It’s difficult to follow someone else in a role, but Robin Curtis was called upon to do so in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
It may have been hard to follow someone in a role, but at least Curtis had an easy audition experience due to Leonard Nimoy. “I remember the process very, very, very clearly,” she said. “I interviewed with the casting people. That really wasn’t an audition, because there was nothing to read. Almost a day to two days later I met Leonard Nimoy one-on-one. That was first time I read any sides, as it were, from the script. I did not audition again until the screen test. So it was the gentlest experience.”
“I’d never experienced anything quite like that and I think Leonard had a lot to do with that,” said Curtis. “Here was an actor stepping out from in front of the character to behind the camera, and I think he had a special empathy with how crazy-making and how anxiety-making that process is for an actor. So he took all the craziness out of it. He videotaped my audition, so I didn’t have to go back and recreate that for Harve Bennett at the producers’ audition or for Gary Nardino at the executive vice-president of Paramount audition. New people always come into each subsequent audition when you go back for callbacks. That never happened on Star Trek III, and it was lovely.”
The character of Saavik was appealing to Curtis due to the Saavik’s strength and ability to deal with the tough issues that arose in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. “It was her restraint and her ability to cope with stirring or upsetting issues [that fascinated me],” said Curtis. “David’s betrayal was so a part of that story, and it’d be such an upsetting life event for anyone, especially a human. Saavik, being a Vulcan, withstood that knowledge and then also his demise right in front of her. She then had to guide Spock through his awkward transitions. All of those things are big life events and yet she was called upon to cope with them.”
One of those events included portraying a Saavik who had to face the reborn Spock at the end of the movie. “…at the end of the film,” said Curtis, “when Spock comes to [Saavik] and she wonders, ‘Does he remember me? Does he know what occurred?’ even Nimoy himself came up to me, just before we shot that moment on film, and he leaned in to my space, kind of crossing the line, in a way, and he whispered into my ear. He said, ‘How would you feel if you came upon someone on the streets of New York who you knew before, someone you loved or had had intimate relations with?’ I remember having several feelings all at once in that moment. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s asking me such a personal question.’ Then I thought, ‘Wow, he’s getting me to think about this particular scene.’ I was a little embarrassed. I remember pulling my face away, my head from his head, and looking him in the eye. And he said, ‘That’s what I want.’ He wanted that uncertainty and perhaps a little embarrassment and self-consciousness, yet also that hope that there might be some recognition. Hopefully that’s what we conveyed in that moment.”