William Shatner has cultivated a career that has spanned 50 years as a professional actor, director, producer, screenwriter and author. He is one of pop culture's most recognizable figures, and has also established himself as a major Hollywood philanthropist. Born in Montreal, Shatner developed an early interest in acting and started working professionally at the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) even before he reached his teens. He found himself drawn to the theater and eventually joined the Stratford Shakespeare Festival under Sir Tyrone Guthrie. Tamburlaine, one of the festival's productions, moved to Broadway, and Shatner was immediately noticed by the New York critics. He later returned to Canada, winning the Tyrone Guthrie Award soon thereafter. Also while at Stratford, Shatner found time to write plays for the CBC. He moved to New York and was a part of television's Golden Age, working on programs such as Playhouse 90 and Studio One. He made his film debut in the 1957 film, The Brothers Karamazov, followed by Judgment at Nuremburg and The Intruder. During the same period, he starred on Broadway in The World of Suzie Wong and A Shot in the Dark. He has since guest starred in several hundred television programs, including classics such as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Mission: Impossible. He also recurred on other staples, including 77 Sunset Strip and Dr. Kildare, before garnering an Emmy nomination for his appearances in 3rd Rock from the Sun. William Shatner has cultivated a career that has spanned 50 years as a professional actor, director, producer, screenwriter and author. He is one of pop culture's most recognizable figures, and has also established himself as a major Hollywood philanthropist.
Born in Montreal, Shatner developed an early interest in acting and started working professionally at the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) even before he reached his teens. He found himself drawn to the theater and eventually joined the Stratford Shakespeare Festival under Sir Tyrone Guthrie. Tamburlaine, one of the festival's productions, moved to Broadway, and Shatner was immediately noticed by the New York critics. He later returned to Canada, winning the Tyrone Guthrie Award soon thereafter.
Also while at Stratford, Shatner found time to write plays for the CBC. He moved to New York and was a part of television's Golden Age, working on programs such as Playhouse 90 and Studio One. He made his film debut in the 1957 film, The Brothers Karamazov, followed by Judgment at Nuremburg and The Intruder. During the same period, he starred on Broadway in The World of Suzie Wong and A Shot in the Dark. He has since guest starred in several hundred television programs, including classics such as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Mission: Impossible. He also recurred on other staples, including 77 Sunset Strip and Dr. Kildare, before garnering an Emmy nomination for his appearances in 3rd Rock from the Sun.
In 1966 Shatner originated the role of Captain James T. Kirk in the television series Star Trek, which rocketed into fame only after the show was cancelled and re-launched in syndication. The series spawned a feature film franchise, and Shatner reprised the role of Captain Kirk in seven of the Star Trek motion pictures. He has since appeared in other movies such as Airplane II: The Sequel, Loaded Weapon 1 and Miss Congeniality. Miss Congeniality was successful enough to warrant a sequel, and Miss Congeniality 2 is currently in production. Shatner played the title role in the network television series hit, T.J. Hooker, before hosting the CBS series Rescue 911 for six seasons. Since that show first aired, over 300 lives have been saved by people who learned a life-saving technique from watching it.
He made his feature film directorial debut in 1989 with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (in which he also starred, as well as helped conceive the story). Since then he has directed several others features, television movies and episodics. Most recently he directed (as well as produced and starred in) Love Lake, a picture about the mysterious area surrounding Roswell, New Mexico. Since April 1998, Shatner has served as the spokesman for Priceline.com. He was one of the first celebrities in Hollywood to recognize the importance of the Internet, and his enduring appeal has proven to be an integral part of the company's ad campaigns and brand marketing program. As the celebrity spokesperson for Priceline.com, he contributes his trademark sense of humor and entertaining style to the groundbreaking and humorous series of television and radio commercials.
Off the screen and broadcast waves, Shatner has authored over a 20 bestselling books in both the fiction and non-fiction genres. His novel series, TekWar, was turned into a television series for The Sci-Fi Network (in which he starred and directed). Some of his other popular novels include Man O' War, Star Trek Avenger and Ashes of Eden. He wrote two books on his Star Trek career in the titles "Star Trek Memories" and "Star Trek Movie Memories," before penning "Get a Life!," a hilarious but endearing look at the cult of "StarTrek" conventions. Shatner has also become a success at another career — horse breeding. A longtime dedicated breeder of American Quarter horses, he has had smashing success with the beautiful American Saddlebred, developing and owning the world champion "Sultan's Great Day." In August 1997, he won the World Harness Championship at Louisville, Kentucky, with his Saddlebred, "Revival."
