Will William Shatner Return as Old Kirk in 'Star Trek 3'?

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William Shatner in the Star Trek series
William Shatner in the Star Trek series

The newest Star Trek movie may put William Shatner back in the captain’s chair. According to the Alamo Drafthouse blog BadAssDigest, the script for Star Trek 3 includes a scene for the original Kirk and Spock, played by Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, respectively. Sounds like Shatner is being offered a place in the new Star Trek universe — but will he agree to boldly go?

Shatner, 83, originated the role of Captain James T. Kirk in the original 1960s Star Trek series, and went on to play the cocky space explorer in seven films. When J.J. Abrams rebooted the film franchise with an alternate timeline plot, Nimoy reprised his iconic role opposite the new Spock, Zachary Quinto. Shatner, however, was not asked to appear in the film. According to director Abrams, it was Shatner’s “no cameo” policy that took him out of the running. “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,” Abrams said in a 2008 interview. “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 intended Shatner cameo involved Captain Kirk singing “Happy Birthday” to Spock; you can read it here.)

Shatner at an event in Los Angeles on Sept. 22

When production on Star Trek moved forward with no Shatner (and the younger Chris Pine playing Kirk), the actor was openly indignant. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m not in the movie at all. Leonard [Nimoy], God bless his heart, is in, but not me,” Shatner told the Associated Press in 2007. “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.”

A year later, Shatner made a YouTube video chastising Abrams for not casting him.

When Star Trek opened in May 2009 to enormous box office — followed by the hit 2013 sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness — Shatner’s response was passive-aggressive, at best. In recent interviews, the actor has alternately praised Abrams for being “a terrific director” and said that the earlier Star Trek “had more soul to it.”

It’s possible that Shatner’s biggest obstacle in joining the new franchise, is Shatner himself. The actor has been criticized by many of his longtime Star Trek co-stars. “I wanted to thump him on more than one occasion… He believes the world orbits him,” the late James Doohan, who played Scotty, said in 1996. George Takei, who played Sulu, has called Shatner the “problem uncle” of the Star Trek family, with a huge ego and no respect for the rest of the cast. As for his relationship with onscreen best friend Leonard Nimoy, reports that Shatner was resentful of Spock’s popularity date back to the earliest years of Star Trek. Nimoy has claimed that Shatner would steal Spock’s lines if he thought they would make the Vulcan lieutenant look better than the captain.

Shatner and Nimoy in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan
Shatner and Nimoy in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

Shatner and Nimoy in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’

If Shatner is able to swallow his pride and accept a Star Trek 3 cameo, it will mark the first time that the original Kirk and Scott have shared the big screen together since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991. Star Zachary Quinto says that production on Star Trek 3 will likely begin in the next six months.

This post has been updated with new information.

Photo credit: Paramount, Everett Collection, Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic