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Director David Carson had the ignoble duty of being the man who had to shoot the death scene James T. Kirk, twice. In a new interview the Star Trek: Generations director talks about how he fought the studio, trying to at least give the icon Kirk the proper send off. Excerpts below.
Carson on shooting (and reshooting) the death of Kirk
Speaking to the official Star Trek site, David Carson recalled his thoughts on shooting (and then reshooting) the death of James T. Kirk in Star Trek Generations:
Kirk was to be shot in the back. What was written and what was accepted by the studio and the producers was never acceptable as far as I was concerned. I mean, here’s this great icon. This Captain Kirk is an icon. He means a lot to people. So to have him die in an ignominious way, when you’re shooting in this incredible mountain area… I fought for that not to happen, but lost the battle. And when we were out on the set I remember that Bill and Patrick and I called the studio to say, “Please, can we not do this? Can we do something else? Let’s stay here. Let’s re-write it.” Because we didn’t feel it was going to work. They did it as well as they could, but frankly, shooting somebody in the back on a narrow ledge on a mountainside is not the most dramatic way for someone to die, especially when the baddie, Malcolm McDowell, also got shot. So it was like an antiquated gunfight, if you like.
Of course Carson was right and the ending with Kirk being shot in the back tested poorly and the studio ordered a rewrite and reshoot of the scene. Carson explains the process:
So we shot for another two weeks, which cost a huge amount of money, and it was so disruptive of the final process. Dennis McCarthy, who wrote the score, wrote the score for the whole movie up to that point. He had 10 minutes to add and was waiting, waiting for us to finish editing it. However, I will say that the reshoots were very exciting. The crew loved doing it because it was such an action ending and much more fitting for Kirk. Captain Kirk’s death now meant something. Before, being shot in the back, it meant absolutely nothing. This time he really saved the day. So it was well worthwhile in the end, I think.
For those that haven’t seen it, here is rough video of the original version of the Kirk death scene in Star Trek: Generations.