William Shatner tells all

The “Star Trek” star dishes about lost hobbies, reporters’ stupid questions and a potential “Star Wars” role

Photo courtesy of manfred baumann

Catch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the William Shatner Q&A session at the Mondavi Center in Davis on May 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $27.50-$125. For more info, visit mondaviarts.org.

William Shatner, an American James Bond. Famous for his portrayal of James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek franchise, he’s made a career out of his unmistakable talent for performing.

SN&R chatted with the thespian—but not about Star Trek—in a self-referential discussion mostly about interviews. Shatner is on tour for a series of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan screenings, with a stop at the Mondavi Center in Davis Thursday, May 11. Once the credits roll, the questions and answers will commence, along with ticketed photo ops. Want a preview of how the man reacts to vapid questions? Read on.

Shatner: We’re talking about coming there on May 11, right?

SN&R: That is quite right, yeah.

So I’ll be there and with a motion picture called The Wrath of Khan.

Exactly, yeah.

And they’ll play the movie on a big screen with the big sound and then I’ll come out and spend an hour or more with the audience having a good time.

Do you know the guy that you’re talking with afterwards, Chancellor Gary May?

Do I know who he is?

Yeah, or have you ever met him before?

The chancellor of the—oh! No, but I have brought my dogs—I wonder if this helps any—I’ve been to Davis with some emergency on some of my dogs over the years, and they’ve helped considerably. That doesn’t count, right?

Maybe not—who knows?

They’ve done a hell of a job on my animals is what I’m saying. … No, I don’t know the chancellor—why do you ask?

You’re having a conversation with him, I’m just curious.

Well the conversation is with the audience.

Sure, sure. … Fair enough. You have a lot of upcoming Q&As. Is there some aspect of your career you like to be asked about?

No, mostly I talk about other things. [This year] I’m going out on several weekends, one or two places, sometimes three places on a weekend. It’s great fun for me, great exercise, very difficult in that you’re asked to entertain in an improvisational way with an audience for an hour or more, keep them entertained. It’s quite a challenge.

How do you stay loose?

Say that again?

How do you stay loose on the tours?

How do I stay loose on it?


Well, that’s a good question. I guess confidence over the years of having done it enough. Like in an interview—how many times have you interviewed people and they say, “Yes,” and that’s the end of their answer, and you’re thinking, “Oh shit, what do I do now? How do I get them to expand on that answer?” And gradually as you, the reporter, or the interviewer, have experience, [you] begin to go with the flow and find ways of getting a better and longer answer from your interviewee.

In the same way, I, over the years, feel that I can make an innocuous question into something interesting by just roaming around.

Right. Right, like in this instance … making an innocuous question interesting to answer.

Exactly. You know, if I desire to, I could go on about innocuous questions and how stupid some reporters are, and—but then my answers are stupid and they make them sound intelligent—and I could go on and on about it.


So in the same way, your questions could be either penetrating or softball, depending on how you’re feeling that day.

Right. Is there someone you would pay to have a photo taken with?

Oh, that’s interesting (laughs) … I can’t think of anybody off-hand that I admire enough to pay good money to have a picture, stand by them and have a picture taken, and then treasure that picture. I have horses and I have dogs that I want to do that with. I have children. But I’ve got lots of pictures of them … I did an interview of Stephen Hawking a couple years ago, and if he were alive today, I would think I might say him. But then, I now have a picture of him that I didn’t pay for.

How-slash-why do you stay so active on Twitter?

It’s a way of communicating with the audience, staying alive. … [Twitter] offers me a platform to advertise to publicize what it is I’m doing. … For example, a charity that I run every year called the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, coming up in June, and I’m telling people, you know, if you want to contribute, that’s great. But I also have a large silent auction. And I get unusual things by the fact that I’m contacting people [who] have unusual things to give me that I can auction off for children and veterans that my charity benefits.

If you were offered a role in the new Star Wars franchise, would you take one?

It would depend on what it is. To appear just for the publicity of the movie or whatever it is—I have no interest in that. What I would be interested in is something meaningful that was written for me.

Is there a hobby of yours you’ve given up on over the years?

Well, I come from an athletic background. I played football, skied for my schools, and then I got into horses many years ago. So I’m still competing in horses. But I’m not playing football, and I gave up skiing when I face-planted into some wet snow and I couldn’t get out. I had some people passing by help me get up, and I thought, “Well that’s it, I’m not going to ski any more.”

Do you think of yourself as a living legend? I’ve heard you described that way.

Do I think of myself as a living legend?


No, I think of myself as trying to put one foot ahead of the other. My back is bad. Uh, no, I don’t think of myself as a living legend. What is a living legend?

It’s a good question—I don’t know. Someone who’s just so good at what they do or who’ve seen so much.

Am I a living legend?

I don’t know—I don’t think it’s for me to say, but …

Well, you asked me—did someone give you the question?

No, no, no—I’ve heard you described as a living legend before is all.

Oh, you’re wondering what my reaction is? Like a little snigger, like a little sniggering laugh.