Doohan served in the Royal Canadian Artillery during World War
II before starting his acting career with a radio show appearance
on 12 January 1946. While numerous radio and screen roles followed,
Doohan was destined to find interstellar fame and fortune 20
years later thanks to the role of Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott
Today, Doohan has effectively retired from acting and, due to
a number of illnesses which included a bout of pneumonia that
left him hospitalised last year, has reluctantly cut back on
Online caught up with Doohan as the special edition of Star
Trek IV: The Voyage Home
was about to be released on DVD...
Online: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home remains the highest-grossing
Star Trek film to date. Are you surprised at all by
the film's enduring popularity?
Doohan: No, not really, because it was one of the best movies
we did. I liked it. As a matter of fact it has one of best
lines in Star Trek, when Captain Kirk tells the crew,
"Everybody remember where we parked!" I really enjoyed the
film's comedy, because it was very much like the old Star
Trek - the TV series.
SFO: How do you look back on the actual
making of the film?
Of the films, I think Star Trek IV was the most fun
to do. Filming in San Francisco was wonderful. My daughter
took some great pictures of the entire cast walking across
the street. You know, I still have my red jacket from that
movie and it still fits!
You could make a fortune on E-Bay with that...
[Laughs] I probably could, but I like to keep things.
Star Trek IV was the second Trek film to be
directed by Spock actor Leonard Nimoy. How did you rate Nimoy
as a director?
Leonard is a great director. I think that he proved himself
with those movies. He's a great guy and he's one of the best
directors around. I think Leonard and Nicholas Meyer [who
directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star
Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country] were the two best directors
Star Trek ever had, and they made the best Star
Going right back to the beginning, how did you originally
land the role of Scotty?
I went in and read for Gene Roddenberry. I did about eight
different accents for him, and he asked me which one I liked
the most. I said, "Well, if you want an engineer, he better
be a Scotsman because in my experience, all the world's best
engineers have been Scottish."
gave Scotty an Aberdeen accent, and I learned that when I
was sent over to Catterick Camp in England during World War
II. While I was there, I met this fellow from Aberdeen - and
I couldn't understand a word he said! But I learned that accent
from him and that was the one I used for Scotty.
is 99 per cent James Doohan and one per cent accent.
writers based a lot of the character on me. When they found
out I subscribed to technical journals, they starting putting
things like that into my character.
During your three years on Star Trek, did you have
any idea you were working on an all-time classic TV show?
I had no idea at all. None of us did. But we did think the
scripts were fabulous.
fact, I think there's only one episode of the entire series
that wasn't terrific, and that was the hippy episode [The
Way To Eden]. It was just awful!
only time we got a sense of the show's impact was when we
were almost cancelled at the end of the second year, and the
fans said we had a great show and campaigned to NBC to hang
on for another year, which they did.
But that was our last year. We were scheduled for five years,
but tough luck!
When did you first realise that you had been typecast as Scotty?
I did a movie called Man in the Wilderness in Spain
with Richard Harris in 1971. When I came back, I would go
to producers' offices to read for parts and the secretaries
would say, "Oh, hi Scotty!" and everything else. And then
the producers would say, "I'm sorry, but we don't have a part
for a Scotsman."
only did a Scottish accent once before Star Trek, and
that included 450 live television shows and 4 000 radio shows.
But by 1972 I had been typecast and was flat broke! Fortunately,
I was able to make a living out of personal appearances.
Nearly 30 years after you first played Scotty, you reprised
the role in a sixth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next
Generation called Relics. Was that a lot of fun
It was marvellous. Everyone treated me like a king. If they
had been Japanese, they would have been doing nothing but
bowing all the time!
What would you say is your happiest memory of your entire
Star Trek experience?
I guess my happiest memory was my realisation that they were
going to start shooting movies. Finally it was going to be
possible to make a living out of Star Trek - because
I certainly didn't make a living out of it in the early years!
How's life for Jimmy Doohan today?
doing fine and I love life. I spent some time in hospital
a while back, so I haven't seen the fans much recently. But
I love the fans, I love seeing them, and hope to see them
again soon. I'm very well right now. I'm 83 years old and
there's not many people that age!
Are you happy to be so widely known as Scotty, even to this
Oh yes. Scotty is everybody's favourite engineer, and it's
wonderful to know I made him so very popular. I love it.
Finally, Jimmy, what do you think has been the secret of Star
Trek's enduring success?
I don't think anybody really knows. There have been quite
a few theories, but I'm not sure that anyone has given a definite
answer. To me, there's only one response that brings a nod
to everyone's head: "It's magic."
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Frederique Slezak at Paramount's Press Office
Trek IV - Special Edition is available to buy from Paramount
02 June 2003 RRP