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Actors Who Refused Roles On Star Trek

"Star Trek" is one of the most iconic and enduring science fiction franchises of all time, with over a dozen feature films and nearly as many television series, spanning decades since "Star Trek: The Original Series" in 1966. Each show features its own extensive cast of fan-favorite characters, from multiple crew operating the Starfleet vessel, the USS Enterprise, to the hearty crew of space station Deep Space Nine keeping the peace. However, not every actor offered the chance to join the "Star Trek" franchise, either on television or the big screen, has accepted their intended role for a variety of reasons.

From finding lead actors for numerous "Star Trek" ensemble casts to guest roles written specifically for famous stars and fans of the franchise, not every planned casting move has worked out. Here are the most notable instances of actors having to turn down offers to star in various "Star Trek" shows and films and why they ultimately opted to move elsewhere with their respective careers.

George Lindsey

Leonard Nimoy's Spock is one of the most iconic characters on television, as the human-Vulcan first officer of the Enterprise and an instant favorite among the fanbase. While it may be hard to imagine anyone but Nimoy playing Spock on "Star Trek: The Original Series," the actor was reportedly not series creator Gene Roddenberry's first pick for the part. Instead, Roddenberry favored comedic actor George Lindsey, best known for playing the goofy Goober Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show" and its sequel series "Mayberry R.F.D."

In a short television bumper for TVLand, Nimoy attests that Lindsey was Roddenberry's first choice for the role that made him a household name. This claim is corroborated by prolific actor Ernest Borgnine in his memoir "Ernie," recalling that his friend Lindsey turned the part of Spock down, without elaborating on the rationale behind the refusal. Lindsey would continue to play largely comedic roles on film and television for the remainder of his career before his death in 2012.

Martin Landau

Another actor reportedly offered the role of Spock ahead of Nimoy was Academy Award winner Martin Landau who had appeared in high-profile supporting roles in films, including "North by Northwest." In a 1986 interview with Starlog Magazine, Landau confirmed he was approached to play the Vulcan science officer but claimed he wasn't interested in playing an emotionless character, unfavorably comparing Spock's stoic nature to a glorified newscaster. Instead, Landau took on a very different television role, starring as master of disguise Rollin Hand in the original "Mission: Impossible" TV series.

In a separate interview for "Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History in Pictures," Roddenberry confirmed Landau was being considered for the role, saying the actor was a possibility. Elaborating on the potential casting, Roddenberry attributed Landau's busy schedule with other projects at the time as the primary cause behind him turning down the role instead of disinterest on the actor's part. In a coincidental twist, Nimoy replaced Landau on "Mission: Impossible" as the magician Paris after Landau left the series in 1969, several months after the cancellation of "Star Trek."

Eddie Murphy

While developing "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," director and co-writer Leonard Nimoy learned that popular comedian and actor Eddie Murphy was apparently a big fan of the franchise. In a retrospective interview with The Hollywood Reporter, co-writer Steve Meerson recalled that an early script contained a part specifically written for Murphy, which would have had the comic powerhouse interact with the Enterprise crew. Murphy was set to play an astrophysicist at Berkeley while the "Original Series" crew visited California's Bay Area in 1986 to save their timeline by rescuing humpback whales, with Murphy's character being drawn into their antics.

However, negotiations with Murphy reportedly broke down before filming began, leading to Murphy dropping out from the project and his planned astrophysicist character being cut from the story entirely. Instead, Murphy's part was replaced by a completely new character in marine biologist Dr. Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks, providing Kirk with a romantic foil. Looking back, Meerson felt that the movie's story became more political than the more fun-infused early versions of the script, potentially due to the lack of comic relief by the void left by Murphy's departure.

Edward James Olmos

Acclaimed actor Edward James Olmos had two close opportunities with being cast in major "Star Trek" roles, though ultimately has yet to appear in any iteration of the franchise. Director Leonard Nimoy approached Olmos to play the villainous Commander Kruge in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock," recalling being overruled by the producers in William Shatner's memoir "Star Trek Movie Memories." However, Olmos' second brush with "Star Trek" saw him turn down an even bigger opportunity with the long-running sci-fi franchise that would have made him an esteemed Starfleet captain.

