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`SCOTTY' HAS ACCENTED VERSATILE ACTOR'S CAREER

Published: Friday, April 16 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

Contrary to popular belief, James Doohan does not speak with a Scottish accent.

Despite the fact that he portrayed perhaps the most famous fictitious Scotsman in history - Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the starship Enterprise - Doohan would like people to know the accent is just part of the act. Because most fans of "Star Trek" aren't prepared for his normal speaking voice."They're so surprised. They really are," Doohan said in a telephone interview this week.

The "Star Trek" star will be in Salt Lake City this Saturday and Sunday for the annual "Trek" convention at the Red Lion hotel.

Although it's been more than 27 years since "Star Trek" debuted, Doohan clearly recalls when the character was born - during his audition for the producers.

"I did about seven or eight different accents for them, and they asked me what I preferred," he said. "And I named the character. I told them, `If you want an engineer, in my experience the best engineers are Scotsmen. And they said, `Well, we rather like that one too.'

"And I just came right out and said, `Good. I'll call him Montgomery Scott.' "

He borrowed the name from his maternal grandfather, James Montgomery. Doohan's middle name is also Montgomery, "But I didn't think of that at the time."

Doohan was so convincing as a Scotsman that it prevented him from getting other work after "Star Trek" went off the air in 1969. In the early and mid-'70s, "I didn't do any other work. I'd walk into a producer's office and the secretary would say, `Oh, you're Scotty!' And (the producer) would say the same thing," Doohan said. "Every time that happened I didn't even get a chance to read.

"Gracious, before that, if I walked in and had a chance to read 75 percent of the time I got the job. Now, it was 100 percent against, because they looked on me as a Scotsman and there weren't any parts for Scotsmen."

Doohan did a movie last fall in which he played "a psychiatrist with no accent. Now, that's the kind of part I want. Or a different accent. As long as it doesn't typecast again."

He said he has "absolutely no regrets" about his "Star Trek" career, however. And he's thrilled with the influence his character has had.

In addition to being the world's most famous Scotsman, Scotty has also become the world's most famous engineer. So famous, in fact, that Doohan was presented with an honorary doctorate in engineering at University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin a couple of months ago.

When students at the school were asked what inspired them to enter engineering, half of them answered, "Well, Scotty gave me the idea," Doohan said. "That's why they gave me the doctorate."

"And I get exactly the same thing from all across the country. It's very heartening. It really is just great."

So far, Doohan has received only one honorary doctorate. But he has appeared at hundreds of "Star Trek" conventions. He estimates that over the past decade, he's done 35 or 40 per year.

"I've answered most questions so many times that it's easy to have fun with them, and so we get a lot of laughs," Doohan said. "And, of course, I start out with a little shtick that also gets a lot of laughs."

Not that he expected to be spending so much time on the convention circuit.

"In '73, '74 we used to say, `Well, I suppose that will go on for another couple of years.' Then, 10 years later we were saying the same thing. And now, 20 years later, we're saying, `My gosh, it's going to go on forever!' And that's what I'm sure it will do.

"Actually, it's getting bigger and bigger all the time. `Star Trek' is just growing by leaps and bounds."

In addition to the original "Star Trek" and the six "Star Trek" movies, there's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" - on which Doohan appeared earlier this season - and the new "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Those shows have helped bring whole new audiences to the "Trek" phenomenon.

"About five years ago, I started asking the question . . . `How many are at their first "Star Trek" convention," Doohan said. "Ninety-eight percent of the hands went up. I couldn't believe it.

"I've asked that question just about every other place . . . and the lowest I ever got was 55 percent . . . but the average was 85 percent."

But even those new conventioneers have a hard time asking Doohan a question he hasn't heard before.

"That very, very seldom happens," he said. "One young fellow about 9 or 10 years old, he said, `What was the name of the shuttle they gave you (on "Next Generation"), and I didn't know. I felt really embarrassed. And I still don't know."

But you can bet that there will be plenty of people at the convention this weekend who can tell him.

*****

Festival schedule

This year's local "Star Trek" festival is scheduled Saturday and Sunday at the Red Lion Hotel, 255 South West Temple, from noon to 5 p.m. each day.

The major attraction will be appearances by James Doohan ("Scotty"), who will sign autographs and answer questions beginning at 3 p.m. each day.

The festival will also feature trivia contests, auctions, drawings and video presentations as well as a variety of "Trek" paraphernalia on sale.

Tickets are available only at the door and are $17 per person on Saturday, $12 per person on Sunday or $25 per person for both days. Children under 8 will be admitted for $5 each day.

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