George Takei Talks ‘Troubled’ Star Trek: TMP & (non Nimoy/Shatner) Cast Failed Salary Negotiations


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.

Nimoy’s Take

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.

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Let’s be honest: The main three should all have been making more than the others. Takei has never been more than a bit player in Star Trek.

“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.”

Really smart of Shatner. He is quite a business man and Takei sounds jealous.

And the Paramount guys were also smart business people. Obviously Takei and the others did the movies without a pay increase. The Paramount bosses probably thought that their acting careers weren’t running so well, that they will say no to appearing in a cinema movie and probably still getting decently paid for it.

I think Takei is repeating some slight misinformation that had been making the rounds for many years.

First, it was Meyer and/or Sowards who approached Nimoy about killing off Spock, not the other way around. They wanted to do something like the killing of Janet Leigh’s character in Psycho — a sudden death early in the film. (That plan got changed when news of the death of Spock was leaked.) Nimoy was intrigued and agreed to the the movie. The rumour that he has this written into his contract almost prevented him from directing TSFS.

Second, if I recall correctly, the “favoured nation” clause in Shatner’s and Nimoy’s contracts goes back to STTMP at least.

I thought Meyers said he was upset with the inclusion at the end of the casket on the planet. He always intended for Spock to stay dead.

Takei sounds confused..

Not only is this stuff business, it’s business as usual. I seriously doubt you’d find many other high profile projects without their share of amazing contract clauses. Hell, if a star is pulling in bucks, they can get everything from all-green M&Ms to their choice of interior in the limo. I had always heard that Nimoy wanted to direct and tied that in. I think Meyer and Nimoy worked out the “remember, remember” way out for Spock’s resurrection.

Anyway… It’s so nice to hear George reminisce without totally trashing Shat.

Hey Staff

Fix Spelling of Doug Trumbull, please.

Anyway… It’s so nice to hear George reminisce without totally trashing Shat.

Oh, nevermind. But, she did drag it out of him.

This is utter BS, Nimoy has specifically denied again and again that he insisted that Spock be killed in TWOK, he has invited those making the claim to personally inspect his contract on more than one occasion to see with their own eyes that there is no such notation present in the contract whatsoever. I would have hoped that Takei would at least not bring up debunked rumors from decades ago.

@3 @8 BINGO!!! Kudos for posting the straight scoop..

I remember watching a video of Nimoy wherein he rather *vehemently* denied all of these “urban legends” that have been running rampant about him and his portrayal of Spock during the TOS Movie era. I remember him telling a story about attending a party where I believe then-Paramount pres Michael Eisner was in attendance, and overhearing him tell some story that “Nimoy demanded X, Y, and Z in his contract to do Khan”, and he *confronted him* about it (that it was not true). Said something on the order of “Mike, you’ve got my contracts. You go find any of them that say any such thing! They don’t!”

Nimoy wasn’t interested in doing the revamped TV series Paramount wanted to do as an anchor for their abortive 4th TV network, so they brought in the character “Xon” as his replacement. When the brass at Paramount saw Star Wars blow the doors off the box office, they scrapped the TV idea and made it a movie, which meant all the contracts had to be reworked – and since there wasn’t one with Nimoy, the story became “Nimoy won’t do new Trek movie.” But that’s not quite how it rolled out.

I am surprised that the tinfoil in the radar would get spun around like this from one of the original crew.

I have little faith in much of what George Takei says about his time doing Star Trek. He has proven for so long that his anger, envy and jealousy are what seem to drive him for many years and what has become an evil has clouded his memory and judgment.

I’ve been rewatching TOS from the beginning on Netflix, and I’m surprised to find that when Sulu’s not on the bridge/ in an episode (which is a fair amount), I don’t really notice the absence.

George was a bit player — it’s great that he got to be in the movies. But I think conventions really warped his idea of his importance (All this “Bill was the star and he knew it” crap, all this insider information that he didn’t really have, the Vulcan salutes in every photo, the delusion that Sulu would have his own series).

This is sounding meaner than I intend. it was essential that there be multiple nationalities on the bridge and Takei played Sulu as serious, dignified and competent. And he’s been a good voice for lgbt rights. And I’m thrilled his career is doing well again. I just wish he’d realize that he’s got more going or him than the same three TOS stories and gripes about Shatner.

