The Twilight Zone is an American series created by Rod Sterling back in the 1950s. The episodes of the show included various genres ranging from fantasy to dystopian fiction. It ran for four seasons on different eras.
William Shatner is known for his on-set antics. On the shoot of the Twilight Zone, while filiming the episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Shatner had a dummy fall to the concrete. The director, Richard Donner thought he died.
Who is William Shatner?
William Shatner is a Canadian actor born in Montreal, Quebec. His grandparents on both sides immigrated to Canada from Ukraine and Lithuania. He attended Montreal’s Children Theatre as a child. He then graduated with a degree in Commerce from the McGill University Faculty of Management and was later on awarded an honorary Doctorate at the New England Institute of Technology. (Source: J Weekly)
He started his film career in the 1951 drama The Butler’s Night as a secondary character. But he is best known for his role as Captain James Kirk in the 1980s sci-fi hit Star Trek. He did a couple of episodes for The Twilight Zone from 1960 to 1963.(Source: IMDB)
One of the most memorable off-screen shoots were at the set of the Nightmare at 20,000 feet where William Shatner and Edd Byrnes decided to play a joke on the director. (Source: Me TV)
Watch the trailer of the episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet here.
How Did the Prank Go?
In an interview with the director Richard Donner he said:
“It was a tough shoot. It was an airplane, in a tank, elevated way off the ground. We had to climb up. We had massive wind machines. We had lightning machines. We had rain machines. We had effects machines working, because we had to also turn the engines. There were no computers or anything to do it. Everything had to be live. Everything had to be synced.” (Source: Me TV)
Back then, special effects were quite hard to accomplish. Needless to say, the entire cast and crew were exhausted and were hopped up on coffee. “I drank a gallon of it that night.” said Donner. During his break, Shatner and Brynes had time goof off and plan something mischevious. (Source: Me TV)
As the director was heading back to the set after his coffee break, he heard the screaming. “I hear this screaming and yelling and everything, and I run back and I see Byrnes and Shatner fighting. And then they went behind the body of the airplane, and all of a sudden, I see Shatner fall off the wing and fall all the way to the bottom. It’s concrete, and he hit the ground. I thought he was dead, man. And I came running up and I grabbed him and then everybody’s standing around laughing.” (Source: Me TV)
Apparently William Shatner and Edd Brynes had found a dummy, and decided that it would be a really funny prank to play on the director. Donner later on joked, “Don’t tell me I have to shoot the whole show over again.” (Source: Me TV)
Watch William Shatner’s interview about the prank here.