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It was Thanksgiving weekend, 1986. In the past, I had convinced my parents to take me to see the first three 'Star Wars' movies at the theater, but 'Star Trek' was another story all together. My father, particularly, hated science fiction -- he even fell asleep during 'Ghostbusters' -- so my pleas to see 'Trek' in a theater fell on deaf ears. That was until 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.' "That's the one with the whales?" my father asked. "OK, that looks interesting." Yes, over time, "The One With the Whales" could easily replace "The Voyage Home" as the title of the fourth 'Star Trek' movie. But, it wasn't just "the one with the whales," it was also the movie that introduced Trek to a wider audience and introduced the character of Dr. Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks -- a 20th century biologist that not only gets to hang out with Captain Kirk, but also eventually traveled to the 23rd century. Yes, it was hard for a 12-year-old boy not to have a crush on Dr. Gillian Taylor.
Catherine Hicks is probably better known for playing opposite fellow Trek alumnus Stephen Collins as Lucy Camden on '7th Heaven,' but, in the '80s, she was a little known actor who had no idea what she was getting into when she earned the female lead in 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.'
Hicks rang up Moviefone on Wednesday night to celebrate the 25th anniversary of 'The Voyage Home,' a film that, surprisingly, was still the most financial successful 'Trek' film until J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot came along. What was it like walking into that group as an outsider, and what was it like fighting William Shatner for screen time (a William Shatner that, according to Hicks, had no problem lightly questioning Leonard Nimoy's directorial style)? Find out, along with her thoughts on working with the late Dudley Moore -- a man she admits that she would have married if asked -- and Bill Murray, who she co-starred with in 'The Razor's Edge,' a film that bombed so badly, Murray left the country for a year.
I really can't believe it has been 25 years since 'The Voyage Home.'
I remember my dad had just died and I took my mom to the premiere. It was at the Hollywood Dome. And I was really proud of the film and the music was really neat.
My dad hated science fiction movies, but not only did he agree to take me to see 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,' I remember him really enjoying it. It's so different than any other 'Star Trek' movie.
It is. I mean, we got mainline great reviews as a legitimate film. And Leonard Nimoy got legitimate directorial complements and he got subsequent mainline feature films. I think because it took place on Earth and it's accessible to people. It was in San Francisco and it was a real cause about the whales. It was less outer space and more down to Earth, literally. And it was emotional and it was human. It just was normal.
Before the J.J. Abrams 'Star Trek' came out, 'The Voyage Home' was still the most financially successful Trek film. Was there a sense of pride?
I think so. I think some other people, the Trekkies, also like 'Wrath of Khan.' But I'm deeply proud of it whenever it's on television, I just know that people are going to enjoy it and get something out of it. Because, again, it's got a good cause a the center of it in addition to what the Trekkies like to follow.
Where you familiar with the series at all before you got the role?
No. Not at all. I think it charmed [Nimoy] that I was like the character, utterly naïve of the genre and the history of it.
There was a great reaction to Abrams' 'Star Trek,' but 'The Voyage Home' was the first Trek to appeal to a mass audience...
I agree. It broke through and film critics were seriously complementing it as a good feature film. And it was. There's a formula to good storytelling -- this had structure.
Were you worried about the stigma that 'Star Trek' had at the time? That maybe it wasn't the best career move?
No, because I've always been an actor that had sort of had to take what came my way – short of bad stuff. And this role was so enormous and I loved it – so I became really possessive about it. I really didn't care. I was just glad that it was a feature. I was a snob about movies; I wanted to be in movies instead of television. So the fact that it was "a movie" was fine with me.
And you had to meet with Shatner?
Well, I auditioned a couple of times and then Leonard wanted to show me to Shatner. And he had to go to Bill's horse ranch in Burbank. And I grew up in Arizona, but I am not a horse person. And I thought, Oh my gosh, if the horse doesn't like me, Bill will influence Leonard decision. So I was pretty nervous. Then I remember Bill saying to Leonard, "Hell, Leonard, she's worked with Coppola and Sidney Lumet. She's worked with better people than we have. Hire her."
There's a rumor that Shatner demanded a love interest in this film. Have you heard that?
No, I didn't know. I know it was my idea to kiss him at the end. So I played it as a romance. But, again, I didn't know any of the history -- that Shatner was a playboy. I took it all at face value.
How do you do that? Just tell Leonard that this is what you want to do?
It wasn't really ... I just leaned forward and chose to kiss him and whispered, "See you around the galaxy." I wanted a little bit of breathiness there.