This love for horses led him to his involvement with AHEAD With Horses, a charity organization that gives physically and mentally challenged children the thrill of riding a horse, and boosts their confidence and self-esteem. For the past 14 years, Shatner has hosted the Hollywood Charity Horse Show at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. The event, held every spring, benefits AHEAD With Horses and other child-oriented charities in the Los Angeles area. He has also worked with the American Tinnitus Association, and has raised awareness of this debilitating illness through numerous television appearances and interviews. Shatner continues to act, write, produce and direct while still managing to find time to work with charities and further his passion in the equestrian sports. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Los Angeles.
William Shatner's ''Has Been''
Beginning with a cover of Pulp's "Common People" that sounds like William Shatner is reading his captain's log, Has Been is a fairly poorly constructed piece of pop. Though there are a few flashes of talent that hint at this album being above a mere E! channel news item -- for example, Shatner hits his stride during the chorus of "Common People" -- it's generally flat. Despite touching on many different styles and genres, it still fails to work very well, even with the assistance of producer and sometimes singer Ben Folds. "It Hasn't Happened Yet" immediately steps back from the energetic Brit-pop opener, sounding like the soundtrack for a smoky piano lounge. The rest of the album bounces between saccharine singing, a near-screaming duet with Henry Rollins on "I Can't Get Behind That" and Shatner's signature overdramatic delivery. Shatner does play the part of narrator very well, but he never fits in with the music. The only good thing about this gig is, unlike Priceline, Leonard Nimoy won't be stealing it.
William Shatner picks up Golden Globe Nomination
Two eminent STAR TREK captains earned Golden Globe award nominations this morning, along with one TREK screenwriter. William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, and John Logan were among the nominees for the 62nd Annual Golden Globes, which were announced this morning.
Shatner is nominated for his role as the eccentric 'Denny Crane' on the new David E. Kelley series BOSTON LEGAL. Among the nominees in the actor in a supporting role in a series, mini-series, or television movie are Sean P. Hayes for WILl&GRACE, Michael Imperioli for THE SOPRANOS, Jeremy Piven in ENTOURAGE, and OLIVE PLATT for HUFF. Shatner won an Emmy last year for best guest appearance as the same character on THE PRACTICE. Shatner's co-star in BOSTON LEGAL, James Spader, was nominated for lead actor in a series, mini-series, or television movie.
THE NEXT GENERATION's 'Captain Picard' was also nominated this morning for his role in the television movie THE LION IN WINTER. With Stewart in the actor in a leading role in a series, mini-series, or television movie are Mos Def in SOMETHING THE LORD MADE, JAMIE FOXX in REDEMPTION, WILLIAM H. MACY in THE WOOL CAP, and GEOFFREY RUSH in THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS.
THE LION IN WINTER was also nominated for best mini-series or television movie, up against SOMETHING THE LORD MADE, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS, AMERICAN FAMILY - JOURNEY OF DREAMS, and IRON JAWED ANGELS.
John Logan, screenwriter of STAR TREK NEMESIS, had his screenplay for Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR (the Howard Hughes biopic) nominated for best screenplay. THE AVIATOR, which opens this month in the U.S., was recognized with five nominations.
William Shatner likes joking about himself
William Shatner recently worked on the movie “Shoot or Be Shot,” but to us, the better question became, how do you choose these films? How does the man who was on two hit television shows, like “Star Trek” and “T.J. Hooker” decide what to do in his career?
DM) In looking over your career, you’ve done some pretty serious material, but it seems that you’ve also taken roles where it seems that you’ve joked about a characterization of yourself. It seems that you’re okay with joking about yourself. Is that a safe assessment?
WS) I think that’s a reasonable statement. I try not to take myself too seriously, especially when you’re in the public eye. Even when people give us this celebrity role, you can’t make yourself out to be too important.
DM) Is that a lesson that you’ve learned over time or something that was always in you.
WS) I think that is a lesson that you learn eventually. Nothing is that important. There are very few things that are important and those are the very few that we all know.
