(covers information from several alternate timelines)
"Someone once said, 'Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgments.'"
"That's rhetorical nonsense. Who said that?"
"You did. Ten years from now."
Doctor Zefram Cochrane was a Human scientist in the 21st century. An eccentric genius, he was the inventor of warp drive on Earth and became the first recorded Human to travel faster than light, prompting official first contact with the Vulcans.
Cochrane's circumstances were somewhat affected by World War III, gaining him at least minimal knowledge of ECON. During the 2060s, he lived in Bozeman, Montana, where he and his team of engineers began developing the warp drive. (Star Trek: First Contact) The challenge of inventing warp theory took Cochrane an extremely long time. (ENT: "Anomaly") In 2061, he was responsible for Earth's first successful demonstration of light speed propulsion, though his work was far from complete. (VOY: "Friendship One"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" library computer file) His primary motivation for commencing warp technology was financial gain in the devastated, poverty-stricken America that existed in the wake of the Third World War. He finally built Earth's first warp ship, the Phoenix, in the hope its success would prove profitable and allow him to retire to a tropical island filled with naked women. An historical irony was that, contrary to the fact he went on to use the Phoenix to inaugurate an era of peace, Cochrane incorporated a weapon of mass destruction into its design; constructing the Phoenix in a missile silo, he equipped a Titan II missile as its launch vehicle.
By 4 April 2063, Doctor Cochrane had made plans to pilot the Phoenix on a test warp flight that was scheduled to launch on the morning of 5 April 2063. On the night of 4 April, he was witness to an attack from a Borg sphere that fired on his hometown of Bozeman from above; Borg photon torpedoes exploded severely close to him, as he desperately struggled to escape. Cochrane was thereafter sought by the crew of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-E, who had recently come from the year 2373 to stop the Borg sphere (which was from the same year) preventing first contact. He was temporarily considered, by the Enterprise crew members, to have been killed in the skirmish.
By the time Dr. Cochrane was located by the Starfleet officers, he had abandoned hope for the continuation of the Phoenix, wishing that the prototype craft "rest in peace." Cochrane was convinced to half-heartedly persist with his endeavors by the Enterprise-E crew, who treated him like an historical figure, as he was to them. When they confronted him with some particulars of his future image as herald of a better world, Cochrane refused to accept this new role and initially attempted to literally flee from his destiny, misleadingly implying that his departure would be merely temporary and was required so he could urinate. He was consequently pursued by a squad of officers, and shot down with a phaser – which he thought of as a laser – set to a minimal power output and wielded by an impatient Commander Will Riker.
Cochrane then became more cooperative; by 10:00 a.m. on 5 April, he had mentally prepared himself to make history (despite a distinctly uncomfortable hangover) and had begun readying the Phoenix for liftoff, even though he still disputed the notion of being idolized. An hour later, he was aboard the Phoenix as it launched, with Commander Riker and Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge accompanying him. Cochrane was not only instrumental in the flight of the Phoenix – at one point, giving the instruction to activate warp drive with the command, "Engage" – but was also amazed to view the Earth and the Enterprise-E from space and was shocked to experience the sensation of traveling at warp. He broke the warp barrier just after 11:00 a.m., enough to draw the attention of the Vulcan ship T'Plana-Hath passing near Earth.
