This week, the ever-busy William Shatner released his latest memoir, Live Long and… What I Might Have Learned Along The Way. TrekMovie had time to chat with Mr. Shatner about the new book, his active social media presence, and about Star Trek past, present and future.
Kirk’s unfortunate comedy and unavoidable death
One of the surprises in your book was your revelation that you once did a stand-up comedy routine as Captain Kirk. You didn’t give any details on the act, can you remember any of the jokes? What worked and what didn’t?
Nothing worked, that much I remember. I was trying for Henny Youngman jokes. All the standard stuff, it was all the old-time humor. “Take my wife, please” kind of humor. My concept was, Captain Kirk wants to be a stand-up comic and tells the worst jokes possible.
Well, in that way, it sounds like you succeeded.
Yes. Much better, or worse, than I expected. [laughs]. It seemed to me to be an amusing concept, but it failed utterly.
In the book, you talk about regret, although mostly framed as how you regret the things you haven’t done. I’m curious about something you did do that may have cut off future opportunities. Do you regret agreeing to do Star Trek: Generations, and allow them to kill off Kirk?
Well, I didn’t think I had any choice in the matter. Paramount had decided that the ceiling that they could reach in our box office had been reached and they thought that by putting in the Next Generation cast, that they would reach a higher box office. That decision had been made. It was either I was going to appear and die, or they were going to say he died. So, I chose the more practical of the two.
So, they were killing you no matter what?
That was their theory. It didn’t work out that way, but that is the way it was.
Would return as Kirk
Recently you gave an interview where you said you were happy for Patrick Stewart and his new Star Trek series, but doing something like that wasn’t for you. Some in the media took that to mean you were done with Star Trek entirely. Last year you told me you were open to returning to the character. You may not want to do a new TV series, but if they can find a way to make it work, you would still return to the role, right?
That is exactly right. If they can find a way of writing a 50 years older captain and it was meaningful and had something to do with the plot, I would jump at the chance.
Stands with Chris Pine
I’m not sure if you have been keeping up with the trades, but the man who followed in your footsteps, Chris Pine, has been having his own issues with Paramount, possibly walking away from the next Star Trek movie over a salary dispute. Did you ever have any kind of difficult negotiations for your films with Paramount? Did you ever walk away from the table?
Well, we negotiated. I don’t recall, although there is something vaguely reminiscent about saying, “I can’t do that.” But, Chris is in a wonderful position in that he is so good and such a leading man, that he has many opportunities to explore without being Captain Kirk. So he is in a really good negotiating position. I think he’s doing the right thing in terms of getting more money, as the movies seem to be making a lot of money.
Well, that is part of the problem. The last movie didn’t make as much as they wanted and so they want him to take less money than they previously agreed for the next one. Any advice for Chris, should he hold out?
I know nothing. I am a negotiator, but that is for travel. [laughs] I can get you a ticket you wouldn’t believe!
Living the celebrity life on social media
It is clear from the book you live a passionate life, but you also say you don’t currently have a lot of close friendships like you used to have with Leonard Nimoy. Is that just part of life as an actor? Does that make it more difficult?
It basically is. The celebrity aspect to all of this, it colors a lot. So many people want to use you for one thing or another. And when the result is you are being used, it tends to make you withdrawn. So yes, being in the limelight definitely affects relationships.
It’s true you are very famous, one might even say you are even a cultural icon, which means people talk about you and joke about you all the time. What are they getting wrong? What is the most misunderstood thing about William Shatner?
Quite frankly, I don’t know. I try not to be a party to all of that stuff. I am active on social media because it serves a purpose of getting to know my fans and allowing the fans to get to know me and to publicize things that I am doing. Also, there are charitable things that can be done.
So I am actively talking, but I can’t really answer that question with any intelligence.
You are very active on social media, engaging with your fans and other celebrities. Periodically you appear to get into feuds, like the one with Jason Isaacs. But that’s all just a goof, or is it real?
No, he is a really cool guy. It’s all done tongue-in-cheek.
So you have no enemies?
Well, I don’t know about that. But I don’t dislike anybody.
What’s left on Bill’s bucket list
The book is a mixture of life experience and advice, including the advice for people to not take your advice. So, what did you learn about yourself as you wrote this new memoir?
I think probably it more reinforced things I already knew, like how little one knows about anything. How invalid advice to other people can be. How ineffectual so many things are and how you attempt for yourself to do something that has some validity.
Returning to the idea of regrets of things you haven’t done in your life, what are the things you still want to do? What is on your bucket list?
Well standing up is good, breathing is another.
This year you have done a Star Trek II tour, did a country album, wrote this book, and have a Christmas album still to come. So, you aren’t slowing down. What can we expect from William Shatner in 2019?
Possibly another book and more touring. I hope to sell some animated films. I have got a company called Shatner Universe in which there are many properties which would lend themselves to animated films and I have connected with an animated film company – Titmouse – and I am hopeful that we will announce the sale of some stuff that is part of Shatner Universe.
I don’t know. The adventure is in front of me. The albums are doing really well. I am pleased with the content. I am hoping people will buy them. The book is doing well. I am not sure what the future holds for me, but it seems quite bright.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL. We just signed off on a partnership/collaboration agreement with @WilliamShatner's #ShatnerUniverse to bring you the finest animated entertainment you've ever known! We can't announce what we're working on just yet, but we're super excited for what's to come! pic.twitter.com/tuZ3MxNsf4— Titmouse Animation (@TitmouseInc) August 3, 2018
Shatner’s new memoir is out now
William Shatner’s Live Long and… What I Might Have Learned Along The Way was released on Tuesday, September 4th. It is available in hardcover and ebook. There is also an audiobook version narrated by Shatner available on Audio CD and via Audible.