According to TrekMovie.com, Olmos was offered to star as Picard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," reportedly turning down the part because of its high level of commitment and his own schedule at the time. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Olmos explained that his decision to return to sci-fi in "Battlestar Galactica" over his previous "Star Trek" offer was driven by the quality of storytelling present in the series' writing. With all other options exhausted, Roddenberry agreed to cast Stewart as Picard despite his reservations about Stewart not being a conventional masculine paradigm, with Stewart bringing the iconic Starfleet officer to life in "The Next Generation" (via BBC).

Yaphet Kotto

The late celebrated actor Yaphet Kotto has starred in a number of fan-favorite projects in film and television, including as Nostromo technician Dennis Parker in the classic science fiction horror film "Alien." Kotto nearly took on an even more iconic sci-fi role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the lead character in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." According to a BBC interview with producer Robert Justman, series creator Gene Roddenberry was initially not enthused by Patrick Stewart's audition for the part and looked to other actors to take on the role instead.

Among the actors who read for the role was Kotto, who turned down the part over his concerns about shifting to television after a prolific film career at the time. In an interview with The Big Issue, Kotto reflected on this decision with regret, referring to his rejection of the chance to play Picard as a "wrong decision." Ironically, Kotto would eventually transition to a television career years later, starring as Baltimore police detective Al Giardello across the entire run of the acclaimed crime series "Homicide: Life on the Street."

Sean Connery

The 1989 film "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" introduces Spock's long-lost older brother Sybok who commandeers the Enterprise to find God at the center of the galaxy, with the hapless Captain Kirk and his crew along for the ride. Played by Laurence Luckinbill, Sybok is a Vulcan in touch with and open about his emotions in direct contrast to Spock, using his telepathic abilities to relieve others' emotional pain and gain their trust. The character was written for Sean Connery, fresh off of his Academy Award-winning performance in "The Untouchables," but the Scottish actor turned down the part.

According to TrekMovie.com, Connery rejected the role due to his commitments to appear in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" as the eponymous archaeologist's father Henry Jones Sr. Despite Connery's absence in "The Final Frontier," the film's holy planet Sha Ka Ree was named after Connery as a subtle nod to the intended casting. Years later, it was revealed that a different actor, very familiar to Trekkies, apparently vied for the Sybok role unsuccessfully. In an interview with StarTrek.com, Luckinbill claims that Nimoy lobbied to play Sybok for a dual role in "Star Trek V" but was rejected as the siblings weren't twins.

Robin Williams

As "Star Trek: The Next Generation" steadily grew in popularity across its seven-season run, the writers wanted to find a way to include actor and comedian Robin Williams in a guest appearance. Williams was a publicly self-professed fan of "Star Trek," even going as far as to reference the franchise directly in his hit sci-fi sitcom "Mork and Mindy" in the '80s. The writers created a part specifically for Williams in the Season 5 episode "A Matter of Time" as Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling conman scheming to steal Starfleet technology for himself, with a particular interest in obtaining Data.

Unfortunately, despite Williams' enthusiasm for "Star Trek" and the show's willingness to have him, scheduling issues prevented him from appearing on "The Next Generation" at all. Williams was committed to star in the 1991 Steven Spielberg film "Hook," causing him to decline the guest-starring role due to the resulting scheduling conflict. Rasmussen was instead played by actor Matt Frewer, best known for his '80s cult classic character Max Headroom, to bring the wacky con artist to life.

Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall appeared in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" as Valeris, Spock's young Vulcan protege on the Enterprise and the starship's new helmsman after Hikaru Sulu is given his own command. Though Valeris is eventually revealed to be a traitor and part of the conspiracy to assassinate Klingon chancellor Gowron, Cattrall nearly had a continuing future with the wider Star Trek" franchise on television. However, rather than reprising her role as the duplicitous Vulcan Valeris, Cattrall was offered the part of Bajoran security officer Kira Nerys in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

In a leaked casting memo for "Deep Space Nine" from 1992, Cattrall is among the names listed near the top as a potential contender to play the no-nonsense Bajoran freedom fighter. Cattrall is cited in the memo as passing on the role, though no further cause as to why she declined is included in the document. Cattrall would find considerable success elsewhere on television, starring as the vivacious businesswoman and socialite Samantha Jones, a role she also nearly turned down, in the acclaimed HBO series "Sex and the City."

Rita Wilson

There are plenty of other names on the leaked casting memo for Kira in "Deep Space Nine," all of whom are listed as a pass or unavailable due to accentuating circumstances behind the scenes. Next to Cattrall, the most notable actor on the list is Rita Wilson, prolific television and film actor, and wife of lifelong "Star Trek" fan Tom Hanks. However, like Cattrall and the other actors under consideration, Wilson turned down the role, with the memo citing she wasn't interested in working in television at the time.