DM) I imagine it must be pretty frustrating to have a career in the entertainment world where it seems that you can hit highs and lows pretty easily. What makes it worth it?
WS) You try to do some good work. You try to spread a little love and do a little good for other people; those are the important things.
DM) Thinking along that vein, what are you most proud of?
WS) I think that sounds like flying a flag and waving it. If you’re waving a flag you can get shot. Those are the people that they shoot isn’t it. You charge ahead and don’t wave any flags and try to accomplish your mission without dropping dead on the battlefield.
DM) It sounds a bit like flying under the radar. WS) Yeah, that doesn’t really work, now does it? To accomplish the goals, you need to be in the radar too. It’s a mixed metaphor and doesn’t really work. (laughs)
DM) At this point in your career, are you looking to expand your career or enjoy yourself?
WS) One of the things that I think I learned was that there is no such thing as advancing your career. It’s like President Bush going to war, you think you’re doing something, but you find out life and fate had something else in store for you. You might set in motion certain events, but you really have no control over them. I think one lives with an illusion if they think that making certain moves will advance their career. I suppose you can shave the chances off of the role of the dice, in your career. You really don’t know what the throw of the dice will give you.
DM) Are you talking about pre-destiny then?
WS) I think it’s chaos.
DM) Sort of like, “there are a lot of things that you can’t control in this world so you just keep going forward?”
WS) Exactly. You keep going, endure and perhaps something good will come of it. If you’re really an expert, maybe something bad won’t come of it.
DM) Do you get disheartened when something doesn’t go your way?
WS) Disheartened is probably a good word that comes to people from time to time. Whether you think you’ve made the epic of all time and nobody thinks that way or whether you think you’ve done something grand and it turns out to be not. Those things happen all of the time. Nothing’s as good as you want it.
DM) Do you think nothing is as good as you want because of other people’s perceptions?
WS) No, I think one may overestimate their abilities. For example, in talking about a performance in a film, there are so many other people involved. The performance is pretty much controlled by the editing. You’re now relying on the editor and the director. If you’re editing the film, you’re relying on the actor and the support team and on the terrible hand, you might not be doing enough.
DM) It sounds like, with anything in the entertainment industry, that they’re so many factors that you can’t control.
WS) Yes, it’s precarious. The chances of success are few. That’s the way the odds are. It’s hard for it to come out the way you want. You just hope to go onto the next project and perhaps make that one better. When I do something like, “Shoot or Be Shot,” I do it because it is good, the script is good, Harry Hamlin is good, and I thought it would be fun. It turns out that it was fun. It was a nice little movie.
DM) It sounds like when you go into it, you’re not looking at it’s success possibilities, but whether you’re enjoying it.
WS) That’s right, you do the best you can; you do everything you can to make it right. You work on perfecting the script and, then, you wait to see what happens. The most magnificent film and best of intentions turn out frequently not to be successful, and then you have films that nobody thought would go beyond a release are incredibly successful. There’s no accounting for the taste of the audience.
William Shatner new album ''Has Been''
Captain Kirk beams down to planet pop for the second time in 36 years for an album of high warp factor. If you thought William Shatner was bit of a ham as an actor, then you should hear him sing. Well, not so much sing as enunciate, declare and muse out loud. Once he's up and running it's like the bastard child of Leonard Cohen and Homer Simpson.
But this isn't the first time. That was The Transformed Man, his 1968 album on which he covered Mr Tambourine Man, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds and other tracks in between bits of Hamlet, King Henry V and Romeo and Juliet. It's often nominated as the worst album ever. But at least it's remembered, and it did spring from a time when Richard Harris was mumbling about cakes left out in the rain in MacArthur Park and Peter Sellers had turned A Hard Day's Night into a Shakespearean soliloquy. So it's not as eccentric as all that, really. This new one is, though.
There is no Bard this time round. Just a collection of covers and comedy songs produced by Ben Folds, who as the leader of the Ben Folds Five tried to outdo everyone in the ironic rockwit stakes in the late 90s. Most of the tracks are Folds-Shatner co-writes spiced with one notable cover in Pulp's Common People and a couple of guest spots. Joe Jackson turns up to help out on the high notes on Common People, Aimee Mann assists on That's Me Trying, and Henry Rollins trades lines with Shatner on the hilarious complaints department of a song that is I Can't Get Behind That.
