Front Row at the Movies
"To Be Takei" Is Over the Top
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Key West attorney Albert L. Kelley will always have a fond place in his heart for George Takei, best known as Lt. Sulu on "Star Trek." When Al was 15 he was in a horrible car accident, burning him over much of his body. It was a long hospital stay. And who should come to visit him but his favorite "Star Trek" star who just happened to be in town for a promotional appearance. Not only did Takei visit the injured boy, he remained in contact for years.
Now you can meet George Takei too -- sort of. You’ll get to know this remarkable Japanese American actor, director, author, and activist much better through a new documentary titled "To Be Takei."
It’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Named after King George VI of England, he was born in Los Angeles. However, his family was uprooted during World War II, forced to live in the horse stables at Santa Anita, the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, and the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California.
After being resettled in L.A., he went on to graduate from UC Berkeley, earn a Masters of Arts in Theater at UCLA, and go on to study at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon, Sophia University in Japan, and the Desilu Workshop in Hollywood.
His father warned him about the kind of roles that Asians have played in movies. He replied, "Daddy, I’m going to change it."
However, fame came slowly. He dubbed low-budget Japanese horror films such as "Godzilla Raids Again" before landing his breakthrough role on TV’s "Star Trek" in 1965.
After a three-year run in the popular television show, followed by six "Star Trek" movies, he went on to appear in a number of other films. He became a ubiquitous radio and TV guest, practically becoming a regular on the Howard Stern Show. His outrageous comments and openness about being gay made him a hit. When Stern moved to Sirius Radio, Takei signed on as an announcer, sitting in every few months.
Today, Takei has become a social media darling, with over 7 million "likes" on Facebook.
This documentary by Jennifer M. Kroot ("It Came From Kuchar") captures the "Life Journey" of George Hosato Takei. As he said of his "coming out of the closet" in 2005, "It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen."
The film’s playful tagline is "A Star’s Trek for Life Liberty and Love."
Typically, he’s funny, he’s incisive, he’s brilliant, and he’s outrageous. "As far as I can remember I’ve always been me," he quips.
That said, in the documentary he concludes, "It’s okay to be Takei."
Oh my-y-y, as he would say.
Al Kelley would agree.