Persis Khambatta, best remembered for her work in the popular film "Star Trek-The Motion Picture," began her career in her native India. Named Miss India in 1965, four years after she began modeling at age 13, Khambatta was soon acting in commercials for Air India and starring in Hindi-language films. Her international debut film role was in the 1975 political thriller "The Wilby Conspiracy." The film, set in apartheid-era South Africa, co-starred Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine. In 1976 she appeared alongside Richard Attenborough and Michael York in the historical drama "Conduct Unbecoming." The beautiful Khambatta shaved her head to play Lieutenant Ilia in the first installment of the "Star Trek" movies, creating a particularly striking and memorable character in the 1979 film. Tragedy struck the next year when she was hurt in a serious car crash, which ended the possibility of her reprising the role of Lt. Ilia in any future "Star Trek" projects as the resulting large scar on her head prevented her from going hairless again for a film role. Despite her accident, Khambatta continued to work in features, appearing in the 1981 detective thriller "Nighthawks," with Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams, and starring opposite Barry Bostwick in the 1982 sci-fi adventure "Megaforce." In 1983, Khambatta underwent a heart bypass operation. This slowed her down for only a short time, and she was soon in the public eye again. 1985 saw her starring in the fantasy film "Warrior of the Lost World" with Donald Pleasance, and appearing on the syndicated Robin Leach television special "Exciting People, Exotic Places." Khambatta continued to work in TV guest spots on episodes of ABC's "MacGyver" and NBC's "Hunter" in 1986. In 1988, she acted in two films shown at Cannes Film Festival: "Phoenix the Warrior," a sci-fi adventure which she was the associate producer as well as the star of, and "Deadly Intent," a suspense thriller matching her up with Fred Williamson. Her last television appearance was in the pilot episode of the popular ABC fantasy series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." A multi-talented individual, this actress and model was also an author, publishing a book about important female figures in India entitled "Pride of India" when she was only 18. Khambatta died after succumbing to a heart attack in 1998 at age 49.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Began modeling at age 13 (date approximate)
Won the Miss India beauty pageant
Was featured in the political thriller "The Wilby Conspiracy", with Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine, set in apartheid-era South Africa
Appeared in "Conduct Unbecoming", alongside Michael York and Richard Attenborough
Starred as Lieutenant Ilia in "Star Trek-The Motion Picture"
Was seriously injured in a car crash, resulting in a large scar on her head
Appeared with Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams in the detective thriller "Nighthawks"
Starred opposite Barry Bostwick in the sci-fi feature "Megaforce"
Underwent a heart bypass operation
Was profiled on the syndicated travel interview special "Exciting People, Exotic Places", hosted by Robin Leach and starred in the action fantasy film "Warrior of the Lost World"
Acted in episodes of TV's "MacGyver" (ABC) and "Hunter" (NBC)
Starred in the sci-fi adventure "Phoenix the Warrior" and the suspense thriller "Deadly Intent"
Appeared in the pilot epiosde of ABC's "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"