Why Shatner can’t be Kirk anymore

The most likely reason that J.J. Abrams doesn’t want William Shatner in the new Star Trek movie (despite having hired Leonard Nimoy to make an appearance as Spock) isn’t hard to figure. Ever since playing an amusingly wackjob version of himself in Robert Burnett‘s Free Enterprise nine years ago, Shatner has basically been a self-satirizing comic figure — the older eccentric actor who doesn’t realize (and wouldn’t care if he did realize) that he’s completely insane. This persona has paid off for Shatner in numerous ways, but one of the offshoots of the nutter persona has been the surrendering of the authority and heroic gravitas that he once had when his name and face were synonymous with Cpt. James Kirk.

  • DarthCorleone

    As a Shatner fan and a Trek fan, I understand what you mean and agree to some extent. But I think Shatner could be Kirk convincingly again if the chips were down. Even if he seems like a wackjob, he has a great sense of humor about himself and can still do the solemn thing convincingly. Witness his recent roast and his album Has Been, respectively.

    The bigger problem is that Kirk is dead. They killed him off in the seventh movie, and I suspect Abrams is treating that like canon. The older Spock Nimoy plays in this upcoming movie wouldn’t make sense paired with a back-from-the-grave Kirk. Granted, they could do all sorts of time-travel silliness to get around that, but I doubt they want to unravel the logic of the story already presented, even if the seventh movie was not that good.

  • T. Holly

    You didn’t have to get so nasty, you could’ve just said it opens without him next December.


  • I love The Shat, but exactly. Can you imagine if Leslie Nielsen had played the rapist in Nuts after The Naked Gun? Reaction would have been slightly different.

  • Ian Sinclair

    I can’t think of any album we have played that has been so enjoyed by friends as Shatner’s HAS BEEN. Everyone adores it.

  • Wrecktum

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s totally ignore Shatner’s Emmy nominated role on Boston Legal and only discuss the funny stuff.

    If Wells knew anything about the Shat (which he obviously doesn’t based on this incoherent post) he would know the most likely reason for a Shatner holdout is that the payday isn’t big enough. Gotta keep those horsies fed!

  • Mike Schaefer

    “shatner” is the past tense of “shitner”.

    And let’s not forget those fabulous Priceline commercials.

  • NV
  • RoyBatty

    Only thing is, if they are putting Nimoy in, it has to be assumed that he is simply playing an older version of himself and the plot itself is some sort of remembering the salad days fresh out of Star Fleet.

    Which is to say, I guess they could have put Kirk in had they wanted. But if you read his comments about not being offered any role, Shatner really does come off as the ego-maniac that Ellison and others have stated he is for 40 years.

    Could be that Abrams just didn’t want to have to deal with him.

    As far as the movie itself, their casting is all over the place. Great choice for Spock, but then crappy ones for Scotty and Chekov.

  • Griff

    Being completely insane is a large part of his charm now. He’s old enough, hurt enough, and maybe financially secure enough to not care. Although, as Jeff notes, it does affect his ability to be the Captain.

  • Drew


    Leslie Nielsen did play the rapist in NUTS after AIRPLANE and POLICE SQUAD! had already demolished his serious reputation.

    And NUTS was fucking hilarious. Leslie Nielsen in black bikini underwear kicking the ever-lovin’ shit out of Streisand? What’s not funny about that?

  • berkguru

    I cant stand Shatner. He is a fat annoying frog-faced buffoon and a 3rd rate actor. Glad to see he is not involved.

  • EDouglas

    Right, that must be why Shatner has been nominated for Emmy Awards four years in a row (winning two of them) because he’s “completely insane.” I think Shatner should consider himself lucky that he’s not involved with what is sure to be an abomination of a movie going by those cast so far.

  • frank delsa

    I think the script calls for time-travel, which is why old Spock meets the young one (and the others).
    I also heard that the fact there’s no old Kirk, therefore no Shat, is actually a plot point, but I don’t know how credible it is as an info.

    However, I agree, William Shatner is wonderful as Denny Crane.

  • BurmaShave

    Emmy winning role actually. Two, one for THE PRACTICE, one for BOSTON LEGAL. Denny Crane!

  • D.Z.

    Give him a break, Jeff. His wife died.


    Shatner winning an Emmy award for his ridiculously hammy work is just another example of the Emmys being a complete joke.

    I bet the thought of putting him in the new flick never even crossed Abrams mind and rightfully so.

  • If you’ve watched Boston Legal on a regular basis, you would see that Denny Crane is a blowhard, self parody of his younger self and is loving life because of it.

    Shat has never been a great actor, but he created one great character in Kirk. If Kirk can be taken seriously after T.J. Hooker, he can be taken seriously after Denny Crane.

    But Spock lived to meet Picard in TNG, so he could be alive for a bookend. They killed Shatner in canon horribly. Should have waited for an even numbered movie to kill the man called Kirk.

    Yes, I am a geek.

  • “Leslie Nielsen did play the rapist in NUTS after AIRPLANE and POLICE SQUAD! had already demolished his serious reputation.”

    Nielsen had a small role in Airplane!, and hardly anyone saw “Police Squad” until The Naked Gun was a hit. He wasn’t a household name at all until 1988.