Interestingly, Nana Visitor, who ultimately was cast as Kira for "Deep Space Nine" and "Star Trek: Lower Decks" is not among the names listed on the memo. Visitor's agent cautioned her against taking the role, feeling it would be detrimental to her career, but Visitor was impressed by the character and accepted (per Variety). Wilson has gone on to play numerous supporting roles in film and television, notably as recurring characters on "The Good Wife" and "Girls."

Geneviève Bujold

While Kate Mulgrew may be best known for bringing Kathryn Janeway to life in the television shows "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Prodigy," she was not the first actor cast in the role. Academy Award-nominated actor Geneviève Bujold was initially cast as the "Voyager" commanding officer, Captain Nicole Janeway, a role she maintained as principal photography began in 1994. However, two days into filming, Bujold decided to quit the series over concerns regarding the show's demanding work schedule, especially in comparison to her prior film work (via The New York Times).

Mulgrew, who was among the actors that initially read for the role of Janeway during the casting process, was called back in the wake of Bujold's sudden departure and accepted the lead part. With the character renamed Kathryn Janeway to reflect the shift in actors, Mulgrew quickly brought the classic character to life as filming resumed, starring as Janeway in television, film, and video games. For her part, Bujold returned to focus on appearing primarily in films, with the occasional TV movie, though never starred as the lead in a television series across her distinguished career.

Adrien Brody

Audiences were treated to a bold reinvention of the "Star Trek" franchise in 2009, with filmmaker J.J. Abrams helming a reboot film that recast the classic characters from "The Original Series." Among the iconic crew reimagined for the film was Spock, played by Zachary Quinto across the trilogy as a Vulcan with a fiery temper under his stoic exterior. However, Quinto was not the only actor in contention for the role, with Academy Award winner Adrien Brody approached by Abrams to potentially portray the Enterprise's logical first officer.

In an interview with MTV, Brody confirmed he did indeed speak with Abrams about playing Spock in the 2009 "Star Trek," even sharing the news of his potential casting with his parents. Though Brody expressed regret about not playing the Vulcan, he has not fully divulged specifics on why exactly he didn't appear as the iconic science officer. Brody has continued his prolific career in film and television though the actor has yet to work with Abrams since being approached to play Spock.

Matt Damon

With a new, younger cast of the "Original Series" era front and center in the 2009 "Star Trek," one of the actors widely rumored to be considered to play James Kirk was Matt Damon. Damon himself publicly dismissed the casting as internet rumors, observing that the reboot was looking for a younger actor for the role, with Chris Pine eventually landing the part as the iconic Starfleet captain. However, it was later revealed that Damon was being considered for a different character in the movie entirely, though still enormously important in Kirk's altered history, revealed months after its release.

Abrams confirmed that he did approach Damon for a role in the movie, later clarifying in an interview with MTV that he spoke to him about playing James Kirk's father George for the film's prologue. Abrams revealed that Damon graciously turned down the role, with Abrams ultimately feeling that the movie's cast was better suited with lesser-known actors rather than risk overshadowing the characters they played. Australian actor Chris Hemsworth took on the role of the ill-fated George Kirk instead, years ahead of his fan-favorite debut as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Benicio del Toro

2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness" is a strange sequel, offering a loose retread of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" yet within the storytelling sensibilities of the reboot timeline that began in 2009. The film pits the Enterprise crew, with Kirk in the captain's chair, against the genetically enhanced superhuman Khan Noonien Singh, with the classic villainous role originated by Ricardo Montalban. Academy Award winner Benicio del Toro entered negotiations to play the reboot timeline's iteration of Khan, while the identity of the movie's antagonist remained unconfirmed by the production in the face of mounting speculation.

Del Toro decided to drop out of "Into Darkness" approximately one month before filming was scheduled to begin, reportedly when salary negotiations about del Toro's planned casting broke down (per Vulture). English actor Benedict Cumberbatch played Khan in the final film, initially using the pseudonym John Harrison until his identity is confirmed over the course of the movie. "Into Darkness" endured criticism for casting a Caucasian actor as Khan, while director J.J. Abrams admitted attempting to keep Khan's true identity a secret was a mistake. Del Toro would go on to appear in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" in two very different sci-fi roles.