EXCLUSIVE: JJ Abrams Says Matt Damon Almost Played George Kirk, Not James

In the long, long (loooooooong) lead-in to the release of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise, a lot of rumors surfaced concerning who would be joining the cast. At one point, Gary Sinise, Adrien Brody and Matt Damon were even said to be playing the legendary threesome of Dr. McCoy, Spock and Captain James T. Kirk.

Well recently, MTV’s Josh Horowitz had the opportunity to speak with Abrams, and his “Trek” star Chris Pine, in an exclusive interview pegged to the fact that, in 2009, these two guys rank among those that we movies fans are most thankful for. And a decision was made to find out exactly what truth lies behind those years-old casting rumors. Given how well “Trek” worked with a cast that was relatively devoid of big-name superstars, one has to wonder if Abrams ever really did call Damon up to talk about the Kirk role.

“I did, but not for the role of James Kirk. I went to Damon for the role of Kirk’s father, and he declined in the most gracious and understandable and logical of reasons,” Abrams explained. As you may or may not remember, Kirk’s father appears during the “Trek” prologue, sacrificing his life while his wife and newborn child make their escape from a doomed ship. “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth ending up landing the part, months before his starring role in the Marvel property was announced.

“We lucked out with Chris Hemsworth, and he did a great job,” Abrams said. “Maybe it would have been distracting to have someone as massively famous as Matt Damon in that role. … The decision was made very early on to have actors who were not necessarily the most famous but the most right for the role.”

Given the length of the appearance in comparison to the overall film, it’s doubtful that Damon would have corrupted Abrams’ vision. Still, he has a valid point. And things certainly worked out for Hemsworth, who made headlines over the summer when the “Thor” casting news emerged. It worked out okay for Pine too, who did not have to compete with a superstar like Damon for the James Kirk role.

“At least for the time being, “Star Trek” has given me the luxury of choice in terms of what I want to do and where I want to take my career,” Pine said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but certainly I’m enjoying that immensely.”

Have you seen “Star Trek”? Where does it rank for you among the year’s best? Do you think the feel of the movie would have changed significantly with a guy like Damon showing up, even for a 10-minute sequence?

Thanksgiving is a time for taking stock, expressing gratitude and, most importantly, overeating. We at MTV News have been gorging all year at movie theaters, so it’s about time we looked back and gave thanks to our favorite actors and filmmakers of 2009. So in this special week, we celebrate J.J. Abrams and Chris Pine for bringing “Star Trek” back into our lives; Tom Hardy for such an unexpectedly powerful turn in “Bronson”; Quentin Tarantino for blowing our minds with his ” Inglourious Basterds”; Sam Rockwell for the amazingly inventive indie “Moon”; Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel for redefining how cool and cute a couple could be in “(500) Days of Summer”; and our ultimate winner, Ryan Reynolds, for a trio of memorable roles in vastly different (but all super entertaining) flicks like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “The Proposal” and “Adventureland”. Enjoy our exclusive interviews with all our winners all week long.