The jokes aren't all in Shatner's earnest line readings - the words are funny in a black kind of way too. That's Me Trying, co-written by Nick Hornby, has its narrator as long-lost father trying to negotiate his way back into his adult daughter's life ("But I don't want to talk about any of that bad stuff/Why I missed out on your wedding and your high school graduation"). You'll Have Time offers wise advice ("Live life like you're gonna die/ because you are"). And it briefly stops being a piano-led rock cabaret on the airy swish of Together, which comes with the backing of ambient-Brits Lemon Jelly, while the title track is the best spaghetti western-backed declaration of self by a former sci-fi TV star, probably ever.
Yes, it's very silly and it is certainly Shatner's best album yet.
William Shatner 73, still on the ride
William Shatner is riding four horses in an equestrian competition on this hot October day. He likes them all, but especially 18-year-old Tuckerbelle, still competing long after most horses have retired. She's full of herself still. She's one of those great — I can't even call her a horse — entities that are so full of spirit that they'll die full of that spirit," he says. Shatner, 73 and nearly 40 years removed from the first time he played Star Trek's Captain Kirk — dismisses a parallel between horse and rider. Still, at an age when peers check the mail for residual checks, Shatner is on an invigorating career ride. Among his enterprises:
• He stars in Boston Legal, David E. Kelley's new ABC drama (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET/PT), as Denny Crane, a legendary lawyer who may be losing his wits. The role, which started as a guest shot on The Practice, earned Shatner his first Emmy in September; the series, in the prime post-Desperate Housewives slot, is drawing solid audiences.
• He has a new, critically praised album, Has Been, with Ben Folds. The stories — Shatner calls the spoken-word CD a legacy for his family — range from amusing to searing, with a recounting of the 1999 drowning death of Shatner's third wife, Nerine. Has Been has sold a respectable 14,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
• He punks an entire town in Invasion Iowa, a new reality show premiering on Spike TV early next year. In the stunt, Shatner pretends he's shooting a movie in Riverside, Iowa, only to reveal later to residents that he's really filming their reactions.
• He remains the voice and face of online travel service Priceline.com in a long-running and self-parodying ad campaign. Recent spots have added his good friend and Star Trek colleague, Leonard Nimoy. In addition, Shatner will return in the Miss Congeniality sequel; he continues to write books; and he may make a movie for ABC. In Heroes, Shatner, Lee Majors and Robert Wagner are slated to play over-the-hill TV detectives pressed into a real investigation.
Away from the screen, Shatner raises and rides horses with his fourth wife, Elizabeth, a former horse trainer he married in 2001. The pair, who sponsor the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, each won an equestrian world championship last year. By now, friends just accept Shatner's fevered pace. "I kid him. I say, 'Bill, what's the matter? You haven't published a book in three weeks,' " Nimoy says. "He's inexhaustible. I think there are several of him."
As Shatner puts his quarter horses through their precision paces at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, a rustic setting minutes from downtown, the colloquialism "back in the saddle" comes to mind regarding the recent surge in his career. But Shatner won't abide talk of a comeback. He never went away, he says.
The Montreal native, hale, hearty and thicker in the middle than in his Trek days, has been working all along, from early stage and TV work to Trek (a three-year series run, seven movies and related projects) to later network series T.J. Hooker and Rescue 911. In recent years, his TV and film work has accelerated. He played himself in Showtime, the chairman on Iron Chef cookoffs on Food Network and the chancellor in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Why is Shatner still riding so hard? Longtime friend and manager Larry Thompson points to the title of one of Shatner's Has Been songs, It Hasn't Happened Yet. "No matter what he's done, he hasn't achieved the level of success he wants," Thompson says.
Shatner, who has three daughters and three grandchildren, says, "I'm aware of the briefness of the rest of my life, so I think in terms of what I'm doing now."
The actor, who earned more by taking his Priceline.com pay in stock, will pass on projects if the money isn't right. He says a possible appearance on UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise likely won't happen because of his salary request: "They gasped. I haven't heard back." Shatner says he makes choices regardless of what others think. But approval still matters. When he won his Emmy, the Shakespearean-trained actor asked: "What took you so long?"
