He has entered the one-name club. Entered it long ago, in fact.
Che. Bowie. Jagger…
William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk, aka T.J. Hooker, aka Denny Crane (for which he won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe) aka the man who gave us a truly epic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” (and, come on, perhaps THE definitive take on “Rocket Man”).
Look, Shatner has an entire encyclopedia devoted to his work, devoted to his philosophy, devoted to his very being. What more can we ask for from our life and career?
He is here in Austin for the Wizard World convention and to do a Q&A before a 35 mm screening of the almighty “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” on Sept. 23 at the Paramount.
Shatner thinks Star Trek II resonates because, really, what is missing? “There’s a story of revenge, filled with all kinds of theatricality, and Ricardo Montalban makes a great villain,” he says. “It’s a good film. You’ve seen these characters on television, you see them on screen and you feel you know them.”
But then, that is in the past. Shatner is a man who keeps himself busy. He’s just released a new novel, “Zero-G,” written with Jeff Rovin, about, as the book description puts it, “intrepid, 80-year-old FBI deputy director Samuel Lord” whose “space based ‘Zero-G’ men are in charge of investigating terrorism, crime, corruption, and espionage beyond the Earth’s atmosphere” aboard the space station Empyrean.
“I’ve been talking to astrophysicists on another project, and they think in the same way science-fiction writers do,” Shatner says. “It is the same imaginative process. ‘Zero-G’ is imagining what the FBI will be doing out in law enforcement out in space 50 years from now. That is what science fiction does: It imagines the future, and since nobody knows what the next instant is going to be, then my opinion of 50 years from now or Roddenberry’s opinion of 300 years from now is equally valid.”
Then again, Shatner has done an incredible amount of stuff over the years, some of which has faded, some of which has resonated. “I did a couple of Twilight Zones that remain popular whenever the show is rerun, and I sort of wonder why,” Shatner says. “But, again, it’s the story. There’s one about a little furry creature on a wing of a plane (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”) that’s played again and again. Why it is one of the more popular ones, I don’t know. The fear of flying, maybe? Every so often you do something that touches a universal nerve.”
He even had a recent hit with the semi-scripted reality show “Better Late that Never,” which teamed him with Henry Winkler, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw and younger comedian Jeff Dye. “NBC said, how would you like to go to Asia, and of course I said yes. All I knew is that I was going to go to a part of the world that I had longed to go to. … It was all taken care of. All you had to do was show up and be amusing. And these guys together turned out to be hysterical.”
And, yes, while Shatner is best known for dramatic (or melodramatic parts) such as Captain Kirk, he considers himself as much a comedian as a dramatic actor (see also Denny Crane). “I’m basically a comic,” he says “I did some stand-up in New York at the Gotham Comedy Club, and it was great! In their words, I murdered.”
Hey, that’s terrific.
“No, I murdered, it’s better than terrific.”
The show that is perhaps most “near and dear to my heart,” as he puts it, is “Shatner’s World,” a one-man show wherein the man expounds on, well, all of the things. “I was on Broadway with it, I’ve toured with it, it’s the project that has the most of me in it,” Shatner says. “It’s about saying ‘yes’ to life. Yes to the things that happen to you. Say yes instead of saying no. Get out there and do something and find something passionate and have an adventure. It’s over so quickly that it’s ridiculous not to expose yourself.”
Ladies and gentlemen … Shatner.