These days, landing a role in a “Star Trek” television series or movie is a big deal. The iconic franchise carries a lot of clout, which makes it an attractive opportunity for many actors. However, when the franchise was making television shows back in the late 80s and early 90s, a role in the “Star Trek” universe wasn’t seen the same way.
Back then, working in movies was considered much more prestigious than working on a television show. A-listers Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor reflected on the difference between television and film a decade ago in an interview with Variety. They both said that the prevailing attitude in the industry back then was that television was a backup when actors couldn’t get a movie role. So, many actors were reluctant to do television shows.
Some actors were also put off by the time commitment involved in a television series. When “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” were casting their ensembles, the goal was to do a full seven seasons with the same cast. Many actors saw this as a major obstacle because it limited the number of movie roles they could take.
So, several A-list celebrities ended up turning down roles on “Star Trek” when they were offered. Here are five of the biggest names that turned down roles in the franchise.
Tom Hanks has never shied away from expressing his love for “Star Trek.” He’s said that his entire family was obsessed with the show, which inspired his own obsession. Even Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, has said that Hanks is one of the biggest Trekkers he’s ever met.
However, Hanks’ packed schedule forced him to turn down multiple opportunities to be a part of the Trek-verse. The biggest role he had to decline was Zefram Cochrane in “Star Trek: First Contact.” James Cromwell, who ultimately got the role, told StarTrek.com that he was lucky “Tom Hanks was too busy.”
Though the writers had created Cochrane with Cromwell in mind, Paramount really wanted a bigger name in the role. Unfortunately, Hanks had to pass because he was directing a film at the time.
Robin Williams was another massive “Star Trek” fan. He’d been a fan of “Star Trek: The Original Series” since he was young. When the franchise was rebooted with “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Williams really wanted to guest star in an episode.
The show’s writers were more than happy to oblige and wrote the role of Berlinghoff Rasmussen in “A Matter of Time” specifically for Williams. Though Williams really wanted to accept the role, he couldn’t make the timing work because he was working on the movie “Hook” at the time.
Years later, he ran into the cast of “Star Trek: Voyager” on the Paramount lot and told them that he still wanted to guest on an episode of “Star Trek” someday. Unfortunately, it never happened before his untimely death in 2014.
The casting team behind “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” had high aspirations for their ensemble cast. They envisioned a bridge filled with A-list actors who would lend their considerable reputations to the show. They considered several A-list actors for the lead, Captain Benjamin Sisko, as well as the other major roles.
They even reached out to the big names for recurring roles, like Kai Opaka. A casting document from the desk of casting director Junie Lowry-Johnson revealed that the casting team had reached out to Shelly Duval, Tricia O’Neil and Kathy Bates for the role.
The notes next to Bates’ name stated that she wasn’t interested in doing a television show at the time, which makes sense given her film success at the time.
Edward James Olmos
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Stewart in the role of Captain Picard. However, he wasn’t even a top choice for the role. In fact, “Star Trek’s” creator, Gene Roddenberry, hated Stewart for the role.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times Olmos said that he’d been offered the lead in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He explained that he turned it down because he didn’t want to do more science fiction after doing “Blade Runner.”
Olmos was drawn back to science-fiction just a few years later for “Battlestar Gallactica.” In an interview with The AV Club, he credited the writing talent of veteran “Star Trek” writer Ronald D. Moore, who became “Battlestar Galactica’s” showrunner, for pulling him back to science-fiction.
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” is one of the most beloved “Star Trek” movies of all time. Unlike its predecessors, “The Voyage Home” fully embraced the comedic elements of “Star Trek,” which is one of the many reasons fans love it so much.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, two of the movie’s writers revealed that their original script leaned into the comedy even further, including a role for the biggest comedian of the time. The role that eventually became Dr. Gillian Taylor was originally written for Eddie Murphy.
Murphy told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years” that he had always been a Trekkie and that he was very excited about the plans for him to be in “The Voyage Home.” He read a script with the role that was written for him, but the negotiations fell through. Murphy took a role in the movie “Golden Child” instead, though he admitted that he “might have been better off doing ‘Star Trek.’”
Though it’s fun to think about each of these actors playing the roles they turned down, each of these roles went to incredible actors in the end.