That evening, Cochrane was among many Human spectators who watched the Vulcan ship land in Bozeman, Montana, thereby making first contact with Humans and opening a new era for the whole of mankind. Finding difficulty with returning a Vulcan salute, he welcomed the arrival of the ship's Vulcan captain by engaging him in a handshake for which Cochrane was thankful. (Star Trek: First Contact)
In an alternate timeline, the Borg succeeded in stopping Cochrane from breaking the warp barrier. His failure to execute that achievement eventually resulted in Earth being inhabited by an entirely Borg population of approximately nine billion. (VOY: "Relativity"; Star Trek: First Contact)
In 2064, Cochrane acknowledged details about the first contact in Bozeman, in a commencement address at Princeton University. He claimed that it had involved "a group of cybernetic creatures from the future" which had been repelled by a group of Humans who had come from the same era. However, Cochrane's remarks were largely shrugged off by his audience as a result of his tendency toward imaginative stories and intoxication. (ENT: "Regeneration")
In time, Cochrane resigned himself to the role history had apparently written for him, rather than maintaining the more fantastical truth of what had happened. (Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: "Regeneration") He recanted his own statements regarding first contact and the two warring groups involved in the event, a few years after making the claims. (ENT: "Regeneration") In 2073, he was recorded as proclaiming, "Don't try to be a great man; just be a man, and let history make its own judgments." (Star Trek: First Contact)
In the early 22nd century, Cochrane designed a style of warp reactor that was fitted aboard J-class freighters. (ENT: "Horizon") He also collaborated with Henry Archer on the warp five engine around this time, working hard to develop it and help make it a reality. In 2119, Cochrane officially opened the Warp Five Complex on Earth, making a speech at the opening ceremony. (ENT: "Broken Bow") Cochrane met Henry's son, Jonathan Archer, the future captain of Enterprise NX-01, while the elder Archer was giving his son a tour of the facility. (ENT: "Singularity", "Daedalus") In an historic holoprogram, Cochrane was said to have given Henry Archer a bottle of whiskey in celebration, on the day they broke ground at the Warp Five Complex. (ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")
At the age of 87, Cochrane left his new home on Alpha Centauri colony for an interstellar expedition. (TOS: "Metamorphosis"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" library computer file) In a state of tiredness and dying from old age, he chose to die in space. (TOS: "Metamorphosis") His body was never recovered and he was presumed dead. (TOS: "Metamorphosis"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" library computer file)
Cochrane ended up on an asteroid in the Gamma Canaris region. He was brought there, while in a disabled spaceship and virtually deceased from old age, by a cloud-like entity which he called the Companion. Cochrane was rejuvenated by this entity, which went on to keep him young and alive for 150 years. At one point, he cannibalized his ship, using left-over tools and supplies to construct a building where he could live. Necessities including food and water were provided for him by the Companion, with whom he could telepathically communicate. However, Cochrane eventually wished to be released from the entity's supervision, finding immortality boring. In an attempt to attain freedom from the Companion, he related the fact he was lonely to the entity, so it decided to bring him other Humans for company.
In 2267, Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock, and Dr. Leonard McCoy of the USS Enterprise were ferrying the terminally-ill Federation commissioner Nancy Hedford aboard the shuttlecraft Galileo when they were mysteriously brought to the asteroid by the Companion. Cochrane was delighted to meet the newcomers there, exchanging handshakes with each of the other men, and was impressed by the configuration of their shuttlecraft. Contrastingly, he originally kept the truth from the visitors, saying he had crashed on the planet an indeterminate time ago and feigning ignorance of the Companion. Under duress from Kirk, he conceded the facts, such as confessing the actual specifics of his arrival. Cochrane repeatedly talked with the Starfleet officers about the differences in the galaxy since his disappearance, remaining tempted to leave the asteroid. The Federation and universal translator were both new concepts to Cochrane. His knowledge of modern propulsion was also updated, thanks to Spock and Kirk, the latter of whom observed that Cochrane didn't "look a day over thirty-five."
Faced with the quandary of either escaping the Companion and helping Commissioner Hedford to a hospital or risking the death of the Companion, Cochrane reluctantly opted to endanger the entity, despite being exceedingly grateful for its guardianship; this choice led to him being struck down, momentarily rendered unconscious. In a conversation that Kirk had with the entity, the Companion recurrently called Cochrane "the man." Once it was discovered that the Companion was actually feminine with romantic feelings toward Cochrane and the female entity entered the body of Hedford, Cochrane was finally allowed to leave with his guests, though the merged entity was unable to accompany him. Feeling greatly indebted to the Companion for having rescued and cared for him, Cochrane began a new life on the asteroid with the newly integrated being, both of them now with a typical Human life span. Cochrane had Kirk swear never to reveal his fate to the authorities. (TOS: "Metamorphosis")
Friendships and alliances
One of Cochrane's good friends was Lily Sloane, whom he knew since the Third World War. She nicknamed him "Z". He was also on first-name terms with several residents of Bozeman, including a bartender called Eddy.
Cochrane was physically attracted to Deanna Troi, for a brief time after first meeting her, though had difficulty remembering her first name. He made several sexual advances on her, though these were spurned, Troi drunkenly concluding he was "nuts." Even with these rejections, he was not disheartened to the extent that he stopped socializing with her – at one point voicing satisfaction to learn Riker was not her husband – and Troi was later among Cochrane's collaborators during the test flight of the Phoenix, as she announced the final countdown before liftoff from outside the craft. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Similarly, Cochrane immediately found Nancy Hedford attractive, referring to her as "beautiful." Thinking of the Companion as a lover initially disgusted Cochrane, however, and he at first found the binding of Hedford and the Companion to be frightening. Realizing that his intolerance of the alien's feelings for him was motivated by prejudice, he ultimately fell in love with the female combination, even sacrificing the opportunity to explore the galaxy so he could instead stay with her. One final confession that he offered to Kirk was that his love for her – convinced they would have many happy years together – was the motivating factor for him staying on the asteroid, rather than his utter gratitude to the entity. (TOS: "Metamorphosis")
Often wearing civilian clothing that incorporated a thin neck-scarf and a backwards cap on his head, Cochrane had a cynical streak. For example, he skeptically questioned Lily Sloane's theorizing that the attacking Borg sphere was an ECON craft, and he took considerable persuading before he finally came to realize the reality about the Borg and the officers from the Enterprise-E. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Cochrane also had an alcohol abuse problem. He commonly drank whiskey but was also known to imbibe shots of tequila. (Star Trek: First Contact) The inventor of the transporter, Emory Erickson, adopted Cochrane's practice of celebrating scientific breakthroughs by consuming large amounts of alcohol and once reviewed of Cochrane, "Now there was a man who knew the benefits of a little liquid courage." (ENT: "Daedalus")
Cochrane was well acquainted with the stars in Earth proximity, owning a telescope and being able to identify the constellation Leo on sight. (Star Trek: First Contact) His favorite food was cheese pierogi. (VOY: "Homestead") He had an intense dislike for air- and space-travel and preferred taking trains.
Cochrane was a fan of late-20th century rock and roll music. His favorite songs included "Ooby Dooby" by Roy Orbison and "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf. He often became stressed if he couldn't listen to recordings of such music when he wanted to, and introducing the Vulcans to rock and roll was one of his first priorities during their encounter. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Cochrane was also somewhat interested in agriculture. While behaving dishonestly to the Starfleet officers who visited him on the asteroid where he eventually resided, he alleged that he grew vegetables in fields near his house. Cochrane later admitted that the Companion provided gardens for him and, moments before his visitors from Starfleet departed, he supported his determination to remain on the asteroid by saying its surface conditions were optimal for growing things and by suggesting that he might try planting a fig tree. (TOS: "Metamorphosis")
After Lily Sloane advised him that he would regret drinking alcohol to the point of having a hangover while piloting the Phoenix on its maiden voyage into space, Cochrane claimed to her that he never had regrets. This was not entirely true of his personality, however. (Star Trek: First Contact) For instance, he regretted his early prejudice regarding the Companion's love for him. (TOS: "Metamorphosis")
Though Zefram Cochrane (at the time of First Contact) did not have a grand vision of ushering in a new era for mankind or of endowing Earth with the gift of warp technology, these qualities came to be commonly ascribed to him by later generations; as with many of history's icons, the man's legend was generally less multifaceted than he himself had been. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Abundant hearsay circulated in the aftermath of Cochrane's disappearance. One supposition reported he had been testing a form of experimental warp ship. He was also reputed to have been flying a one-man craft, at the time he was lost. (ENT: "Future Tense") Another rumor regarding Cochrane was that he had personally signed the inside of each reactor casing aboard the series of J-class freighters. (ENT: "Horizon")
Numerous phrases that Cochrane had used in the speech he gave at the dedication ceremony for the Warp Five Complex were repeated by Starfleet for generations to come, such as talk of exploring "strange new worlds," seeking out "new life and new civilizations," and boldly going "where no man has gone before." (ENT: "Broken Bow", et al.) In 2151, a recording of the speech was displayed at the launch ceremony for Enterprise, Jonathan Archer's command. At the same ceremony, the showing of the recording was prefaced by Admiral Forrest giving a speech of his own in which he repeatedly alluded to Cochrane, describing his warp flight as "legendary." (ENT: "Broken Bow")
While teasing American Starfleet officer Charles Tucker III about his nationality in November 2151, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed posited that, if Cochrane had been European rather than from Montana, the Vulcans would have been far less reticent to help the Humans progress with space travel than they ultimately had been. Reed also reckoned that, as an American, Cochrane likely spent his boyhood nights reading about cowboys and Native American Indians. (ENT: "Shuttlepod One")
After Tucker and Captain Archer became inadvertently entangled in a symbiotic lifeform, Tucker rhetorically asked Archer whether, by speaking about new life and new civilizations, Cochrane had meant aliens such as the one that was currently trapping them. (ENT: "Vox Sola")
By 2152, Cochrane's involvement in First Contact was well known among school children and a statue of him had been built in Bozeman. (ENT: "Carbon Creek") In 2152, Cochrane still had surviving family and Admiral Forrest characterized his disappearance as "the greatest missing person case of the century." When Enterprise came across a mysterious craft adrift in space in October 2152 manned by one dead occupant, Captain Archer wondered if it could be the long-lost Cochrane. In the interest of determining the deceased pilot's identity, Dr. Phlox submitted a request to the Cochrane family in order for them to release Cochrane's genetic profile. However, it was soon learned that the pilot was a Human from the 31st century whose time travel pod had suffered a critical disaster, in which he had been killed, while visiting the 22nd century. (ENT: "Future Tense")
By 2153, the Cochrane Equation had been named in Zefram Cochrane's honor; it described a fundamental mathematical expression in warp theory. (ENT: "Anomaly") Cochrane distortion, a fluctuation in the subspace field that all warp engines generate, also took its name from him. (TNG: "Ménage à Troi") A unit of measure of subspace distortion known as the cochrane was named in his honor too. (TNG: "Journey's End", et al.)
