Why Was William Shatner’s Scene in ‘Star Trek’ 2009 Cut?

Leonard Nimoy (L) and William Shatner (R) promote the "Star Trek" 40th Anniversary on the TV Land network at the Four Seasons hotel August 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Leonard Nimoy (L) and William Shatner (R) promote the "Star Trek" 40th Anniversary on the TV Land network at the Four Seasons hotel August 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.

Leonard Nimoy, also known as Mr. Spock, was the only member of the “Star Trek: The Original Series” cast to appear in J.J. Abrams’ film reboot of the franchise. He appeared in both “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”

However, Nimoy wasn’t supposed to be the only TOS cast member in “Star Trek.” Nimoy’s TOS costar, William Shatner, was also supposed to be in the film. However, the scene written for him was cut from the final draft of the script.

A lot of drama preceded and followed that decision. Here’s the rundown.


Shatner Really Wanted to be in the Movie

William Shatner speaks from the stage at the second edition of the multi-genre entertainment comic and fan convention 'Comic Con Africa' in Johannesburg on September 21, 2019

Michele Spatari/Getty Images

Shortly after Abrams revealed that he’d be working on a reboot starring the TOS characters in 2006, Shatner made it clear that he wanted to be part of the project. In an interview on “Extra,” as reported by CinemaBlend, Shatner said that he’d be willing to do the movie if Abrams asked him to be a part of the project.

According to a fan, during an appearance at a Creation Entertainment convention in Secaucus, New Jersey just a few months later, Shatner said that Abrams was “committed to having Leonard and I, Leonard and me, in the film.” He also said that he’d met with Abrams about the project less than a month prior to that appearance.

In June 2007, two of the movie’s producers told  MTV News that the production team was interested in having Shatner in the movie. A few months later, another one of the movie’s producers told his hometown newspaper, Savannah Now, that the production team was still hoping to get Shatner to sign on.

By that point, however, the drama over Shatner’s inclusion in the film had already begun.


Nimoy Told Shatner That he Didn’t Have a Part

Leonard Nimoy at the "Star Trek" 2009 premiere

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In July of 2007, TrekMovie reported that Shatner publicly revealed he wouldn’t be in Abrams’ “Star Trek” film during an episode of his video blog, ShatnerVision, which has since been canceled. Rumors about Shatner’s exclusion from the movie had been circulating for a few months, and Shatner finally confirmed them in that video blog.

According to the outlet, Shatner found out that he wouldn’t be included in the movie during a phone call with Nimoy. Nimoy told Shatner that he’d read the script for Abrams’ “Star Trek” film. Shatner asked if he was in the script. After a long pause, Nimoy said he wasn’t. In the video blog, Shatner said he was upset about the entire situation.

In an interview with TrekMovie a few months later, Nimoy said that reports of how “furious” Shatner was over the situation were greatly exaggerated.

“We spoke on the phone. I had read the script and he asked me if he was in it and I said ‘no.’ And that is pretty much the way it went. You are right he jokes a lot and he said something like ‘I reached through the phone and grabbed him by the throat’ and that sort of thing, but that is just Bill. I know that he is disappointed… I was with Bill in Philidelphia last weekend and that Bill was disappointed that as of now he is not in the film. He was reported as being ‘furious’ and that is not accurate at all. I think he is appropriately disappointed, but I think he has come to a kind of understanding.”

Nimoy also said that he’d spoken to Abrams about Shatner not being included, but that it was “not up to me.”

“I have no idea what J.J.’s plans are and I know that J.J. said that they are still trying to find a way to put him in the movie, but I am not the person to talk to about that.”

So, even after Shatner announced that he was not offered a role in the movie, the production team was still trying to find a way to put him in.


Shatner Put Paramount on Blast

star trek actors

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

A few months after his announcement on ShatnerVision, Shatner told the Associated Press that he definitely wasn’t going to be in the film. He revealed that he’d had some meetings with the production team, but confirmed that nothing came of those meetings.

Shatner also made it clear that he thought excluding him was a really bad idea.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’m not in the movie at all. Leonard, God bless his heart, is in, but not me. I thought, what a decision to make, since it obviously is a decision not to make use of the popularity I have to ensure the movie has good box office. It didn’t seem to be a wise business decision.”

He continued, reiterating his disappointment: “Having been in on the creation of it, I was hoping to be in on the re-creation.”


Abrams Put a Stop to the Rumors

J.J. Abrams attends the 'Star Trek' Germany premiere on April 16, 2009 in Berlin, Germany

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The battle between “Star Trek’s” production team and Shatner played out over the next year. In August 2008, IGN reported that Abrams clearly confirmed that Shatner would not be in the movie during a press conference. He also revealed that Nimoy was the only original cast member in his “Star Trek.

In an interview with AMC about a month later, Abrams revealed more details, including the fact that there was a scene written for Shatner.

“We actually had written a scene with him in it that was a flashback kind of thing, but the truth is, it didn’t quite feel right. The bigger thing was that he was very vocal that he didn’t want to do a cameo. We tried desperately to put him in the movie, but he was making it very clear that he wanted the movie to focus on him significantly, which, frankly, he deserves. The truth is, the story that we were telling required a certain adherence to the Trek canon and consistency of storytelling. It’s funny — a lot of the people who were proclaiming that he must be in this movie were the same people saying it must adhere to canon. Well, his character died on screen. Maybe a smarter group of filmmakers could have figured out how to resolve that.”

So, the production team did make a concerted effort to get Shatner in the film, but it didn’t work out.


The Cut Scene


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In 2009, TrekMovie got its hands on the scene the writers crafted for Shatner. It would have taken place when Prime Spock met Kelvin Spock for the first time. In that scene, Prime Spock assured Kelvin Spock that he and Captain Kirk would become good friends. When Kelvin Spock met that revelation with skepticism, Prime Spock would have pulled out a holo-recording of Prime Kirk.

The holo-recording showed a quick message from Prime Kirk. He sang Happy Birthday to Prime Spock and wished him good luck on his next mission. The message ended with Kirk saying how much he missed his friend.

The scene would have been very quick if it had been included in the movie, lending credence to Abrams’ assertion that Shatner didn’t want to just have a quick cameo.

Shatner never did make it into any of the Abrams “Star Trek” movies. In fact, he hasn’t played Captain Kirk since the character’s death in “Star Trek: Generations.”

Shatner has said that he’d be willing to come back in one of the new “Star Trek” shows, but insisted that his appearance must make sense in canon and be interesting for fans. He has, however, shot down rumors that he’ll be in Abrams’ upcoming “Star Trek 4.”

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