When there isn't approval, there's defiance. At a recent L.A. concert with Folds, Shatner closed with Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, a song from his much-ridiculed late-'60s album, The Transformed Man. "The lights went down and I had a fist in the air. The spotlight caught it. I stuck a (middle) finger in the air. And it brought the house down," he says. Asked if he regrets taking on any specific projects, Shatner replies: "The ones that didn't work."
As he approached Iowa, Shatner was worried he might be found out by the populace, not whether this was a worthy project for an established actor. He describes it as the ultimate acting challenge: "One day I had an epiphany that (this) was the most intense perfect acting that any performer could imagine. I had to pretend to be something for 10 days under the scourge of not a camera, but eyes. I had to be the perfect liar." A six-figure gift helped soothe hurt sensibilities. Iowa City Press-Citizen managing editor Jim Lewers says "most people took it in relatively good humor."
Shatner acknowledges that "two geniuses," Kelley and Folds, have helped raise his profile recently. In Shatner, Kelley found what he was looking for: an acting icon to play a legal icon, an older actor who still exuded vigor. "He's able to go on a horse full gallop." The "bombastic, powerful" Crane follows in a long line of Shatner authority figures, but this character also reveals "a more fragile man," Kelley says, an aging one who may be experiencing early Alzheimer's.
Executive producer Bill D'Elia says Shatner is "totally prepared" and wants to get the scenes right. At times, Shatner uses his clout to do it. During a recent taping, he asked for — and got — an extra take of a scene because he didn't like the comic timing. Later he disagreed with the show's costumer, who wanted him to change suits for a publicity photo. They compromised; Shatner switched shirt and tie, but not suit.
Shatner says he knows best on such matters. "Why would I put myself in the hands of people who don't know as much about what I'm doing as I do?" the bare-chested actor says, changing his shirt on set. Shatner got to know Folds while filming a Priceline "lounge act" commercial. When Shatner got a record proposal, he asked Folds to produce. "I knew people would scoff at my making a record again," he says. "I thought the only thing I can do is tell the truth, come from my own heart and write about thoughts I had."
Collaborators included Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Lemon Jelly and Henry Rollins. Brad Paisley wrote a song, Real, after Shatner had done a friend a favor by appearing in Paisley's Celebrity video. Shatner says the Paisley and Folds connections wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been involved in so many projects. "One thing fits into the other," he says. "The serendipitous flow of my life continues. When Shatner saw a magazine refer to him as a has-been, he redefined and embraced the term. "This person has been something. Look at that, a 'has-been,' as against a 'not-ever,' " he says.
He deconstructs other depictions, such as his image as a ham: "I don't even know what that means. Does (ham) mean trying too hard to convey an emotion?" And pomposity? "I don't see that in myself. On the contrary, if there's anything I'm not pompous about, it's myself or my work. But I seem to be able to play it."
That, others say, is the secret to his second-half surge. In the lean years after the Star Trek series, Shatner revealed an ability to laugh at himself, Thompson says. "Once he made fun of his iconic persona, (people) reconnected with him as a person and as a talent." When Kelley approached Shatner about Crane, he wondered if the actor would have reservations about a character audiences would be invited to laugh with and occasionally at. "He embraced it," Kelley says.
Nimoy, the only Trek colleague with whom Shatner socializes, notes another deft shift: "He was a leading man. Now he's a character actor." (Other regulars from the '60s series declined to be interviewed. Some have said that Shatner tried to hog the spotlight. Asked whether he and Nimoy had received all the accolades, Shatner says with a smile: "Well, why not?")
These days, friends say Shatner seems happy in his personal life as well, in large part because of his marriage to Elizabeth, 45, whom he had known from equestrian circles. Her husband died in 1997. As she got to know Shatner, she appreciated his "sense of awe and wonderment, of just appreciating every moment." She says she knows her husband wants to take advantage of opportunities. It must be working: In airports, they now hear a smattering of "Dennycrane," the Legal character's mantra, along with "Beam me up, Scotty," she says. But she also hopes they'll eventually have more time together. Shatner, too, plans to spend more time with his wife and family. But he's not thinking of retirement. "Do you quit your work? Which means you don't like your work," he says. "I love this, so why would I quit?"