Numerous schools had been named after Cochrane by 2154. (ENT: "Home") One academic institution was called Zefram Cochrane High School. (Star Trek: First Contact) In 2154, Erika Hernandez guessed that these schools were fewer than those named after Jonathan Archer following the Xindi incident, which Hernandez estimated were two or three dozen in North America alone. (ENT: "Home")
In a holodeck program set in 2161, Hoshi Sato noted that Archer's avoiding credit for the Coalition of Planets would be similar to Cochrane's taking no credit for warp drive. It was also this holoprogram that cited Cochrane as having gifted a whiskey bottle to Henry Archer, a recollection mentioned by the holographic Jonathan Archer. (ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")
In 2267, Spock remarked that Zefram Cochrane's name was "revered throughout the known galaxy," but Cochrane himself considered spending the remainder of his life with the feminine combination of the Companion and Nancy Hedford to be "honors enough." By that point, planets, great universities and cities had been named after him. (TOS: "Metamorphosis") The Cochrane deceleration, a well-known battle maneuver in the 23rd century, was also named in his honor. (TOS: "Whom Gods Destroy") The first chapter of Basic Warp Design, a required course in Starfleet Academy's curriculum, was titled "Zefram Cochrane". (Star Trek: First Contact) A starship bearing his name, the USS Cochrane, was launched in or by 2367. (TNG: "The Drumhead"; DS9: "Emissary", et al.)
In 2368, an excited Geordi La Forge voiced an expectation that participating in one of the first tests in soliton wave propulsion would be akin to witnessing Cochrane engage the first warp drive. (TNG: "New Ground") This is ironic, considering that La Forge went on to do precisely that. (Star Trek: First Contact)
When the command staff of the USS Voyager was contemplating whether to allow Tom Paris to venture on a test flight of transwarp drive in 2372, Captain Janeway remarked that, if the flight was successful, Paris would join an elite group of historic pilots whose names already included Cochrane's. (VOY: "Threshold") Voyager's complement of shuttlecrafts at the time included one called the Cochrane. (DS9: "Emissary"; VOY: "Threshold", "Day of Honor")
Zefram Cochrane was so memorable that – when quizzed by Harry Kim, during the Year of Hell version of 2374, about the name of the famous ship that had been involved in making Earth's first contact with Vulcans in Montana – B'Elanna Torres could remember only that it had been Cochrane's vessel. (VOY: "Year of Hell")
By 2375, a Starfleet award called the Cochrane Medal of Honor was named to commemorate Cochrane. (VOY: "Timeless") In an alternate timeline, a similar award with the same namesake was the Cochrane Medal of Excellence. (VOY: "Non Sequitur")
In 2378, the crew of Voyager paid respects to Cochrane, celebrating the 315th anniversary of First Contact by throwing a party on the traditional holiday of First Contact Day; in the ship's mess hall, rock and roll music was played from a jukebox and cheese pierogi were served, since they had been Cochrane's favorite music and food respectively. (VOY: "Homestead")
- TNG: "New Ground"
In the first-draft script for the original series episode "Metamorphosis", Cochrane encounters not only Kirk, Spock and McCoy but also Montgomery Scott, who is delighted to meet the noted inventor and discuss some engineering with him. (The Star Trek Compendium, UK 4th ed., p. 71) Cochrane also reacts much more frustratedly to the revelation of the Companion's female gender and love for him than he does in the installment's final version; enraged, he calls the Companion an emotional vampire, repeatedly yells "nasty," raves and screams, throws rocks, grabs a club and even tries to physically attack her. The conclusion to the same draft of the script involves Spock wondering – in the company of the three other Enterprise crewmen – if the fact that Nancy and the Companion share the same body might result in Cochrane's being a bigamist, an idea that Kirk dismisses as nonsense. 
