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‘Star Trek V’ Villain Role Almost Went To Leonard Nimoy

Laurence Luckingbill talks about film and Sybok role nearly 25 years later

Anyone who pays attention to Star Trek lore knows that William Shatner originally offered the role of Spock’s brother Sybok to James Bond actor Sean Connery in his 1989 film “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”

But apparently that wasn’t even Laurence Luckingbill’s biggest competition for the role. Another actor wanted to take on the renegade Vulcan, and he wasn’t too happy when he lost out on the role.

That actor? Leonard Nimoy.

“He did not say one word to me for quite a long time, other than ‘Hello,'” Luckingbill recently told Star “I found out later he had really, really pushed hard to have this be a double role, a dual role for him.”

Probably thinking back to the days of Spock in a goatee from the Mirror Universe, it seems Nimoy (who had directed the previous two films) had envisioned himself playing not just a half-brother of Spock, but a twin brother.

“I don’t know if this is absolutely true,” Luckingbill said. “That was the scuttlebutt, and I got that from very high up in the food chain of information, that Leonard wanted to play Sybok and play Spock. That would have been a tremendous thing to do that, but since they weren’t twins, they cast me.

“I think Bill wanted a separate actor, and he was right. We were very different people.”

Nimoy apparently kept his distance from Luckingbill — an accomplished stage actor when he was spotted in a PBS special by Shatner himself — for most of the shoot. But the man who continues to be a part of Star Trek today did eventually come around.

“The best compliment I got was, in the last scenes, 20 or 25 weeks later, Leonard looked at me and said, ‘You know, you’re terrific in this,'” Luckingbill said. “I thought that was a great send-off.”

Luckingbill said he knew really nothing of Star Trek when he signed on to the film, except that there was a previous series, there had been previous movies, and that his friend Ricardo Montalban had been in one. But looking back on that experience now more than 20 years old, Luckingbill said fans and critics still don’t really give “Star Trek V” a chance.

The film would go on to gross $52.2 million domestically ($96.6 million today), more than doubling its budget. Yet, it’s one of the lowest-grossing films of the franchise, and ones that many fans say they would rather ignore.

“I know a lot of people criticize Bill for what he didn’t do or what he did do,” Luckingbill said. “Bill invites that because he’s just got a big life and he plays it big. But I found him absolutely wonderful. I liked Bill and, to this day, think he did a good job with that film. He’s a favorite guy of mine.”

Luckingbill, 77, has pretty much retired from screen acting, his last appearance as an unnamed prosecutor in the 2005 television movie “The Exonerated” with Susan Sarandon, Aidan Quinn and Danny Glover. He’s been married to Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball (the founders of Desilu Productions, which was the original production shingle for “Star Trek”) in 1980.

To read more of Luckingbill’s interview, including how much he and his late mother-in-law Lucille Ball talked about “Star Trek,” click here.

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