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Originally published Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 3:06 PM

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‘To Be Takei’ boldly goes into star’s complicated life story

A review of “To Be Takei”: This inspirational documentary, about George Takei’s ability to endure the Japanese-American internment camps and years of pretending to be heterosexual, got 3.5 stars out of 4.


Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘To Be Takei,’ a documentary directed by Jennifer Kroot. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. SIFF Cinema Uptown.

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It’s taken a few decades for George Takei (aka Sulu on “Star Trek”) to truly become Takei.

His complicated journey began at a Japanese-American internment camp shortly after the start of World War II. He was a child, and he hasn’t forgotten the terror of being ordered around at gunpoint just because his family looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.

After the war, he faced a different kind of humiliation, pretending to be heterosexual as he carved a Hollywood career for himself out of forgotten Jerry Lewis comedies, three years of “Star Trek” on television and sharing a key scene with John Wayne in the jingoistic “The Green Berets.”

When the “Star Trek” movies reunited the cast in 1979, Takei became more visible, even landing a script that went beyond the ensemble nature of the series and emphasized Sulu. He became a regular on Howard Stern’s show, where he first denied his homosexuality, then very publicly came out of the closet.

All this is covered with plentiful film clips and interviews in Jennifer Kroot’s fine new documentary, “To Be Takei,” which is much more than a “Star Trek” footnote or a standard coming-out story. Takei’s Japanese-American roots were visible for years on network television, and eventually so was his sexual orientation.

Kroot, like her genial star, looks for the humor in each situation — especially when Takei and his longtime husband, Brad Altman, are behaving like the old married couple they are. Takei smiles a lot at this point in his career, and no wonder.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com



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