The Takei bitterness is getting so very old. I’m very sorry for him.

So that’s what it’s about, George? You’re pissed off because your agent didn’t get you a contract that matched Shatner’s and Nimoy’s money?

Everyone had their favorite Beatle. And also, I think, Rosdenberry’s original idea for Star Trek would have many different characters in focus, not the triumvirate. So GT might be wishing that ST emerged. But it really never did– even in Abrams trek which has an all star cast. GT might be thinking of a trek that might have been. That’s one thing a new series could do more easily now.

Takei also got the genesis of the Spock “remember” scene wrong. It wasn’t Nick Meyer who came up with the “remember” bit; it was Harve Bennett who approached Nimoy about doing something during that scene to give them a possible way to bring Spock back (Nimoy referred to the incident as Bennett throwing him a lifeline). Meyer was adamantly against the “remember” line being inserted as he felt it cheapened Spock’s sacrifice. Luckily, he was overruled.

Suggest re-filing under “yawn…”

Takei thought he should get the same money as Shatner and Nimoy?


(wipes tear)

Yeah, like that was EVER going to happen.

If he had asked, he would have heard the answer used all the time in Hollywood………………NEXT!

Takei loves secretly Shatner. FACT!

@13 I don’t think George and the others(Doohan,Koenig and Nichols) expected to be paid at the same rate as Shatner,Nimoy and Kelley, but you cant blame them for trying to get a bigger paycheck. The studio was probably ready to proceed without them, they had limited leverage and poor career prospects so whatever they got was better than nothing.

This is NOT true. Leonard Nimoy did NOT write it into his contract that Spock would be killed off in TWOK. It wasn’t even his idea to have Spock die — it was Harve Bennet’s idea — and Spock’s death was never in his contract.

See Mr. Nimoy’s autobiography, “I Am Spock,” page 180 and pp 220 – 221.

Shame on you, George Takei, for spreading lies; my opinion of you just went WAY down.

Honestly, if it was only Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly and Doohan, I would have been perfectly happy. I had no affection for or interest in the other characters and frankly grow weary of hearing of them. Nothing about them was interesting or memorable. The big 3 plus Scotty WERE Star Trek. The others were fungible bit players, and sadly, far less skillful than many supporting actors in other projects.

To the grammar police, my apologies. I should have said “if it WERE on Shatner . . .”

Jimmy Doohan said that he held out for a half-mil for the last movie because he was having health problems and that money was going to have to last them a long time. So many times TOS comes across as first-season Gilligan’s Island, with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and The Rest.

I agree with the feeling that Takei seems not to be able to come to grips with the fact that he simply wasn’t as important to Star Trek as Shatner (and Nimoy, but Shatner is clearly the object of his ire.

I’ve seen and heard the same sort of resentment/self-delusion from Nichols and Koenig, but they, at least, seem to have finally been able to accept the way of things and let it go. And the way of things is that the entertainment biz is an exemplar of capitalism. Your perceived value in terms of bringing in revenue informs your contract, and your contract dictates your pay. And, having seen plenty of Nichols, Koenig and Takei hard at work in Trek over the years, God bless them, but they simply were not as compelling as Shatner. Not by a long shot. And that’s as nicely as I can put it.

Takei, you really need to get over it, dude. You’re extremely lucky to have had a second act to your career in which you are more famous and influential than ever. Be grateful for what you have, as it’s a hell of a lot more than most people have, and get a grip on your ego already.

Disappointing for George to be persisting stories he was not party to that are inaccurate for both Nimoy and Meyer. Especially when they have both told first hand accounts for years.

My friends, you are forgetting something very important. It was Harve Bennett who was the guiding force behind Star Trek 2 and 3. After Gene Roddenberry almost sunk the franchise out of the starting gate with the bloated, sterile and unsatisfying Star Trek 1. Harve Bennett resurrected the franchise. Meyer’s Star Trek 2 script and direction were instrumental to that movies success. Nimoy directed Star Trek 3 and 4 but really established himself and his overall influence and control while directing Star Trek 4. Nimoy clashed with Bennett’s style of Producing during 4. Shatner’s Star Trek 5 was a successful disaster. If Paramount wanted to sabotage and completely destroy the Star Trek movie franchise, this was the movie that accomplished that. But I don’t blame Shatner for this. Paramount should have never approved Shatner’s script. Nimoy was back in charge for Star Trek 6. Which was one of the best. I didn’t like Generations and the way they dispatched Kirk. On the other hand, First Contact was an excellent movie. Now, JJ Abrams has turned it all around and made Star Trek relevant again. Thank You JJ!