In the final version of "Metamorphosis", Cochrane was played by Glenn Corbett. His introduction in the episode was partly filmed with a fish-eye camera lens, though its use at first caused him to appear strange. "When Cochrane entered the foreground and ran toward the group at the [shuttle]craft, it seemed as if he had on seven league boots; he was covering what seemed like a football field distance in about five paces," explained director Ralph Senensky. "I solved this by filming his approach from several angles, which were then joined together in the editing room." 
Rewriting the character
The decision to include Zefram Cochrane in the film Star Trek: First Contact was preceded by the movies' writers choosing to set the story at a time when they could also feature Humans and Vulcans making first contact with one another. "Lo and behold, we looked around and found Zefram Cochrane sitting around the same time period," recollected co-writer Ronald D. Moore. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 171) Rick Berman, who worked on the film as producer and story co-writer, concurred, "We realized where our story was going and that we could marry those elements [Cochrane and Humanity's first warp flights] into the story." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 21)
How to depict Cochrane in the movie was a subject of much debate among the writers, including Ronald D. Moore, who later recalled, "We had very long discussions about who Cochrane was and who he should be in this film. And what we decided was you wanted to see a transition. You wanna see an arc for the character." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) The writers also chose to significantly vary the film's depiction of Cochrane from how he had been established in "Metamorphosis". "We decided to take a lot of liberty with the Original Series character, and we created a new character," declared co-writer Brannon Braga. "Because the character we meet in this film is very different [....] We kind of ignored, to some degree, the Cochrane from the original series." ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) Rick Berman revealed that the writers did a lot of research into the "very vague history" that had been established about Cochrane and the initial warp flights. He went on to clarify, "We attempted to stay close to what we perceived as being the way Gene [Roddenberry] had wanted to set it in motion, but we took some liberties too." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 21)
Even though it had been established in "Metamorphosis" that Cochrane was somewhat familiar with Vulcans, that episode makes no mention of Cochrane's involvement in Earth's first contact with the species. The idea that the event took place immediately after Cochrane's first warp flight – a sequence of incidents first established in the film First Contact – was preempted by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "First Contact"; that installment revealed that the Federation customarily initiated first contact only with species that were evidently on the cusp of originating warp drive. The movie First Contact also established, for the first time, Cochrane's qualification as a doctor.
In the first draft script for First Contact, an introductory description of Dr. Cochrane reads, "He has a youthful, dynamic appearance marred by recent radiation burns." Much of the plot also deals with Cochrane receiving urgent medical treatment in a hospital, comatose throughout much of the script. Out of action even for a while after he regains consciousness, he lets Captain Picard secretly pilot the Phoenix rather than himself, wishing he could make the flight too. It is also said that he is "touched" by Geordi La Forge paying him "obvious respect." Cochrane goes on to make first contact with the Vulcans, much as he does in the film's final version. 
Although the writers thought Cochrane was one of the elements that worked successfully in the first script draft, they decided to adjust the character. "Let's get simple. Bring Cochrane into the story," stated Ronald D. Moore. "Let's make him an interesting fellow, and it could say something about the birth of the Federation. The future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned is born out of this very flawed man, who is not larger than life but an ordinary flawed human being." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 323) Brannon Braga concurred, "We realized in subsequent drafts that this is an interesting character. You kind of want to meet the guy. He's such a critical part of history. One of the things that we thought was an interesting idea was that if you went back in history [...] to meet one of your heroes [...] you might find meeting them in person, smelling the environment they lived in, and really just being there, very different from reading about it. We thought it would be cool if the man who basically ushered in a new era of humanity was motivated by things that were antithetical to Star Trek." (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 16)
Having discarded the concept of Cochrane changing by being revived, the writers now dealt with their impulse to have Cochrane undergo a character arc, in the course of the movie, by attempting to imply that he becomes the man whom the Enterprise-E crew expects him to be. (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 16) Ronald D. Moore noted, "In that man, by the end of the picture you see the transition of humanity from petty and small-minded to reaching out to the stars and actually bridging the gap between us and 24th-century man." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 21) As such, both Moore and Brannon Braga described Cochrane, by the end of the movie, as having become "a Roddenberry person." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) Alternatively, Rick Berman once stated that, at the end of the film, Cochrane "was far from a Gene Roddenberry human." Berman backed up this statement by pointing out that "when we last Zefram Cochrane [...] he was drinking whiskey with some Vulcans." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 134, p. 13)
