William Shatner is still boldly going. Sure, it’s a cliché, but you know what they say about clichés… they’re the truth as proven by the passage of time. Shatner will turn 85 in March, but even for a guy who’s always juggling multiple projects, his dance card is jam-packed. Among the many goings-on: Star Trek 50th anniversary events that include convention appearances and an official Star Trek cruise in early 2017, a Christmas album (yes, you read that right), and additional dates for his touring one-man show, Shatner’s World: We’re Just Living in It. And, notably, a new book… Leonard – My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. The revealing memoir, which explores his relationship with Leonard Nimoy – Spock to his Kirk – will be released on February 16 by Thomas Dunne Books. In advance of the tome’s arrival in stores, Shatner spent nearly 45 minutes on the phone talking to StarTrek.com, answering questions both from us and from you, the fans. His replies were as detailed and reflective and personal as we’ve ever heard. We’ve broken the extensive, candid interview into two parts. Below is part two, and click HERE if you missed part one yesterday.
Star Trek aside, what are you proudest of in your life and career?
I’m proud to be alive and functioning. I’m proud of my family. If you’re pointing to something I have done, I’d say this one-man show (Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It), which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now. The show is certainly the sum total of everything I’ve done… directing, acting, writing and producing at this point, too.
You've had a decades-long love affair with horses. Why haven't you done more Westerns for film or TV?
They really don’t make westerns anymore. I’d love to. I was in a number of horse movies and shows some time ago. But they really don’t make them now. They make one maybe every five years.
What is it you love so much about horses and about riding them?
There was a time that I thought I was getting the exercise, and you do get exercise. And there’s the congeniality. But, of late, what I’m getting is a spiritual quality that’s being applied to my ability to ride these horses. So I’m riding at a higher level of excellence than I ever have before. The older I have gotten, the better I’m able to ride a horse. And I think that’s a result of my tapping into the spirituality of the horse. I have seen it work with therapy, with equine therapy. But it also goes to the rider communicating with the horse. “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s why we’re doing it. Here’s what I want you to do. And you must do it because I’m asking you to do it.”
How much money do you think you’ve raised to help kids through your annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show?
What we seem to be raising is $400,000 or $500,000 per year, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years. That’s a lot of money for charities all over this area. I don’t know who’s going to be the main act this year. It’s going to be in June, and I need help. I spoke to my friend Brad Paisley the other day. I said, “You’ve got to get me somebody!” He’s working on it.
Let’s talk about Star Trek for a little bit. Back when you did the show, how aware or not were you that the stories really were ahead of their time?
I was aware. I had read a lot of science fiction beforehand. I never understood the depth of the implications of science fiction until I started doing documentaries and realizing that science fiction is much more than just literature. The good stuff is really a chapter in the bible of science fiction. Same with the show.
Regardless of whatever went on behind the scenes, the chemistry between all of you, and especially you, Leonard and DeForest Kelley, was remarkable. How quickly and easily did the triumvirate’s chemistry evolve?
There’s a great deal of talk of chemistry, and it’s overrated in that good actors look at each other and talk to each other with the intention of what the author wrote, and they perform to that intention. You may work with someone, but you don’t want to invite them to dinner. You don’t actively dislike them, but they’re not your cup of tea. And you’re not going to tell them that at work because you want the work conditions to be pleasant. So you might say, “Hey, I’ve got half a sandwich left, do you want it?” or “I’m going to get coffee, can I get you one?” You put out all the aspects of a relationship that, in your mind, isn’t there. That’s what some actors can do with actors they don’t have chemistry with. And good actors should have chemistry even if they’re not friends. Now, there are a lot of actors who really like each other and also have chemistry. De and Leonard and I had that. We really liked each other. So we didn’t have to pretend, and I’d still get Leonard or De a coffee and they’d get one for me. Or we’d play jokes on each other, out of fondness and not distaste. But, what I’m saying is, an actor can act chemistry. You’ve seen a lot of great scenes between actors who didn’t like each other. And it works the other way, too, you know. People can be friends and not have chemistry
We are almost at the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. How remarkable an achievement is that?