I remember from the first Star Trek Memories book that Shatner said he had a favorite nation clause; it looks like it carried through the movies as well.

I honestly don’t know what gripe the bottom 3 have. Frankly, they rode Shatner’s coattails. Even Nimoy says that Shatner’s energetic portray of Kirk is what carried Trek for all those years. Without Shatner, those three would be doing local theater on the weekends between shifts at the hardware store.

FWIW Shatner is literally on record in the 2-Disc DVD extras of TWoK as not believing either Harve or Leonard in regards to the whole “genesis” of Spock’s resurrection. He believes the both of them conspired and knew from the git go in the scripting process of what became TWoK that the Spock character wasn’t “really” going to be allowed to die. And talk about your hurt egos: he goes on to say he’s always harbored a resentment that neither one to the day of the filming of his interview as come clean about it.

I never watched a show to see Sulu – heck they never even bothered to give him a first name in TOS!

That lever on the helm console looks like the shifter from my Honda Civic. I almost expect it to have “P-R-N-D-2-1” embossed on the left side.

Oh George. Just let it bloody go. Dear oh dear.

Drama queen strikes again.

#18 – Actually I have always wondered why Takei’s antipathy towards Shatner was so strong and obviously persistent. When Takei came out about his homosexuality, then it seemed to become a bit clearer. I really do think this may be about unrequited *love* and is underpinning everything else.

Shatner was never his and could never be. Perhaps Takei may have revealed that aspect of himself to Shatner way back and was (cruelly) rejected. This is, of course, conjecture but it could explain much.

Takei needs to let it ALL go. He is coming across as a bit of sick puppy – rather sad.

#14 – Do you have any source for what you are suggesting – that GR’s original idea was for an ensemble show instead of one about the top 3?

Because I am reading These Are The Voyages, I have read the old copies of the Writer’s Bible, and many other books over the past 40 years about the making of Trek, and don’t recall this was ever an intention for TOS.

George should have permanently been put on “ignore” by everyone many years ago. The supporting cast folks on TV shows and film get paid less than the stars now, just like forever. If they’re any good at all, they rise above that. If not, they wind up better off than being a whiny guy for 40+ years like Mr. Tacky.

Max Baer Jr. was typecast as Jethro on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and eventually beat it by working hard and writing and starring in his own film (MACON COUNTY LINE – 1974). He wrote the movie while portraying Jethro, much of it was notes he wrote on the back of HILLBILLIES scripts.

Max made millions on this one effort. Shut up George and just go away with a tiny bit of grace if you can.

#34: I vaguely remember someone saying it was supposed to be “Wagon Train to the Stars,” which I guess means it was supposed to be an ensemble show. In fact, I think Nichols said that she had that conversation with Roddenberry prior to taking the role. However, he may have just been saying that to get her in the sack; I recall she said that her prominent role never materialized the way she understood it would.

It’s been years since I read this stuff, but maybe someone here could help me articulate this a little better by providing a reference?

Cripes, he couldn’t get through even a single interview without bringing up Shatner? I know he’s not slagging him off as usual, but given his track record, even the mere mention of Shatner seems to have some vitriol behind it. He needs to get over the fact that he was a secondary character. He didn’t even appear in most of an entire season. That’s not to say that his presence didn’t add anything to the show, but Shatner, Nimoy, & Kelley were the stars. That he goes around presenting himself as the Star Trek ambassador (complete with Vulcan salute) is kinda sad.

all I can say:

I love the original cast. And I love how professional they all were as I was watching these movies as a fan, with no idea about their inner workings.

It is their very professionalism that always s made me think of these movies as true ensembles.

You almost got it right, but you were off by an iteration. It wasn’t phase 2 that got cancelled because of STAR WARS, it was PLANET OF THE TITANS, the far more interesting feature film attempt for TREK by Phil Kaufman. Phase 2 came about because Paramount realized Fox had beaten them to the punch, with STAR WARS cashing in on all the SF goodwill built up by TREK reruns and blueprints and tech manuals on bestseller lists.