Not only has the degree to which Cochrane fit into the character mold of a near-perfect future Human envisioned by Gene Roddenberry been questioned, but the character's similarities to the Star Trek creator himself have also come under occasional discussion. For instance, Anthony Pascale said, "I always felt that the way they treated Cochrane is kind of like Roddenberry. Roddenberry's revered as this god-like visionary, but Gene Roddenberry was a human being with flaws, you know, but that doesn't mean he isn't also a great man and a great visionary." Damon Lindelof similarly likened Cochrane, in a scene where Lieutenant Reginald Barclay is overjoyed to meet him, to Gene Roddenberry being met by an enthusiastic fan. (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact 2009 DVD/Blu-ray)
Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga were highly pleased with how they ultimately wrote Cochrane. Said Moore, "Cochrane became a really cool character who I think the audience can identify with a little bit." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 21) Braga perceived that writing Cochrane as such a flawed character "made for more interesting drama in the film." ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray)
Damon Lindelof opined that showing the highly esteemed Cochrane as actually alcoholic and eccentric is an example of "one great convention of time-travel movies" and "sort of a touchstone of what Moore and Braga did on the series and are doing in the movie, which is, you know, character first, character first, character first." Lindelof also noticed that, in common with the character of Lily Sloane, Cochrane serves as "a conduit for the audience," as he is at first unfamiliar with the Enterprise-E crew and their indigenous time period of the 24th century. (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact 2009 DVD/Blu-ray)
Recasting the role
Veteran Star Trek actor James Cromwell was cast as Cochrane in First Contact. Even though he didn't match the look of the Original Series Cochrane, casting a performer with a likeness to that representation was not a priority for the production staff. "That didn't interest us," Rick Berman admitted. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 29) In fact, the role in the movie was written for Cromwell to play. "Rick Berman told me that they wrote the part specifically for me, because I was in their minds from my guest work," Cromwell attested. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 111, p. 71) Due to the actor gaining celebrity for his presence in the film Babe, the production personnel were at one point somewhat worried that Cromwell might not be available. "We were afraid he was going to be out of our price range," explained Berman. "But it all worked out." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 108, p. 7)
Even though the part had been written for him, James Cromwell auditioned for the role. Upon doing so, he was asked to perform a later-excised scene wherein Cochrane attempts to commit suicide by jumping off the edge of a cliff, only for his descent to be stopped in midair by a force field Geordi La Forge has rigged up. The actor cast his memory back to his performance; "I stood on the edge of a chair, and when it came time to fall, I lay down across the chair which got a real hoot out of everybody!" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 111, p. 71) Cromwell's audition was indeed highly successful. "He nailed it," director Jonathan Frakes raved. "He left Berman and me with our jaws in our laps." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, p. 325)
Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks was briefly considered to play Cochrane in First Contact (requested by then-Chairwoman of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing), but James Cromwell was ultimately confirmed for the role – much to the relief of both he and Rick Berman – after it was determined that the film's production wouldn't fit into Hanks' scheduling. According to Berman, the role would have needed to be considerably rewritten if Hanks had been able to accomplish it. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 111, p. 71)
Having an interest and belief in the existence of extraterrestrials, James Cromwell was thrilled to be cast as Cochrane. (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 41) The actor later emphasized, "I thought it was so serendipitous and extraordinary that I should have this interest and make this film. I'm looking forward to seeing whether this is all part of a plan. I think it's intriguing." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 30) Cromwell also enthused, "The character was very well-written, and he had wonderful things to do. What intrigued me was the first contact idea [....] So that was a lot of fun." Cromwell's participation was also valued by Rick Berman, who explained, "He seemed to be the perfect character to play Cochrane because we were looking for somebody who was exactly opposite what people would think [....] Jamie was perfect, and he was available and interested in doing it, and we were lucky from day one." ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray)
Costuming for movie
Of all the costumes in First Contact, costume designer Deborah Everton felt she was given the most freedom to design Cochrane's clothing. "Even though he's so established in the lore of Star Trek, he's not a character with which we're really familiar," she mused. "I could really go to town on him and take his character pretty far out." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 109, p. 52) Given that Cochrane had been written as an eccentric genius famed for being a pivotal figure in Human history, Everton wanted to represent the character's kookiness in his costuming, without making him too repulsive to the film's audience. "I wanted to bring out a lovable, quirky quality about him," she noted.
The inclusion of a distinctive-looking hat was at the request of Rick Berman, after Deborah Everton had incorporated the headgear in her original sketch for Cochrane's costume. She reflected, "Rick Berman kept liking this hat – every time he would see it on one of the illustrations, it was 'God, I really like that hat!' So when I made it for Cochrane, I wanted to make it sort of funkier, as a character thing." (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, pp. 80 & 81)
James Cromwell was grateful that Cochrane's costumes included a heavy wool coat that he was able to wear while filming on location in frosty cold night conditions. (Star Trek Monthly issue 22, p. 34) He was especially pleased that the costuming did not cover him up as much he had been, by prosthetics, in his previous Star Trek roles, later remarking, "It was really nice to play someone where you can use what physicality you have and your expressiveness to give him life. When you're in a costume that covers every part of you, that's really a matter of somebody else's imagination dictating what your outer form is. I loved Cochrane's costume because it let me be me, or let me play Cochrane." (Starlog issue #234, p. 41) Jonathan Frakes was also pleased with the clothes Cochrane wears in the film, characterizing them as "great costumes." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray)
On the other hand, the costuming for Cochrane proved baffling to others. For example, Brannon Braga once admitted, "I always meant to ask Deborah Everton, 'What was that hat that he was wearing?'" (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) Cochrane's neck-scarf likewise puzzled Damon Lindelof and Anthony Pascale, though the latter hypothesized that Cochrane wearing it might be an attempt to hide a scar. (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact 2009 DVD/Blu-ray)
James Cromwell purposely did not watch Glenn Corbett's presentment of Cochrane, prior to playing the character himself. "I didn't feel as if I were dealing with a historical character," Cromwell expressed. "I suppose that I am to some degree, at least in the eyes of some Trekkies, because Corbett played the role before I did. I just felt that what I wanted to do was to give my interpretation of what the writers of First Contact wrote as a character. I didn't need or want any outside assistance as to what somebody else had done with the same fellow." (Starlog issue #234, p. 40)
James Cromwell found it easy to appear in the movie role. "They just let me play it as it was written," he said. "And I looked at him as just me. A guy who is overwhelmed, horny, fun-loving and self-deprecating, which is me." With a laugh, Cromwell added, "Except that he happens to be an alcoholic." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 111, p. 70) Cromwell also related, "The character came alive for me. Instead of having to play a legend, what I had to play was someone who was reluctant to become a legend. That's immanently playable. It's very hard to play a legend, but it's not so hard to play when you have an action. He had a very strong action, which was that it frightened, confused, confounded and disturbed him." (Star Trek Monthly issue 22, p. 33)
Jonathan Frakes postulated that James Cromwell's stability with playing the part added to the characterization, as did him having great physical ease, especially considering his extreme height. "I think it made him... or made the character more Human and more attractive, because of the way Cromwell tackled the part," Frakes commented. "Instead of playing it with this sort of straitlaced respect, it was played with a wonderful casualness." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray)
One particular element of the story in which Cromwell found difficulty with portraying Cochrane is when the character is finally involved in the actual first contact with the Vulcans. Noted the actor, "All I had to do was say, 'It's real, it's real, it's real.' And I kept on saying to myself, 'What would it look like? What would I do? Would I perspire? Would I shake?' and I thought, 'God, the real thing is that you don't know what you'll do when it actually happens.'" (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 110)
Even though Cochrane was instrumental in the construction of the Phoenix, James Cromwell never saw the missile that, in the movie, supposedly delivers the prototype warp ship into space. (Star Trek Monthly issue 22, pp. 33-34)
Ultimately, Jonathan Frakes deemed James Cromwell as having been "brilliant in this role." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) Ronald D. Moore likewise concluded that Cochrane's transformation into "a really cool character," slightly identifiable to the audience, was "once we married [the metamorphosis which the character is implied as going through, during the course of the film] [...] with James Cromwell." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, p. 21)
The only physical description of Cochrane in the final revised draft script for the pilot episode of Enterprise, "Broken Bow", is the word "elderly."  In that episode, Cochrane was once again played by James Cromwell. As he had become a relatively big movie star by then, Star Trek's production personnel had to pull in a favor for him to reprise the role. This task was facilitated by Junie Lowry-Johnson, a big fan of Cromwell's who helped cast both First Contact and "Broken Bow". Rick Berman said of Cromwell's return as Cochrane, "It was interesting to get [him] [....] He was very gracious and did it." ("Broken Bow" audio commentary, ENT Season 1 DVD special features) Elaborated Berman, "We just needed him for a day [...] and he was sweet enough to come and do it for us in our pilot." ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) The suit that Cromwell wore to appear as Cochrane in "Broken Bow" was ultimately sold in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction. 