There is nothing else like Star Trek. And if there ever is something else like it, we’ll all be long gone, because it will be 50 years from now. So, this is a unique phenomenon that I am very grateful to be a part of.
You won’t be in Star Trek Beyond, right?
Right. I’m not involved. I really don’t know anything about it. I’d like to do them, and they know where to find me.
Let’s talk a little about the 50th anniversary activities with which you will be involved. You're helping promote the Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage concert tour, which is underway now. You'll be hosting Star Trek: The Cruise. You'll be the headliner at the massive Star Trek Las Vegas convention/event in August…
I’m excited for all of them. The concert tour is a really great invention. Brady Beaubien and Justin Freer are partners who have done other concerts with other movies, Godfather being one, where they played all the music, on stage, to the film playing on the screen. For the Star Trek concert tour, they have the charts that Jerry Goldsmith and others wrote. In other cases, there were no charts, so they had to listen to the notes and write them down. And, for Star Trek, they’re exploring themes, like “Man Against Machine.” So they’ll take two or three scenes from various Star Treks, put them together, and play the music live on stage to the scenes on the screen. The audience becomes aware of how movie music enhances a scene, how it is lovely as music itself. Much of the music from Star Trek, especially Jerry’s, would stand on its own, in a symphonic way. But, really, what people will discover is how important music is to the movies.
What do you recall of collaborating with Goldsmith when you directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? And how did his music complement your work as a director?
It was brilliant music. And I have been told by many people that it is the best music of any of the Star Treks. I talked to Jerry several times, during which we planned where the music would go, and then I left him totally alone. There’d been times when some of the directors would lay certain rules on the composers, that they couldn’t understand. One of them was no drums. It was no drums and no something else… maybe no oboe, or something. “But, what?” “No, we don’t want any drums.” “But drums are at the heartbeat of an orchestra.” So I didn’t do any of that, and he brought forth a beautiful sequence of music.
The cruise is actually sold out already. How prepared are you to spend seven days aboard a ship with thousands of Star Trek fans?
Well, given what we talked about earlier (regarding his shyness), I’ve been assured we’ll have our little area of cabins where nobody can go. But it should be fun.
Star Trek Las Vegas will be held right before the 50th anniversary date…
I think it will be one of the biggest conventions of all time. When you step in front of that many people you don’t know what’s going to come out of your mouth.
What else will you be involved with for the 50th anniversary?
I’ll be doing several conventions. And I’m hoping to do a show for the 50th anniversary. I don’t know if it will be a show or a documentary like the others I’ve done.
Especially with Leonard gone, you are the face of the franchise. What’s that like for you? Do you look at it, in part, as a responsibility?
I don’t think of it as a responsibility. And, without Leonard there, for me it is diminished because we had so much fun on stage together. Part of the friendship was based on the humor that we evoked from each other on stage. You can be much more frank, I guess, and take little conversational facets while joshing each other on stage, which you wouldn’t ordinarily do over a meal or something. So, we learned a lot about each other just by kidding each other and making each other laugh on stage. We will never do that again, and that’s a very sad thought.
You’re going to turn 85 in March. You hopefully will be among the living for many, many years to come, but, not to be morbid, what do you hope will be your legacy?
My legacy… What I want people to say is “I can’t believe he’s still alive.”
They’re saying that now? What about when you’re gone?
“I can’t believe he’s still alive.” (Laughs)
Is that denial?
That’s total denial. It’s the only way you can get through it, man!
Let’s go in another direction, then, to end our conversation. If you live to 100, what’s left to do? What have you not done yet that you’re itching to try?
I will play an old man role with veracity, with absolute truthfulness. Imagine being 100 and playing a 100-year-old codger, but still being randy. I can see me doing that.