William Shatner, 91, is living long, prospering and taking it all in
It's 8 a.m. California time and William Shatner is on the phone from, well, it's probably best if Shatner tells it himself.
"I'm in Los Angeles in a part of my house that overlooks the San Fernando Valley. My back is to the sunrise, I'm looking toward the mountains, and it's a beautiful, clear morning in L.A.," says the legendary actor, during a call last week. "On the rim of the mountains that make the valley, toward the desert, it's all covered in white. So there's snow surrounding the mountains in Los Angeles, and it's a beautiful, unusual sight."
Shatner, who turns 92 later this month, is at a stage in his life where he's taking it all in, even if it's just the simple splendor of his morning view.
That doesn't mean he's kicking his feet up and calling it a day, not by a long shot: the beloved Montreal-born entertainer, a multiple-time Emmy winner, three-time Hall of Famer (he's a member of the Television Hall of Fame, the American Saddlebred Horse Association Hall of Fame and the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame), former captain of the Starship Enterprise, first-rate ham and an all around larger-than-life figure, is currently on the road hosting screenings of 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," accompanied by live Q&As with audiences.
"The Wrath of Khan" is the most enduring of the "Star Trek" movies, thanks to its themes of death, dying, friendship and legacy, as well as its performances, including the late Ricardo Montalbán as space lord bad guy Khan. "It's a beautiful film, a very emotional film," says Shatner, whose "Khaaaaaaaan!" line reading in the film ranks among the most immortal moments of his 70-plus year acting career.
We had 10 minutes with the genial Shatner, which we were able to stretch out to 12 minutes, 20 seconds. Here's what he had to say about life, touring and how he'd like to be remembered, but first, more on that lovely view outside his window.
Q: Do you often take in this view that you're currently looking at?
A: I'm never not aware of how lucky I am to be alive to begin with, and to be able to see this beautiful valley, and to be a part of this world for the limited time that we're all in it.
Q: Have you always been as appreciative of everything in front of you, or has that come with age?
A: I think it's an acquired appreciation. There are some exceptions, but a lot of kids don't really understand the gift of life, and of course they wouldn't know how quickly it's over, and how aware you have to be to appreciate every moment. Because, as you can understand, I'm a living authority of how quickly life goes by.
Q: When did things start to turn for you, and when were you able to start appreciating those moments more?
A: Well most of us, and I for the longest time, was filled with the nervous energy of making a living, of having three kids and providing a roof and food. And you think, well, there's no time to ponder the glories of life. That's not true, because if you begin to realize how quickly it goes and how precious life is, nothing should interfere with the fact that you can hold your child or kiss the person in your life and be appreciative of love and all those verities that we all know and think of as clichés, but they aren't.
That appreciation starts a little later in life and intensifies the older you get, because the older you get, the more likely it is for you to stop living and end life quickly. I've been very lucky with my life and my health, especially my health. The fire of desire has not been banked in my life, and it can happen so easily when you get ill. When you get ill, the desire to live fades, as pain and age creep up on you. That hasn't happened to me, luckily.
Q: You kicked off the current tour with "Star Trek II" last month and you've got the final four dates coming up. How has the tour been going?
A: I've been touring, three or four cities a weekend, for the last couple of years. I did a one-man show on Broadway and I've toured with music, so I've done a lot of touring in my life. I'll either get in the car and drive to the next venue, which is what I'm doing this coming weekend, with Atlanta, Indianapolis, Detroit and Milwaukee, flying and driving to these venues. The difficult part is, of course, getting to the venue. If it's driving, you've got to drive a couple hundred miles, and I prefer to drive at night, so we're driving at night after the show. It's 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning, if the weather is inclement it's tough. You get to the hotel, fall into bed, that afternoon you get up and you do it again. And it's tough, but I chose to do it years ago. I thought to myself, I was doing stage shows and movies and things like that, I thought, I love music and I've never toured, and I'm going to do it.
So I began to tour, not in a bus, but I would fly to a place or drive to a place, and I got caught up in the excitement of that travel. And it is exciting. It's a new city, but you don't see the city because you go to the hotel and you rest and you go to the venue. But it's an escape from everyday life, and that's what happens to these guys who tour all the time. You don't have to deal with the rent and the kid going to school, you just deal with what it is that's happening in front of you on stage. So touring has an allure that only those people who tour tend to know about.
Q: That has to be exhilarating in a sense, when everything else in life just drops off, and you can just be.
A: That's exactly it. There's no other responsibility, except to say the words or sing the song and get to the next theater.
Q: If a fan sees you at an event, what's the best way to approach you, and how would you prefer not to be approached?
A: A hand on my throat is really bad news. Look, I'm delighted to be there, and people come to the theater and spend their money because they want to be there and they want to see me, and that's beyond a compliment if someone pays their hard-earned bucks to come and see you. That's a special occasion for me and I want to do the best I can at every moment. So say hello, and let's see each other in the theater. It's a great hello, and in that theater in person, it's a terrific hour, hour-and-a-half for me.
Q: What did you take away from your visit to space? (Shatner rode on the Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space shuttle, in October 2021.)
A: I took away a great deal, more than I can say now because it was so complex. But one of the things that we are coming out with is a music video called "So Fragile, So Blue," defining what we have to do about global warming.
Q: What was your favorite age?
A: The age I am is filled with aches and pains, my shoulders hurt, but I have the delight of talking to you, and I mean that sincerely, and I relish that moment. I'm not looking back and I'm not looking forward. The reason I love horses so much is because I'm looking at what's happening right now. Where is the lion that's going to eat me today? Not the one that could have eaten me yesterday or the one I'll meet tomorrow, but it's today.
Q: You're not looking back, you're not looking forward, but when it comes time, if you get a say at all, how would you like to be remembered for your time on this Earth?
A: I wrote a song entitled, "I Want to be a Tree." That's what I'm going to do: I'm going to die, I'm going to be buried. And a tree is going to be placed over my body, and I'll nourish that tree.
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