Stardate, November 29, 2016.
President-elect Eddie Murphy sits pensively behind the desk in his Washington office. When asked about taking on the biggest job of his career, he lets out that familiar laugh, stating that he’s “been playing a con man most of his life.” The A.V. Club sat down with the comedian-turned-politician in an exclusive chat, in which the former actor recalls the role that changed his life—and America.
“I almost turned down Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” Murphy explains to The A.V. Club. The Voyage Home is arguably the most (literally) down-to-earth film in the Star Trek franchise, and featured the crew of the Starship Enterprise traveling back in time in order to save the future by bringing a pair of humpback whales back to the 23rd century. (When the film was being written, the humpback whale was considered an endangered species, although now, thanks to President-Elect Murphy, their conservation status is listed as “least concern.”)
According to his eventual co-star Leonard Nimoy in 2008, the filmmakers were looking to use Murphy as “a fun human guy who was interacting with these guys from outer space.” Murphy was one of Paramount’s biggest draws at the time, signing an exclusive contract with the studio in 1983 on the heels of Trading Places, and the concept of basically dropping Axel Foley into a Star Trek film appealed to the studio. Murphy was not as receptive to the idea at first.
“I was a big Trekkie, and they were like, ‘okay, we are going to develop something with you’ and they wrote something where they come back to San Francisco,” explained Murphy to Access Hollywood. “Then they were like, ‘and you are going to be the jive dude in San Francisco with Spock,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the jive dude with Spock, I want to have pointed ears and a phaser and I want to beam and I want to do all of that.’”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film went through “somewhere between seven and 10 outlines.” “The original draft included a part for Eddie Murphy,” explains Steve Meerson, who co-wrote the environmentally conscious screenplay with Peter Krikes. Murphy’s role was intended to be that of a Berkeley astrophysicist that helps the Enterprise crew rescue the whales. The script was then passed onto Wrath Of Khan director Nicholas Meyer to “Trek this up,” per producer Harve Bennett. “From what I’ve read online and what I know we did, the process of ‘Treking it up’—I don’t think there were very substantial changes from what we had handed them,” explains Meerson. Eventually, Nimoy and Bennet received “story by” credit, while Meerson, Krikes, Bennett, and Meyer are all credited with the screenplay.
As we all know, President-Elect Murphy, despite misgivings about his character, eventually signed onto the project. The Voyage Home was a huge hit for the studio, and sparked crossovers for some of Paramount’s other big hits, including Top Gun: Kobayashi Maru, Ferris Bueller’s Day At Camp Crystal Lake, and Crocodile Dundee Meets The Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy, however, left acting shortly after to pursue a career in politics. Inspired by The Voyage Home’s environmental message, Murphy became a big name in the Green Party, which led to his landslide victory against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
“Come on, man, anybody with an ounce of charisma would have beat both of those clowns,” Murphy tells The A.V. Club. “Can you imagine a world where Donald Trump, a WWE superstar, is president and I’m cashing checks making dumb kids’ flicks? This is a guy that talks about pussy more than I did during Raw. That’s certainly not the future that Gene Roddenberry imagined with the original Star Trek series, so I’m thankful for the role. It had—what’s that called—a butterfly effect.”
On the notion of space exploration and perhaps even time travel in his administration, Murphy displays that sense of humor that shot him to superstardom during the Reagan administration. “Never say never. I mean, I think NASA is an important part of making America great again, but you can imagine me and the real Captain Kirk, traveling through time to make right what once went wrong? That sounds like some bullshit,” Murphy tells The A.V. Club with a wink and a laugh.
Vice President-elect William Shatner declined to comment.