OK, I’m outing myself. I thought I would keep it a secret. And I did. For years.
My husband produced the film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.” There, I’ve said it. Wonder why I’ve kept it a secret all these years? Because of death threats!
Well now, the cat is out of the bag. CNET just posted an informative and accurate article about the making of the film, ‘Star Trek II producer talks Ceti Eel, J.J. Abrams, and more.’ And I have even more of the inside scoop because my husband and I lived it.
Here’s his take on what the death of Spock meant to the film and to our family:
“To boldly go where no man has gone before…” wasn’t in my game plan when I signed with Paramount to produce “Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan.” I’d served both in the Marine Corps as a non-com and in the Air Force as an officer but had never really been in harm’s way. No, that didn’t happen until I was deep into scripting and pre-production on the second Trek feature and began getting multiple death threats on my answering machine, such as “You kill Spock and we’ll kill you!”
The weirdness began when we were working on early drafts of the script. It seemed that most of the original cast were on board with a sequel, most that is except Leonard Nimoy of Spock fame. I didn’t know Leonard but had admired his work on a number of television and feature projects. We met and I found him to be a genial, talented and extraordinarily intelligent man. There was only one tiny wrinkle: he didn’t want to play Spock anymore. Ever. In retrospect, I’m not certain whether it was a negotiating ploy on his part to garner a better deal with the studio, or that he was looking for broader dramatic horizons or whether, as he told me that “he simply didn’t want to put on the ears again.”
Regardless of motivation, his refusal to participate could be the iceberg that would sink the Star Trek Titanic, or at least put a major dent in its creative hull. The meetings were intense and frequent but Leonard remained firm until one of our writers, Jack Sowards suggested to Executive Producer, Harve Bennett that it would be enormously dramatic and a high (or low) theatrical point in the history of StarTrek. Harve sold it to Leonard and we were on our way. Sort of.
An individual who was close to Star Trek was given an early draft of the script and, like all of us, sworn to secrecy. However, she immediately went to a Trek convention in London and announced that we were going to kill Spock. Her betrayal hit most of the world’s newspapers starting with the Wall Street Journal. It was a fire storm with everyone at Paramount and our staff — but especially Leonard — going a bit berserk. Both Bennett and I felt that not only was the surprise element blown but that the entire structure of the film was compromised. There were many, many sleepless nights until we decided to defuse some of the outside fury with even greater heightened security: scripts were numbered before issuing, crew and cast members were severely cautioned about disclosure. James Doohan (Scotty) had unthinkingly disclosed Spock-related information to some of his personal representation staff and the word got back to Paramount. I was tasked with contacting him and telling, not asking, him to appear for a meeting with some of the top studio brass. In a percipient moment, prior to Jimmy’s appointment, I went up into the Administration Building and cautioned the Paramount executives to go lightly with Jimmy as he had recently had a heart attack! I argued that we had sufficient impending death around us with inflicting it on a thoroughly decent man whom we needed!
I could go on at considerable length about the angst and events surrounding the impending demise of Spock and how skillfully we all worked to keep the dramatics at a high level while salvaging the future of a key character.
And my personal death threats? They came fast and furious by mail and telephone for some time. In fact, the crazies kept it up until the premiere of the film. But, I can assure you that there were enhanced security guards around my home to protect my wife and children for many months. And all I wanted to do was make an entertaining motion picture. I almost re- enlisted in the Air Force.