Footage of James Cromwell (as Zefram Cochrane greeting the Vulcans) was reused, with Cromwell's consent, at the beginning of "In a Mirror, Darkly". ("In a Mirror, Darkly" audio commentary, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) While the final draft script for that episode makes it clear that the footage was to be reused (dictating Cochrane's physical appearance), the teleplay does not make any outright statement that the version of Cochrane seen in that episode was actually from the mirror universe.
Age and physical appearance
The first draft script of Star Trek: First Contact, set in 2063, describes Cochrane as "a man in his mid-forties."  However, James Cromwell was 56 years old during the production of the film, the final version of which is also set in 2063, meaning that the character is supposedly in his early 30s during the events of the film. The Star Trek Encyclopedia accounts for this discrepancy by speculating that Cochrane's aged appearance in the movie was the result of radiation poisoning.
At one stage, Brannon Braga speculated that Cochrane "probably is instrumental in the formation of Starfleet." ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) Likewise, in an audio commentary for First Contact available on the film's Blu-ray and 2009 DVD releases, Anthony Pascale supposes that, prior to encountering the Enterprise-E crew, Cochrane "must have read a journal about time travel in Scientific American, maybe before the Third World War, or something." James Cromwell similarly theorized that, prior to the first flight of the Phoenix, Cochrane had not planned to take the prototype warp craft into space himself, being merely a scientist and having never flown in space before. Proposing that the version of events demonstrated in First Contact constitute an alternate timeline, Cromwell went on to say, "Obviously, he does take it up himself, so something was supposed to happen, and in reality he would have made the choice anyway. Since they [the Enterprise-E crew] come back a little earlier than he had made that choice, he is frightened." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 6, pp. 29-30)
Cochrane is the only character to utter the phrase "star trek" in the franchise, which he does in First Contact, although Q does use the phrase "trek through the stars" in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale, "All Good Things...". The prospect of somehow working the phrase "star trek" into the franchise had been a secret fantasy of Rick Berman's for about the past eight years, but had proven challenging to carry out due to the oddness of the phrase. Brannon Braga offered, "We went round and round about that, [contemplating] whether it should just be 'trek,' 'star journey' [or something else]." (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) James Cromwell was conscious of whether the line sounded like a natural or intentional reference, stating, "Hopefully it came out [...] as, you know, searching for an idea." Cromwell believed that Cochrane saying the line while in a forested area helped make the reference sound natural, interesting and somewhat fitting. ("The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane" documentary featurette, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray) However, audience response to the line, when the film was exhibited in movie theaters, was not only sometimes laughter but also occasionally groans. (audio commentary, Star Trek: First Contact Special Edition/Blu-ray)
In the novelization of "Metamorphosis" (as adapted by James Blish in Star Trek 7), Cochrane makes mention of having been on Vulcan and professes, "I was always pretty much of a loner. Spent years in space by myself." After Spock outlines that he has concluded the Companion's homeworld was once a moon of some now-destroyed larger celestial body and was colonized by a highly advanced civilization, Cochrane agrees and attests that he has found some artifacts that corroborate these theories.
In the novelization of First Contact, it was suggested that Cochrane's alcoholism was not his only issue. He also suffered from bipolar disorder, a condition that had been treated with a cerebral implant that delivered the necessary medications. After World War III, however, Cochrane was unable to find either a way to refill the implant, nor a suitable replacement, so he took to self-medicating with alcohol. The crew of the Enterprise-E was able to stabilize his condition enough for him to complete his work on the Phoenix, and Beverly Crusher cured the disorder permanently, shortly before returning to the Enterprise.
In addition, this novelization specifies that Cochrane was born in the year 2013, as opposed to 2030 or 2032, which would be more consistent with actor James Cromwell's real-life age and countenance in the film.
The reasoning for Cochrane having a far more weathered and older mien than his natural age would suggest has often been given in non-canon literature (most notably the Pocket Books novel Federation) as being a result of him suffering from radiation poisoning.
The novel First Frontier divulges that Cochrane accidentally stumbled on the secrets of the warp drive and that he was originally looking for something else, though it is never indicated what he was looking for, exactly.