William Shatner returns to Montreal to host Just For Laughs Gala and meet long-lost son... sort of
William Shatner needs little introduction (and thank God for that, ’cause space is limited). A born and bred Montrealer, Shatner’s folks were in the schmatte business, and he studied at McGill before going on to a classical, Shakespearean acting career that led him to outstanding roles like that of T.J. Hooker. And, if you insist, Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk.
In a life and career that’s seen its big ups and occasionally crushing downs, Shatner, at age 76, is enjoying a kind of ubiquitous success with a multitude of projects in print, music and on screen, and of course on the hit television series Boston Legal, for which he recently bagged his second Emmy Award as well as a Golden Globe. Things are good, and this is reflected in his jovial and generous conversation over the phone from his home in L.A.
After some preliminary chitchat about, what else, Montreal smoked meat ("There’s no smoked meat like Montreal smoked meat"), we get right into it…
Hour Y’know, it’s funny, I’ve always felt this kind of paternal vibe coming from you…
William Shatner No, I don’t know you and I certainly don’t want any demands made on me.
Hour Does that mean I can’t call you "Dad"?
Shatner Yes, exactly, and everything else that goes with it. I’m tired of supporting… you’re on your own. I don’t know how to explain your feeling towards me, but maybe since ‘Dad’ has been around for a long time, it refers to me.
Hour But there is an undeniable warmth that you engender in people…
Shatner They keep saying, "That poor fool," and that brings out all kinds of warm feelings.
Hour Is this something you experience often?
Shatner [Laughing] I’ve heard what you’ve said, yes, and I don’t know how to deal with it.
Hour Have I become too familiar in too little time?
Shatner Well, no, no, I don’t want you to withdraw – it’s not good for your psyche.
Hour Let’s forget for the moment the Golden Globes and the Emmys and these sorts of things… The All-Bran commercials: People love them.
Shatner They do! I’ve signed for another couple of years with the Kellogg thing, and they’re fun to do. They’ve caught a lovely hook, I guess, on how to project me on their brand and it becomes fun for everybody.
Hour You’ve enjoyed a phenomenal amount of late-period success in your life – how satisfying is that for you? You went through a tough period right after Star Trek, and is it true that you were living in the back of a truck in the San Fernando Valley?
Shatner Yes. You know, in terms of it really being tough – where tough was really tough – that wasn’t tough. But in terms of, uh, I suppose being a leading actor [laughs] living in the back of a truck, that was tough.
Hour What was tough?
Shatner Well, it was the rising expectations and the dashed hopes, I suppose.
Hour What kinds of things are exciting you now?
Shatner There are a lot of things going on. I’ve got a new series of Star Trek books coming out by a young Captain Kirk – a teenaged Kirk and Mr. Spock – and the first one will be out in October. I’ve got a new album, which is an oratorical on Exodus, new classical music with 250 voices, coming out in October. And then there’s the potential of a talk show next season, and then of course Boston Legal is starting in a couple of weeks, and there’s also a DVD of a ballet that was done on six numbers that I co-wrote with Ben Folds and the Milwaukee Ballet… so there’s lots of stuff.
Hour Your last album [Has Been, 2004] got great reviews – it did really well!
Shatner You sound surprised, but I was hoping [it would]… It was very gratifying. It wasn’t written for novelty, in fact the dictum was, Let’s tell the truth.
Hour Okay, I think that’s just about it for me…
Shatner [Dryly] I’m exhausted, so… Ah, I’m only joking. I’m looking forward, very deeply, to coming up to Montreal to do this, and so we’re beginning to work already. The only slight cloud on the horizon is I need to get that weekend off from Boston Legal… but I have every reasonable expectation of being able to make it up there, but I wanted to just bring out that suggestion that it’s in the realm of possibility…
Hour That you might not be able to make it to your own gala?!
Shatner [Laughing] That they might close me down due to scheduling. But I’m almost sure that that won’t happen, and I’m really looking forward, not only to performing – especially if the material is good – but to enjoying the festival itself because that’s a hoot. That comedy festival is really fun to do, and I hope it attracts a lot of people to Montreal.
William Shatner Gala
Théâtre St-Denis (1594 St-Denis), July 21