  • Mgmax

    “Right, that must be why Shatner has been nominated for Emmy Awards four years in a row (winning two of them) because he’s “completely insane.”

    Marlon Brando won an Oscar for The Godfather, and he was batshit crazy.

    “Nielsen had a small role in Airplane!, and hardly anyone saw “Police Squad” until The Naked Gun was a hit. He wasn’t a household name at all until 1988.”

    Yeah, that’s why everyone went around saying “And don’t call me Shirley” after Airplane. I knew Frank Drebin, I worked with Frank Drebin, and you sir, are no Frank Drebin.

  • fnt

    Here is my utter guess:

    Kirk is dead. An old Spock thinks back to their earliest days together: hence flashback.

    Is that really so complicated to figure out?

  • Balthazar

    Here’s a question: No William Shatner, but are there any legal hurdles, etc., with using TV or movie archival footage of Kirk? Maybe that’s the plan, a la the Deep Space Nine episode that wove in The Trouble With Tribbles.

  • malibugigolo

    This is a setup so he makes a cameo. They are talking about it too much. It’s like the night of someone’s birthday, and the girlfriend keeps talking about how she is looking forward to spend it quiet, at home, over and over.

  • PastePotPete

    The setup for the plot is TNG era Spock going back in time to before the Enterprise crew was assembled. So Shatner being in it was unlikely from the start.

  • Drew

    A small role in AIRPLANE?

    Have you seen the film? He’s the second male lead. He has a fair percentage of the most quotable lines from the film. And AIRPLANE was a cultural sensation when it came out.

    It changed his career. After AIRPLANE!, he was very in-demand for comedies. He showed up on a Steve Martin pilot for NBC, he starred in an AIRPLANE-ripoff for SF called THE CREATURE WASN’T NICE, and yes, he was the star of POLICE SQUAD!, which may have only lasted six episodes, but it got buckets of press from critics who flipped for it.

    I think you may not remember the impact that Nielsen had post-AIRPLANE, Josh, but by the time he showed up in NUTS, he was firmly entrenched as a modern comedy star, his earlier leading man work all but forgotten.

  • The guy who thinks Leslie Nielsen had a small role in Airplane needs to go to a hospital.

    “What’s a hospital?” he might ask, “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

  • So to bring this all together, William Shatner is the “second male lead” in Airplane II?

    Just because he had famous lines doesn’t mean he was a household name. Everybody knows “I am McLovin,” but why don’t you take a poll and find out how many people out there know the actor’s name?

    Saying he had a “small” role doesn’t mean he’s Alec Baldwin in Glengarry, but I seriously hesitate to call him anything close to a “lead.”

    He got work after, yes, but again, I don’t think he became anywhere close to a household name until Naked Gun, when he truly became a lead.

  • Ack, I couldn’t watch more than half a dozen lines from Shatner’s cover of “Rocket Man” before I ran screaming from the room!

    But to give credit where it’s due, this is mighty great.

  • BurmaShave


  • Nielsen was in NUTS? I had no idea. Now I can watch it.

    But he was an excellent bad guy in CREEPSHOW, amply demonstrating his bad guy cred two years after AIRPLANE!

  • DarthCorleone

    To give further credit where credit is due, the brilliance of Has Been is certainly partially attributable to Shatner, but the largest debt for its greatness is owed to one Mr. Ben Folds, unequaled piano man and lyricist extraordinaire.

  • Spacesheik

    William Shatner is absolutely superb as Denny Crane, there is wit and subtlety in his performance, he absolutely owns the screen and his reflective schtick with James Spader on the balcony is a highlight of every episode.

    He should appear in the new STAR TREK, maybe in an epilogue where Spock reminisces about the younger days a la GODFATHER II Corleones-around-the-dinner-table sequence final shot of the film.

    I still think this whole thing is an elaborate joke by Abrams and Shatner. I would be surprised if Shatner did not make an appearance in the film, as a cinematic valentine to the fans.

    If he doesn’t then I expect the next Trek film to focus on Kirk and maybe do a LITTLE BIG MAN sort of structure with an older, aged Kirk looking back on his Starfleet experiences.

    Either way Shatner will appear in a JJ Abrams ST flick.

  • Mgmax

    Sorry, Josh, but you’re simply remembering wrong. Nielsen (already a well known actor/has-been) came out of Airplane! a comedy star, no question about it.

  • Alright, I’ll relent. I just think a comedy “star” would have done more actual comedy in the eight years between Airplane! and The Naked Gun than a failed 6-episode TV series and apparently a pilot. (Like after Naked, when he showed up in damn near every spoof comedy that was made.)

    Ok, I guess that’s not really relenting.

  • I never liked Nielsen as much in Naked Gun as I did in Airplane or Police Squad. There was too much mugging and too much schtick in the Gun movies. He was funnier the straighter he played it.

  • I agree, CJ.

    As for Shatner, “He’s dead, J.J.”

  • drbob

    The best thing Shatner ever did, bar none, was his one-man version of the movie “Seven” on the MTV Movie Awards many years ago. What’s in the box, indeed, Captain Kirk.