Eddie Murphy says he turned down Star Trek IV because he wanted a role "on the ship."
Eddie Murphy recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and he told a slightly different story than he had in the past about why he passed on 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Murphy said that while he wanted a role “on the ship,” the part written for him was far too earthbound. He added that if he had taken the part, the film would’ve included him “jive talking to Spock.”
The topic of science fiction came up via Murphy’s love of 1968’s Planet of the Apes. Kimmel brought up Eddie Murphy almost showing up in Star Trek IV, and that’s when the Beverly Hills Cop star talked about what happened.
“Yeah, you know which one it was, it was the one where they go to San Francisco and they get the whales… I was going to be the one that they met when they got to San Francisco, and I was like, ‘No, I want to go and beam up and be on the ship,’ so I didn’t do it.”-Eddie Murphy on Jimmy Kimmel Live
What Eddie Murphy told Jimmy Kimmel goes along with what Star Trek IV screenwriters Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes previously said — that in their version Murphy would’ve played an astrophysicist and professor who already believed in alien life before meeting the Trek heroes. When Murphy passed on the project, his part was split up between a number of different characters and actors, including Catherine Hicks as Dr. Gillian Taylor.
“Yeah, they had me like talking jive to Spock,” Eddie Murphy told Kimmel.
This is a somewhat different reason than the one Eddie Murphy has given for walking away from Star Trek IV on previous occasions. As TrekMovie notes, Murphy has said in the past that he turned down Trek to make the action comedy The Golden Child. Apparently not being cast as one of the crew is part of what convinced him to go in another direction.
To anyone who has seen the film, it probably isn’t a mystery why Eddie Murphy couldn’t have a more space-faring role in Star Trek IV. Most of the film takes place in the 20th century, where the heroes are attempting to get a humpback whale. In fact, with the original Enterprise being destroyed as part of the events of 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the only ship Murphy’s character could possibly have appeared in was the captured Klingon Bird-of-Prey the heroes used for their mission.
Regardless, it’s a shame Eddie Murphy has yet to find himself in a Star Trek role, particularly since he seems to be such a huge science fiction fan. Before getting to the Trek story, he and Kimmel discuss how he and Tracy Morgan will regularly text each other lines from Planet of the Apes, and Murphy later talks about seeing 1985’s Cocoon at Sammy Davis Jr.’s house with other celebrities present including Michael Jackson.
It’s possible Eddie Murphy’s subsequent experience with science fiction turned him away from Star Trek and other properties in the genre. He starred with Rosario Dawson and Randy Quaid in the 2002 sci-fi action comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which bombed spectacularly at the box office. Per Box Office Mojo, it made only $7 million worldwide against a production budget of $100 million.