William Shatner: Sacrifice bonds Starfleet captains
05:00 AM, May 17, 2013
If there’s one man who knows what it takes to command a starship, it’s William Shatner. The iconic actor played Captain James T. Kirk for the three seasons of the original “Star Trek” series from 1966 to 1969 and in the first seven of the series’ feature films.
In 2011, Shatner directed and starred in The Captains, a documentary that saw him conversing with the five “Trek” captains (Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine) who followed him in the franchise’s generations-long run. This week, cable network EPIX premiered the five-episode miniseries The Captains Close Up.
Shatner, 82, will appear at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, May 30-June 2. He recently spoke with the Asbury Park Press about the downside of a successful acting career and why he hasn’t seen J.J. Abrams’ two Star Trek films yet.
Q: How is the convention-going experience for you nearly 50 years after originating the role of Captain Kirk and still being able to get out, meet the fans and see how much your work and this franchise has impacted their lives?
A: I’m stumbling up the stairs now and staggering across the stage instead of leaping and jumping. I enjoy the convention experience, I enjoy standing in front of an audience and riffing on the questions and hearing what they like and what they don’t like. It’s payback for me. They’ve given me so much of their time and energy and affection, I come there and try and give a little back.
Q: This week, The Captains Close Up, the miniseries version of your documentary The Captains premiered.
A: On EPIX television, yes. We’ve done a loving half-hour tribute to all five captains, which includes myself, which was very difficult because I had to figure out a way to put my own story down on film, so while I was interviewing the others I encouraged them to ask me questions, and so the interviewer, like bad interviewers will, told a great deal of their lives and it’s not what the interviewee is thinking at all.
Q: In meeting with all of the actors who played the captains, did you find a common bond between all of these actors that made them an effective Starfleet captain?
A: Well, it isn’t so much the Starfleet captain as it is the actors. In order to be an actor, you have to give up a great deal of your life because if you get the job, the job occupies so much of your life, so the common factor that I think I found is the sacrifice that the actors have to make from losing their children, getting a divorce, death and destruction, I mean it goes on. And so it is a two-edged sword, the joy of success and then your personal life is liable to go to hell.
Q: I guess that’s the bargain some people have to make for a successful long-term show business career.
A: I think that’s probably the sacrifice any successful person has to make, and that’s a little-addressed fact, that unless you’re obsessive about something it will be very difficult to be successful in it. Only by devoting your whole being, which means all of your time, to whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s writing for the Asbury Park Press or doing a television show or being a doctor, your life is devoted to your work, and that is to the detriment of the other parts of life, which is family, friends and some other aspect of your life that you might be interested in, fishing or flying or whatever.
Q: And you can see that in the character of Kirk, his dedication to the Enterprise and Starfleet. If you look at the films, it clearly was detrimental to his relationship with his son, David, and other family and friends.
A: Good for you, because that was always a central theme in my consciousness, what you have to give up in order to be successful and is it worth it? Those are questions I’ve asked of myself and other people all the time, and there’s no real answer to it, because you don’t know what your life would have been like had you given up the success. So you’ve got money and celebrity, but what else do you have? And are you lonely, are you bereft of love? Is it possible to combine a loving life and a successful career? Many people ask that question, working mothers for example.
Q: This weekend the new Star Trek film is opening in theaters, “Star Trek Into Darkness.” What are your thoughts on Chris Pine and his interpretation of the character?
A: Well, he’s a lovely young man and he’s a terrific actor and he’s a good-looking guy with the right body and everything like that, personality. I think he’s going to be a big success, he’s got all the equipment and I was very impressed with him, he’s a lovely young man.
Q: How was it for you, seeing the first J.J. Abrams film and seeing another actor referred to as Jim Kirk?
A: You know, I haven’t seen the film. I haven’t seen the new film. I didn’t see the old film. It got away from me. I’ve got to go see it before I start appearing in these things, I guess. You know, I don’t feel proprietorship to Captain Kirk. The character was before me, I invested it with what I could of myself, and then in the movies, I’ve sort of moved away from it, and yet I’m there but I’m not there. … Paramount owns Captain Kirk, but it is the source of all this celebrity and I never forget that. And yet, I’m glad to see Star Trek continue because there’s something about it, and we realize it’s mythological, that appeals to people and has been this phenomenon in show business, it’s been around for 50 years.