successor, Quinto, who is starring in the movie.

“As much as [Abrams] wants me to be [like Nimoy], I suppose … I certainly intend to bring my own spin to it, and working with these guys, I’m sure I’ll find it,” he said.

One of the most substantial characters in all of sci-fi, Spock is the half-Vulcan, half-human first officer of the USS Enterprise. A main character in “Trek” ever since Gene Roddenberry first pitched the series in 1964, Spock is constantly battling with the inner conflict of his logical Vulcan half and the emotional human side he tries hard to suppress. With the exception of a few brief flashback scenes, Nimoy alone has personified the pointy-eared protagonist in 80 classic episodes, six films and dozens of cartoons, video games and other media.

Now, after more than a decade of virtual “Trek” retirement broken up only by the occasional reunion or television commercial, Nimoy will return for a substantial cameo in Abrams’ “Star Trek” (see “An Open Letter To ‘Star Trek’ Director J.J. Abrams” ). The simply titled film, which will be the 11th in the series, will mark a relaunch of the franchise by turning back the clock to the early days of Spock and Captain Kirk, à la “Casino Royale.”

While hesitant about many of the additional details of the film, Abrams and the writers did speak extensively about the two Mr. Spocks, as well as their hopes that “Trek” fans will embrace Quinto as they have Nimoy for five decades. The creator of such shows as “Lost” and “Alias,” Abrams begins shooting the top-secret script soon, setting his warp drive toward a firm release date of December 25, 2008.

Could Quinto — the 6-foot-2-inch dark-haired Pittsburgh native with a TV background ranging from “Six Feet Under” to “Lizzie Maguire” — go from the most despised character in geekdom to one of the most beloved in a matter of months? Judging by his assurances that Sylar will return for the next season of “Heroes,” he’ll soon be attempting the even more difficult task of inhabiting two roles of a lifetime simultaneously.

According to Quinto, anything less would be simply illogical.

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