EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: William Shatner, Part 2
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.
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 two of our exclusive conversation; click HERE to read part one.
Your latest book is Hire Yourself. What inspired that?
SHATNER: The fact that people over 50 are being rehired at a much slower rate because they want more. They want more, but they have more to offer. And in many cases, they’re failing to be rehired. Corporations are hiring younger people with less experience and less knowledge and paying them less. So I’m advocating… hire yourself.
The 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series is almost upon us. For you, it was one job that lasted three years. Some people might call it a failed series or, at best, semi-successful. So how surreal has this all been for you, that Star Trek snowballed into what it’s become?
SHATNER: It is surreal. It has an aura of unreality about it. It’s a phenomenon. There’s never been anything like it before. If you talk in 50-year terms, then we need to go another 50 years before we think there’s something like it again, but we’ll all be dead, so we won’t know. So we can safely say that (in our lifetimes), it’s never happened before and it will never happen again.
We ran a story recently on StarTrek.com in which we commented on some of your best non-Star Trek work and asked readers to share their thoughts on the matter. We were talking about your acting, but people included other things, too, so the list encompassed The Brothers Karamazov, Judgment at Nuremberg, your episodes of Twilight Zone and Columbo, Rescue 911, The Andersonville Trial, Airplane 2: The Sequel, Third Rock from the Sun, and, of course, Boston Legal. We know you tend to joke about not remembering things, but in all seriousness, what of your non-Trek work are you proudest of?
SHATNER: My attitude towards what I do as an actor is more about hitting a moment. Did I play that moment with honesty and with truthfulness and in character? Did I hit the right notes? So that breaks itself down into moments, and that means that every one of the shows and movies you mentioned I may have hit a moment that resonated in me and for other people. Certainly the ones I can remember the best are from Boston Legal, when there moments when I thought I’d brought to life a line within the character dimensions, moments that were truthful, that conveyed the meaning, that had layers of meaning, so that if you were to see it again, you’d think, “Maybe he meant ‘Hello’ in a different way.” So I don’t break those things down into, “That was my favorite,” because everything I have done has something about it that I really like. That includes the commercials I’ve done for Priceline.
We had people state the case for T.J. Hooker, by the way. We thought of that more as a guilty pleasure than as some of your finest work, but you may disagree…
SHATNER: I did have moments there, too. And I will give you an instance of a moment. I directed quite a few of the T.J. Hookers. One of my shots is used in the opening sequence, and that is a silhouetted policeman – which happens to be me – running down a tunnel. The cinematographer wanted to light the tunnel and I said, “No, leave it in shadow.” And it was dramatic. It paid off. I felt exultant having conceived the shot, fought for the shot, made the shot and that people agreed with me by using it not only in the show, but as part of the opening credits.
And many fans pointed out that Airplane 2, in which you pretty much spoofed Kirk, sent you down the comedy path. How much of your performance was ad-libbed?
SHATNER: A lot of it was ad-libbing. To hear a laugh… Here’s the delineation of the situation. You do something on the set and a year later you see it in a film. I went to see Airplane 2, and one of the lines that I’d ad-libbed, which I forget now, but which I knew when I did it I had timed correctly, got a huge laugh in the movie theater. So I felt terrific, warmed by the reaction to the delivery of that one line a year later.
We talked about some of your new endeavors, but there are actually more. If you have a few more minutes for us, let’s go through them. One that most people probably have not heard about yet is The Shatner Project. What is that?
SHATNER: The Do-It-Yourself Network, DIY, is shooting me and my wife as we renovate our house. We’re having a terrific time. And they’re making what I say in the beginning part of the show is a perfectly fine house into a much better house. But I fought the change for quite a while. This is my house in L.A.
And what else do you have going on?
SHATNER: The Hollywood Charity Horse Show is on April 26. We’ve raised several million dollars for charity. We usually raise between $300,000 and $400,000 a year and I’ve been doing it for nearly 30 years, so it’s the millions of dollars that we’ve raised. Wynona Judd will be coming to sing for us. If people go to www.horseshow.org, they can contribute $1 or $5 or $10 even if they can’t come to the show. Every penny goes to the charities. We have a private donor who takes care of the expenses. So every dollar goes straight to children and veterans.
My album, Ponder the Mystery, is out there now. I’m inordinately proud of Billy Sherwood’s work and my own. I’ve also sold an interview show called Brown Bag Wine Tasting. It’s been on my website, but a company has bought it, so we’re going to make some more. It’s me interviewing people. Talking to people, it can take time for them to warm up. My insertion, if you will, is a sip of wine from a brown bag. We analyze the wine and then the guests talk about themselves, and they’re mostly man on the street people rather than celebrities. They’re literally man on the street; they’ll be walking by and I’ll accost them and start talking to them.
Visit StarTrek.com to read part one 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.