Walking onto the set with that group, who has known each other for quite some time, were their cliques?
No, they were so nice to me. I had a big part and actors can be threatened or ticked off or envious or resentful – and they were so nice. Nice warm friends, immediately. They didn't cater to me, they were just dignified and very friendly.
Was Shatner the big man on campus?
He's like a mischievous brother. He tried to, maybe, just a little bit, undermine -- but always in a playful way -- Leonard's confidence. Like, "Are you really going to do the shot that way, Leonard? Really?" And Leonard would be, "What do you mean?" And I had to fight for a couple of close-ups. I'd say, "No, no, no. I'm fighting for my whales. It's a single shot. Don't let him be in my shots." Bill wanted it to be a two shot. But then Leonard just said, "Don't worry Cat, I know Bill. We go back a long way." And Leonard was very supportive and very smart about acting. He's so calm; he's such a nice person.
And the whales, George and Gracie, were animatronic, right?
Yeah, I was looking into an empty tank. It was really boring. But I researched whales, I really got into it to audition for the part. And then I went on -- I didn't just want to be an actress who just does this role -- so I got involved with Green Peace and went around to help the whale cause. Which, at the time, was very volatile. And it successfully shrank the amount of whale killings. But, of course, now it's back up with Japan and Iceland.
I read that you replaced Eddie Murphy in this role.
Oh, yeah, I've heard stuff like that. It was going to be him?
The first draft of 'The Voyage Home' was written by the same writer who wrote 'Beverly Hills Cop.' From what I've read, Murphy is a Trek fan, so a part as a biologist was written for him. But he wound up passing to do 'The Golden Child' instead.
Oh, that's funny. Cool! I'm happy that happened! I remember going into the first audition and I knew the part was big. I loved it and I had to have it. I remember a girl was there, she came to the door -- she's a fairly well known stage actress -- and she sort of cocked her head and I saw her choose to not go for the part. And I though, what a mistake. I knew then. I thought, this is a kick ass role, you just blew it. I was happy. One less competitor.
I always thought it was fascinating that when you and Stephen Collins were on '7th Heaven,' you were both actors with huge roles in a Star Trek movie. Did you ever compare notes?
The press would bring it up more than us. We found it curious and coincidental. And he did not have the great experience that I did. I loved my experience. I think he was more... the film ['Star Trek: The Motion Picture'] was not as well thought out.
Was there any consideration to come back for 'Star Trek V'?
Well, no. I mean, everybody wanted that. But I knew it was Bill's turn to direct ... people want to do a new take on it. That's just the way writers are and directors and stuff. So I never expect to be doing a second one.
You worked with Dudley Moore on 'Like Father, Like Son.'
Oh, I was just thrilled. I couldn't believe I was with him. He's so neat.
He's one of those actors that I just miss dearly.
Miss dearly, that's a good way to put it. I know. I was single at the time, I would have run off and married him in a second. However! I am a Russell Brand fan. I'm one of the few people who think he did a cracker-jack job in 'Arthur.' I thought we need not compare, but he's English and he's crazy ... he's very Dudley. And he's brilliant. Who else could succeed Dudley Moore in that part? Nobody.
What were your memories of working on 'Razor's Edge' with Bill Murray? That was his first real journey into drama.
And quickly exited. I did not know Bill Murray, I did not watch 'Saturday Night Live,' at the time. I just didn't know who he was. So I went into New York to spend the day with Bill Murray -- very relaxed, just hanging out. And he's blown away. They take me to dinner, he and the director, and I fly back the next day with my first feature film. Miracles happen.
Was that a happy shoot?
Yeah. I was a little uncomfortable because I'm not an improv gal. And it was my first real movie. We were in London and we sort of didn't rehearse. I was nervous and it was sort of uncomfortable. But it was London, I had fun being there. We weren't like a cuddly cast. But Bill had a baby, he was married and lived in an apartment. It was nice, you know. It wasn't bad, I was just trying to do a good job. Bill works in a different way, he's sort of more spontaneous and relaxed. I learned a lot from hi m because he's like, "Hey, just relax." I think he's a great film actor.
That's interesting that he was improving on a drama. I wouldn't have expected that.
Yeah, but it was his baby, you know. You know the story: He'd agree to 'Ghostbusters' if he got to do this. So he was deeply committed to it and it killed him that it was received so poorly. He went to Paris for a year. Just left. I'm grateful he cast me, and when we got together to show the press the screening, we were all very warm then. And then the reviews came out and it was like, "Uh oh."
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