Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Star Trek's Scotty -- Doohan what comes naturally

Cleveland Press December 6, 1979

"For seven years I had a beard. I tried to live down an image."

For almost 15 years "Star Trek" has been part -- an overpowering part --of the life of James Doohan, just as it has been for almost everyone who was in that television series.

Doohan was Scotty, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise. For millions of Trekkies -- Star Trek fans the world over -- he still is.

And now there is "Star Trek--The Motion Picture" and life not only goes on, it starts again.

For almost three weeks Doohan has been traveling around the country promoting a movie which probably needs less advance tub-thumping than any other.

He was in Cleveland yesterday, is in Washington, D.C., today for this evening's world premiere.

The film opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, starts its run in Cleveland and many other cities on Dec. 21.

Doohan doesn't knock what has happened, recognizes and admits the part it has played in his life.

"The unfortunate effect was that it type-cast me, an easy thing to do in Hollywood," he said.

"But it also made me world famous," he added looking at the bright side of it.

"I can play other things in plays which I like to do better than anything else, especially new plays where you can create characters."

"A lot of us had that problem of type-casting. It was especially bad for Leonard Nimoy because he played such a distinctive character.

Maybe if I had played the engineer without an accent it wouldn't have typed me."

So was it difficult getting everyone together for the movie?

"Not at all," he replied. "We wouldn't have let anyone else play our roles."

The pilot film for the series was shot in 1965. Then came three years on television and 79 episodes which lived on in syndication.

"No, we didn't know at the time that it would be anything like this," he commented. "But we were damned sure we had a great show on our hands.

"The first four or five stories knocked us out, they were so good. And then we read four or five more that were just as good.

"We were terribly disappointed when it came to an end. What was worse, we were disillusioned. We questioned our own judgment.

"And then it went into syndication and the fan clubs formed and it continues to play all over the world. Now we've been vindicated. About five years ago we began to realize we were members of a classic."

The gathering for the movie wasn't exactly a reunion. The cast members run into each other at Star Trek conventions.

Dochan says he has been to 40 or 50 in the past 10 years. He adds that making the series was just a job, that they didn't socialize to any great extent.

He particularly recalls a Star Trek convention of 18,000 in Chicago, another numbering 32,000 in New York, of flash bulbs popping for minutes at a time.

There are the same faces which show up at gathering after gathering around the country, the faces of two girls from Newark, N.J., who seems to be at all of them.

And there are the people who park In front of his house In Los Angeles and sit and stare until someone finally gets up the nerve to come to the door.

"They don't worry me," he says. "They're all nice people."

Those TV episodes took six to eight days each to film. The movie filming lasted six months.

"It wasn't hard making the series. A piece of cake really. But we'd work late, get home about 8:30 p.m. On the movie we had more time, stopped at about 6 p.m. every day, no rushing to finish.

"I guess the big difference was driving home during rush hour traffic after work each day on the movie.

"I can still remember the thrill when the government launched the space shuttle called Enterprise and the band struck up the Star Trek theme.

"Or going to the National Space Museum and finding that the only fictional thing in the place was the model of the Enterprise. Paramount wanted it back before the movie started, but the museum wouldn't give it to them."

Is Doohan Scotch?

"Just a wee bit. One grandfather was a Montgomery but he lived in Ireland. I was conceived in Ireland and born in Vancouver, British Columbia. I can do any accent I can hear.

"I didn't plan on acting. I guess God pushed me into it. I was a boy soprano, acted in high school plays but only did those things if someone asked me to do them. I never volunteered."

It was after World War II (he was a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, was wounded on D-Day), that he began to consider acting.

He attended drama school in Toronto, won a two year scholarship in to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City where the legendary Sanford Meisner was teaching, taught there himself for three years.

"I didn't like teaching," he admits. "Ninety five per cent of the students have no talent, just a desire to act.

"I didn't have the desire until had to get out and work and discovered I wasn't prepared to do anything else."

In addition to acting, Doohan heads a company he formed to produce television shows.

One is called "Welcome Tomorrow," a syndicated science show which he is producing and trying to sell, and the other is a children's show called "Saturday Morning Live" which he is trying to sell to NBC.

"I have entree into any scientific laboratory in the country," he said.

"That's right, because of Scotty. They accept me. But I do know something about science. Like Scotty, I read scientific journals for a hobby. I really enjoy them."

And for the rest of the conversation Doohan talked of things which were really beyond me: of scientific matters, of meetings with scientists. It was Scotty talking once more.