How Leonard Nimoy Fought for This Legendary Actor’s Part on ‘Star Trek’

Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Christopher Lloyd as Kruge on ‘Star Trek III.’

Paramount Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Christopher Lloyd as Kruge on ‘Star Trek III.’

From about 1985, Christopher Lloyd became a beloved actor the world over. Thanks to his role of Doc Brown in “Back to the Future” and its sequels, Lloyd was an official star. Before that, he was a well-thought-of actor, known for his role on the sitcom “Taxi.” On the show, Lloyd portrayed “Reverend Jim” Ignatowski, who was like a Kramer or Steve Urkel character. Craziness happened when Reverend Jim was on screen, and laughter certainly followed. 

So when it came time for Lloyd to take on the part of Kruge in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” in 1983, there was a little convincing he had to do. Interestingly, it was Spock, or rather Leonard Nimoy, who went to bat for him when others had misgivings. 

Lloyd and Shatner’s Relationship

In a recent online interview between Lloyd and William Shatner, the duo revealed that they met for the first time when filming “Star Trek III.”

“Chris and I have had close visions of each other in two very separated items,” said Shatner on the GalaxyCon panel, which was recorded on May 8, 2021. Shatner and Lloyd were together talking about their “Star Trek” experience, but also their time together filming “Senior Moment.”

“In 1983, we met on the set,” said Shatner. “And then 37 years later, we met again in a car. I don’t remember the first thing we did together for ‘Senior Moment.’”

Shatner said that in between their two meetings, Lloyd had gone onto wonderful things while he “languished.” 

In his book, “Star Trek Movie Memories,” Shatner said that Lloyd felt like an “outsider” when he first joined the cast of “Star Trek III.” Shatner said that after a while, Lloyd did become more comfortable working with the Trek crew.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Shatner wrote. 

Leonard and Lloyd

Since Leonard Nimoy was at the helm of “Star Trek III,” he was involved in many of the tough decisions for the film. Among them was casting Robin Curtis as Saavik, replacing the popular actress Kirstie Alley

Another choice which Nimoy was involved with was casting the Klingon Kruge, the main bad guy who would stand in the way of Kirk from helping his friend. This character was a serious baddie and needed to be feared just like Khan was in “Star Trek II.”

Lloyd as Kruge seemed to work for most moviegoers. Kruge is even ranked as the eighth-best villain in “Star Trek” movies by Buzzfeed. But when Lloyd was cast in the role, the brass at Paramount had some second thoughts because of his part on “Taxi.” Nimoy did not see it their way. 

“Christopher Lloyd was just an absolute thrill to work with — a comedian actor if there ever was one,” said Nimoy in an interview included on the “Star Trek III” Blu-ray disc. “This is a guy who can really change persona/character from one performance to another.”

When Lloyd came into read for the part, Nimoy was not worried at all that the “Taxi” actor would do a great job.

Christopher Lloyd on ‘Taxi’

“I went to Harve Bennett’s office and said ‘He’s a comedian — he can do it,’” said Nimoy. Bennett was the executive producer on the film, which was the same role he had on “Star Trek II,” “IV,” and “V.”

“There was some concern … which I recognized,” said Nimoy. “The concern was, well, won’t people think he’s funny because of the character that he played in ‘Taxi?’ He was so brilliantly, wonderfully funny.”

“I said, you know I’m not the kind of guy … I’m not the person you should be talking about typecasting issues because I’ve had my share of those,” Nimoy said with a chuckle.

Nimoy said that it worked and that Lloyd was “wonderful.”

“[Lloyd] brought the power and the authority that [the part] needed,” said Nimoy.

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