Trek turned back into a feature movie because they couldn’t get the ‘fourth network’ idea off the ground and because when Eisner heard the pitch for IN THY IMAGE, he thought the threat to earth was a feature-sized idea (yeah, whatever.)

@boborci – thanks for that! Keep up the great work!

#37 – There is truth to what you say, otherwise I doubt we would be even talking about this 1960’s sci-fi TV series 48 years later.

Personally, I find I do not care much about what happened or happens behind the scenes so much. There will always be some in-fighting, egos being bruised, disappointments, frustration, anger. However, what is important is the quality of the final product and the fact that all players have managed to still be in one piece to provide more quality product.

I do know that the TOS cast did have some fun making the series. If only I could read more about that side of behind-the-scenes memories. It is simply not healthy to continue to linger on the not so good moments, problems and difficulties sometimes had with inter-personal relationships.

Two of the original cast members have already passed away and Leonard Nimoy is very sick. It is time to let go of vengeful thoughts and behaviour. All we have is time, and for some, not as much time as others have…

“12th power?!?!?”

Saw the image, couldn’t resist.

I remember as a kid and hearing the rumer that Spock would die. I was so hoping that would not happen. I remember seeing it the first time and at the opening whne Spock appeared to die in the Kobioshi Maru test I thought that the wool was pulled over us and I relaxed and of course at the end he did die.

Now for the mooney aspect. Takei and the others were not the main stars. The Shat and Nimoy and Kelley were and always will be the main three. The rest are support players albit great support players.

i remember shat kept hiding nimoys bicycle that nimoy used to tool around paramount…that had to be some of the lighter moments….
methinks sometimes that some protesteth too mucheth…in my opinion its ok if grorge t has different memories of what happened behind the scenes…tell a story so many times it can become the truth at least to georges memory…thats ok to me….out of the few stars my gf sheri and i met at the only trek con we have been able to attend so far, only george was polite, gregarious, hilarious, friendly even caring…after he met us during a celeb breakfast, later in the day we posed for a pix with george, nicol and walter, and only he remembered us from the breakfast saying i remember you both, we had breakfast together, hello again…and sheri is handicapped as such rather shy and we both will always remember mr takeis much kindness to us…he never seemed bitter or negative to us…the opposite in fact…and agree with bob orci….the professionalism of the entire cast always hown through brightly in both the tv series and movies…

I remember reading Shatner has made way more off his Priceline commercials than he ever did with Trek. That’s funny. And IMO bringing Spick back for Trek 3 was a mistake. It DID cheapen his death in WOK, and it would have been a great opportunity to shake things up by bringing in Xon or another character to take his place.

44. Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire

I recall that as well. Spocks Koby death did seem to put me at ease for mst of the film. But as I watched, I began to suspect that something was soon to happen to our favorite Vulcan.

This was a singular experience for me at the movies. Not actually knowing that something this significant was about to occur. Good job Nicholas and everyone else inolved.

That is probably will never happen again. Especially with the internet these days!

The actors like to keep the ball bouncing so when they are asked the same questions, that’s what they do. They’re not angry, bitter, bit part players, they’re an important part of a sci fi legend and I will always be in awe of every one of them.

I personally prefer the early episodes that had more of an ensemble feel to them and if anybody has a right to feel bitter, it’s Grace. She was the lead female and they totally screwed up her character and treated the actress very badly. In the CotEoF comic, the original script painted Rand more like a competent, gun-toting asset to the crew rather than a mushy-eyed coffee-delivering secretary.

Please Bob Orci – tell somebody to give that poor woman the role she deserves in NuTrek 3. She should have been in the series and in the reboot from start to finish!

Get over it, George… Best lines you ever had weren’t even in “Star Trek”… You had more lines in “The Geen Berets” as CPT Nim than you had in 79 episodes of TOS…

“competent, gun-toting asset to the crew rather than a mushy-eyed coffee-delivering secretary.”

Funny how “gun-toting” is seen as an asset but someone who provides sustenance for another is not… I always thought that Yeoman Rand was a competent member of the Enterprise crew.

I guess this is how women are seen in this male orientated sexist society. Those who provide are nullified, but those who gun-tote are everything. UGH!