Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gene Roddenberry: "I don't want a bald man."

A revealing comment made by Gene Roddenberry in an interview shortly before his death. In the December 1991 issue of Cinefantastique magazine (which also provided us with this) the Star Trek creator recalled how in 1986 producer Robert Justman had found a British actor called Patrick Stewart whom he believed could be the new captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation:

Gene Roddenberry with Robert Justman

"[Bob Justman] had gone to UCLA and had seen this man he wanted as Picard. He presented him to me, and my first reaction was 'Jesus Christ, Bob. I don't want bald man. In his wisdom, Justman kept his mouth shut and let me grow accustomed to him."

In fact, Roddenberry asked Patrick Stewart to wear a toupee in his audition for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He did, but in the end, balder heads prevailed.

Yet, Roddenberry's comments reveal how at odds Hollywood realities pertaining to image were with the utopian world of Star Trek he had created. In 1986, the problem may have been overcome eventually, but in 1965, there was no way that a bald Bill Shatner would have been considered acceptable as the star of a major television series. Had Shatner said he wanted to appear bald (there is no evidence at all that he even considered this) then the producers would simply have hired someone else.

No toup, no Shatner.

Bill Shatner has often credited much of his future career and personal wealth to the opportunities afforded him by Star Trek. Since he wouldn't have secured his most famous role without the hair (wrong though that may be), is it fair to say that he really owes everything to his toupee? We think so!

Bill Shatner with Gene Roddenberry, circa 1979 (see here), but possibly earlier.


  1. Could Shat have suffered a brief crisis in confidence when he ditched the toupee in 2000? After all, the toupee had brought him so far, and here he was quitting it like a bad habit. Would he have what it takes to be successful without it?

    As we know, he did achieve success without it. This should inspire people to make changes in their lives with the confidence to look ahead and not remain tied to the past.

  2. He did achieve success without it, but that's after he achieved success with it.

    I wouldn't go as far as to say that he owes everything his toupees though. Clearly he had some drive and desire to be successful, and he landed some major roles that were it not for his acting, would not have landed future bigger roles.

  3. Which came first, the toup or the Shat?
    It must be the toup, because if toupees hadn't been invented, we never would've heard of William Shatner, ACTOR.