A few days ago we had Douglas Trumbull talking about "saving" Star Trek: The Motion Picture and now in a new interview George Takei is talking about how that first Trek feature was "in trouble from the start." Listen to Takei talk about TMP, failed Paramount salary negotiations and more below.
Takei Talks Star Trek: TMP Troubles & Paramount Salary Negotiations
Yesterday George Takei was the guest on for KCRW Radio’s "The Business," a show about the film and TV business in LA. The show is hosted by Kim Masters, a veteran entertainment industry journalist. After talking about his new documentary "To Be Takei," Masters brought up the subject of the troubles with making Star Trek: The Motion Picture and also how cast members were paid in the subsequent films. Here is the exchange.
Masters: So going back in time, I wrote quite a bit about the first Star Trek movie…There was a lot of dysfunction in the Star Trek family. Originally they didn’t include Spock and Leonard Nimoy had big issues with Paramount, I think they were in litigation. There were also problems with Gene Roddenberry and they brought in Harold Livingston to write the script and the two of them were at war with each other. I read, and I think I even wrote myself, about how Livingston would write his version of the script and then Gene Roddenberry at one point was intercepting the pages and substituting his own and you guys in the cast didn’t know what was what with that at the beginning of the movie.
Takei: We did not and we kept getting rewrites after rewrites and the first film we had the most difficulties with. We were in trouble from the beginning and it went way over budget and way over schedule and that’s when Paramount said there is going to be no more Star Trek films made – this was it…but when it opened, bless their hearts, the Trekkies all lined up in front of the box office and they made it a profitable film and so the green ugly head of greed came up at the front office and they decided they will do another one, but that is when Leonard [Nimoy] came into play. He said this is going to be the only one – The Wrath of Khan – he will not do Spock any more because it was affecting his career. So he made them agree and had them write it into his contract that his character would be killed off at the end of Wrath of Khan and he was indeed killed off, but Nick Meyer, the writer, managed to slip in one little bit before he gets killed off. He touches
Dr. McCoy and shares a very cryptic line "remember, remember" and then he goes into that radiation chamber. And it turns out that was the key, and because Wrath of Khan became a box office bonanza for Paramount, they wanted to do another Star Trek film. But he had been killed off.
Masters: So they brought him back. It is the Hollywood way.
Takei: Well he was enticed with remuneration. And that is when we discovered that Bill had written into his contract that if any other actor should be remunerated more than him, his will go up to equal that.
Masters: Did the rest of the cast find out and say ‘if they are getting this, then we should have that?’
Takei: We did. And unsuccessfully.
Masters: Well those were tough guys in those days. Barry Diller and Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg. Tough customers
Takei: Yes they were tough guys, yes.
Takei’s recollection of some of these events differs from Leonard Nimoy’s. Here is what Nimoy had to say back in 1986 in an interview with Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.
For years the Hollywood community has continued to nurse the rumor that Nimoy was sick and tired of putting on his pointy ears and playing the Vulcan. In fact, after Spock died at the end of Star Trek II, Nimoy met with Michael Eisner — then president of Paramount, the studio that releases the Star Trek movies — to lobby for a chance to direct III. “I can`t understand how you can ask me to do this,“ the perplexed Eisner reportedly said. “How can you ask me to give you control of a $16 million Star Trek feature when you hate it? You hate it so much you had yourself killed off!“
Nimoy denies these enduring reports. “There has never been a Star Trek project I haven`t been a part of, and yet there is this persistent notion that I have refused to do Star Trek or that I have rejected it in some way,“ he says. “There`s some kind of strange anomaly going on here, right?“
You can listen to the full interview below where Takei talks about "To Be Takei" his social media popularity and more.