Robert Meyer Burnett (Dec. 3rd, 1999)

Please Note: This is not to be confused with the interview the effort's representatives had in March 2000, which was first printed in the BBKN.

The interview was done by Jason Turner, our UK representative, and is available on the UK website.






The Bring Back Kirk campaign is proud to bring to you an exclusive interview with Robert Meyer Burnett, director and co-writer of the award-winning independent film, Free Enterprise. Complimenting the recent Mark Altman interview, Robert offers a unique insight into directing William Shatner, and further elaborates on their idea to script the next Star Trek film, featuring the return of Captain Kirk. As a life-long fan of the original series, Robert talks us through some of his favorite moments, and adds his dissatisfaction with Kirk's fate in Star Trek: Generations.






BBK: There seems to be some unfair myths in regard to Shatner being difficult to work with in recent years. Having had firsthand experience directing Bill in Free Enterprise, how would you describe William Shatner, and your experience working with him?


RMB: I think what many people forget about William Shatner is simply the amount of time he's spent in the business. For almost half a century, he'd been honing his craft. So when some snot-nosed punk starts telling him how to act, I'm sure he can get testy. Like that infamous tape Howard Stern loves to play of Shatner's voice-over sessions for the "Generations" computer game where he berates a director for telling him how to play Kirk. That director DESERVED to suffer Shatner's wrath. You don't tell an actor how to play a character he's been playing for thirty years. Shatner just expects you to work on his professional level. Which is why, from the very beginning, Mark and I approached Shatner like Brando in the Godfather...we never forgot to approach him AS the Godfather. We came to him with great respect, as a seasoned professional at the top of his game...which he is. He was very responsive to our "Hey, lets put on a show" enthusiasm. We also always made sure we knew EXACTLY what we were doing so we didn't waste his time.


As a first time director, I was obviously a bit nervous at the prospect of telling him what to do, but he couldn't have been more receptive. Mark and I looked over most of his comedic appearances thoughout the years...from "Saturday Night Live" to "Airplane II." Obviously, he's got a tendency to go over the top, which wouldn't really work for "Free Enterprise." So my one big directorial note to him was "I don't want the audience to know whether or not you're really serious...or completely insane." He loved that note, really playing the part EXACTLY as I envisioned.


BBK: How did the William Shatner rap scene come about? Did you collaborate with a rap artist, or did you always have that scene clear-cut in your mind?


RMB: Originally, Bill was supposed to sing the Prince song "Sexy Mother..." But he suggested, after listening to rap music entirely on his own, it'd be a great way to approach Shakespeare. Of course, we jumped at the chance. At the time, The Rated R was recording an album downstairs in the studio below our office. I went down there one night and asked them to do a rap song with Captain Kirk. After their initial disbelief, they said they'd have to see if they could "Vibe" with Will (they stared calling him "Will").


So, he came down, and they all got along famously. The rest, as they say, is history.


BBK: Rick Berman recently stated that Kirk was "the quintessential '60s TV hero, a man who had a babe with a beehive hairdo in one hand and a phaser in the other." No disrespect intended, but as a Kirk fan, I feel that he just doesn't get the character. Do you think that not really understanding Kirk and TOS is one of the reasons why we are greeted with their absence?


RMB: Not only doesn't Rick Berman understand Kirk, but he doesn't understand Drama itself. Whatever the era, Kirk was simply a great literary hero. Whether it's Conan, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, King David or Batman, all heroes basically have certain heroic traits that are repeated down through the centuries. Bravery, Compassion, Inner Strength, Honesty, etc. Berman never understood Classic Trek's appeal came from the literary traditions of it's stories and characterizations. There was a reason why Roddenberry cited Horatio Hornblower as the inspiration for Kirk. Berman can't see BEYOND the beehive hairdos or the phasers or the effects or the sets to the timeless literary devices the writers of the original series employed to create a believable universe.


BBK: How would you describe Captain Kirk, and what has the character meant to you over the years?


RMB: For me, Kirk represents everything a man should be. First, he understands people. Understands how they think. He tries to see every side of a story and only then makes a decision. Then he sticks to that decision and sees it through. He also knows enough to surround himself with not only his friends, but the best people for the jobs at hand. He judges ability, not race, sex, sexual orientation or past history.

He also lives life to the fullest. He's "out there, on the edge, where's he gotta' be," to quote Al Pacino.

Basically, he's a guy who encompasses everything that I, as a man, aspire to be. He commands not only a starship, but his own destiny. He's backed-up by people who he respects and respect him. He knows enough, or is willing to learn enough, to travel anywhere, get involved in any situation and make the best of it. Finally, he uses his great insight into people to give the ladies exactly what they want and he takes what he wants back from them. Which they love. And he loves.