William Shatner moves at a pace that would exhaust most people half his age – and Star Trek’s legendary Captain James T. Kirk turned 83 years old in March. Last year, he starred in Shatner’s World, a one-man stage show that played on Broadway and toured the country. That’s now a movie… with Shatner’s World set to play for one night only in 600-plus theaters on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. local time, presented by Fathom Events and Priceline.com. Visit fathomevents.com to find a theater near you. Shatner will also host his annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show on April 26. And, not at all shockingly, there’s more, lots more: he’s got a new album, Ponder the Mystery, out now, not to mention a book on the way (it’s called Hire Yourself), another Star Trek documentary in the works, plenty of convention appearances lined up and two new TV projects in development. StarTrek.com recently caught up with the man himself to discuss all those aforementioned enterprises and more. Below is part one of our exclusive conversation, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to check out part two.
You just turned 83. How old do you feel?
SHATNER: I feel… it’s a toss-up between adolescence and the maturity of my middle thirties. That means I’m not dealing with reality at all. I’m delusional.
A lot of people 20 years younger than you would just stop and smell the roses. Are you workaholic? Is work air for you? Why the compulsion to keep working?
SHATNER: Well, every time I kick back, I kick myself in the ass. And it’s not compulsion. It’s just that it’s there and I’m ready to do it. I have the lifeforce to do it, so I do it.
Would you just be too bored if you didn’t work?
SHATNER: Yes. Work is part of what human beings do, but what I do doesn’t seem like work. Talking to you now is like a nice, friendly conversation.
Let’s talk about Shatner’s World…
SHATNER: That is the project that has the most priority at the moment. On Thursday, April 24, a film of my one-man show will be released. That was a show that I opened on Broadway and toured with to many, many cities in the United States. The movie is a one-night event. It’s a faithful reproduction of the show. The show was so successful in theaters that I’m sure that people coming to the movie theater will enjoy it just as much, if not more.
What did you enjoy most about putting the show together, and then, since it had been a long time since you’d toured in a stage show, what was it like to revisit that kind of experience, playing to a new city and a new crowd, each night?
SHATNER: Well, I started it in Australia, actually. It was me on stage being interviewed by someone like you and me telling stories and anecdotes and answering questions. I did that in Australia and Canada, and I sharpened it in Toronto, which is the New York of Canada. And then, while I was playing there, a Broadway producer wanted to bring it to New York. So I rewrote the entire show (eliminating the interviewer) and opened on Broadway to wonderful reviews. A lot of people came. I thought, “Well, it’s popular enough to take on tour,” so I did one, two and then three tours of various cities around the United States. The response was exceptional.
And how did you go about capturing the show for what moviegoers will see in theaters as a film on Thursday night?
SHATNER: I filmed it in Hamilton, Ontario. I did a matinee and an evening performance, and I put 4 to 6 cameras on each performance, so that’s 8 to 12 angles over both shows. So the film version was done in Canada, and it’s a real motion picture. It has all the attributes of a motion picture, with close-ups and wide shots, and fiddling around with the lights and the sound. So it makes a great movie, although it’s a one-man show. And by that, I mean I went to the Pantages here in Los Angeles. That sits 3,500 people, and I went there to hear an oratorio a few weeks before I was booked. There were about 2,000 people on the stage, and that was about 1,500 people from different choral groups from around southern California and about 250 musicians. You also had the 3,500 people in the audience. Well, three weeks later, I go on stage, and I was alone on stage to the same 3,500 people. So the difference in the amount of production to hold people’s attention for an hour and a half to two hours was staggering. And the difference between 2,000 people and one was dramatized for me in that moment. But it also showed me that with the right connection to the audience, even one person can hold an audience in a suspension of disbelief. The connection has to be made correctly, and I hope that’s what I did. And I think it did because it ended with standing ovations and all that kind of thing.
What do you hope people who see Shatner’s World might learn about you that they’d not known or experienced before?
SHATNER: I make them laugh and I make them cry and I have some observations about life. But it’s not my mission to educate. My absolute determination is to entertain and make you laugh and cry and, in those cathartic emotions, you might learn something about yourself.
Your next project is another Star Trek-related documentary, this time about The Next Generation. Give us a preview…
SHATNER: The first two years of The Next Generation, as the chief writers described them, were “wacky doodle.” It was fragmented by a Gene Roddenberry who was gradually getting more and more ill. Everybody was striving to do what his edicts demanded, but they had trouble fulfilling his unreasonable demands, and there was extraordinary chaos. My film, which is at the moment called Wacky Doodle, delineates that hysteria, the insanity of the first two years of The Next Generation.
Will there be future Next Gen or other Trek documentaries, or is this your last one for a while?
SHATNER: Certainly, we’re branching out into other documentaries. We’ve done 10 so far and they’ve been generally successful, to the point of winning some awards and being up for awards. I love doing documentaries and my team loves doing them, so we’ll do some more. What they will be, I am not sure at the moment.
When and where will Wacky Doodle premiere?
SHATNER: Wacky Doodle will air in Canada first at the moment. We’ve just finished editing it. Then I’ll start to sell it here in the United States. So I will lay that on you in the near future.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read more of our exclusive interview with William Shatner, and check out his official site at williamshatner.com. Also, go to fathomevents.com for details about a Shatner's World screening near you.
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