Ahead of his return visit to Australia, the legendary Star Trek actor talks about his unusual career – and why he can’t slow down
reparing to interview William Shatner – or Bill, as he will later introduce himself, his deep, resonant voice instantly recognisable – feels like a nearimpossible task. He is a writer, spoken-word artist, singer, award-winning horse breeder and beloved actor best known for playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek and Denny Crane in Boston Legal, as well as films like 2000’s Miss Congeniality and its 2005 sequel. So it’s hard to know exactly which variation of Shatner might show up. But if his latest project – a 90-minute one-man stage show mapping out the highs, lows and hard-to-believe moments of his monumental life – is anything to go by, it seems that for Shatner himself, all of them seamlessly come together as one.
“Talk about a challenge!” he tells Stellar over the phone from Los Angeles. “How do you keep people in their seats who paid good money for an hour and a half? How do you do that? That’s what I had to learn.”
The process scared him, but it also kept Shatner aligned with the philosophy that has defined his career: just go with it. “Many times I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know if I should do this, but what the heck?’ And I’ll do it,” says Shatner, 87, who last toured the show in Australia in 2015. Of his encore, he says, “Why not? It’s a great week; I’ll see every major city and enjoy the country. And so by saying yes to all these things – the producing and the acting and the writing and the books and the albums and everything pertaining to entertainment – here I am. As I go along, there’s more and more to do and more challenges. And I don’t want to let one go.”
It’s likely the bulk of his audience knows him from Star Trek, and Shatner tells Stellar he is proud of the road the cult 1960s series paved. “How insightful management was,” he says, pointing to its legacy of diversity in both story and casting choices. Still, in the past year Shatner has grappled with the many ways in which his industry fell short – and has had to reconsider what it means to be a celebrity who came of age at a time when misogyny and bad behaviour were both expected and accepted.
He mentions an Elvis Presley movie he caught on TV a few nights prior. “Elvis was singing a song to his leading lady,” he explains, “and every time she went to go out the door he’d stop her, and she’d take a flower and he’d take it away. He pressed on, romancing a girl who pretended to be reluctant… and at the