"I was built for the long run, not for the short dash, I guess." -- William Shatner
William Alan Shatner (born March 22, 1931) is a Canadian actor, recording artist, and author. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the science fiction television series Star Trek from 1966 to 1969, The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, and in seven of the subsequent Star Trek feature films from 1979 to 1994. He has written a series of books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk and being a part of Star Trek as well as several co-written novels set in the Star Trek universe. He has also authored a series of science fiction novels called TekWar that were adapted for television.
Shatner also played the eponymous veteran police sergeant in T. J. Hooker from 1982 to 1986. He has since worked as a musician, author, producer, director, and celebrity pitchman. From 2004 to 2008, he starred as attorney Denny Crane in the television dramas The Practice and its spin-off Boston Legal, for which he won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.
"A director is a choreographer, both politically and creatively.""A series is filled with compromises.""Acting is easier - writing is more creative. The lazy man vies with the industrious.""All in all, Kirk's character is something I am very proud of.""And I enjoyed the celebrity and the creativity that was involved in Star Trek.""Babies have big heads and big eyes, and tiny little bodies with tiny little arms and legs. So did the aliens at Roswell! I rest my case.""But if you want to know the truth, the weirdest thing that has happened has been my discovery that people who attend the conventions are filled with love.""Captain Kirk has been a source of pleasure and income for a long time.""Here's something pompous - you take your day and artistically create it, so every moment has an artistic flavor.""How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.""I also derive a great deal of pleasure from horses and dogs... the ocean... and love.""I enjoyed reading all the classic authors like Isaac Asimov and Bradbury.""I hate flying, flat out hate its guts.""I think making a good film shot is joyful.""I think of doing a series as very hard work. But then I've talked to coal miners, and that's really hard work.""I think the acting satisfies the need and desire for approval.""I think the supernatural is a catch-all for everything we don't understand about the vast other parts of life that we cannot perceive.""I'm a performer, comedian, entertainer, writer and director.""I'm looking for the perfect paintball movie.""I've got rock 'n' roll in my blood.""If saving money is wrong, I don't want to be right!""If you make a fool of yourself, you can do it with dignity, without taking your pants down. And if you do take your pants down, you can still do it with dignity.""If you read my books, especially the Star Trek books and the Quest for Tomorrow books, you'll see in them the core theme of the basic humanistic questions that Star Trek asked.""In my proudest moments, I think I had a real hand in the creative force of making "Star Trek." But most of the time, I don't think about it.""No, I don't regret anything at this point. That may change on the next phone call, but at the moment I don't regret anything.""Nobody could have imagined the phenomenon that 'Star Trek' became. It's still almost impossible to imagine.""Oh, for God's sake... get a life, will you?""One of the advantages of being a captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.""Remember - you can't beam through a force field. So, don't try it.""Sci-fi films are the epic films of the day because we can no longer put 10,000 extras in the scene - but we can draw thousands of aliens with computers.""Spencer Tracy was a man who did very much what I do on a set, and that is, he comes down and he does his job, and then he goes back to his dressing room.""The basic quality that any great story must have is a story that illustrates the human condition.""The good life is one that's artistically made.""There's an ecstasy about doing something really good on film: the composition of a shot, the drama within the shot, the texture... It's palpable.""When I did the film Generations, in which the character died, I felt like a guest for the first time. That made me very sad.""Writing is truly a creative art - putting word to a blank piece of paper and ending up with a full-fledged story rife with character and plot."
Shatner was born in Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec, Canada, the son of Anne (née Garmaise) and Joseph Shatner, a clothing manufacturer. He has two sisters, Joy and Farla. His paternal grandfather, Wolf Schattner, anglicized the family name to "Shatner". Shatner's grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Austria, Poland, and Hungary, and Shatner was raised in Conservative Judaism. He attended Willingdon Elementary School, in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) and Baron Byng High School, in Montreal, as well as West Hill High School in NDG. He is an alumnus of the Montreal Children's Theatre. He also attended McGill University in Montreal.
Trained as a classical Shakespearean actor, Shatner performed at the Shakespearean Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, Ontario. He played a range of roles at the Stratford Festival in productions that included a minor role in the opening scene of a renowned and nationally televised production of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex directed by Tyrone Guthrie, Shakespeare's Henry V, and Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great. Shatner made his Broadway debut in the latter, in 1956. In 1954, he was cast as Ranger Bob on The Canadian Howdy Doody Show. Shatner was understudy to Christopher Plummer; the two would later star as adversaries in The Undiscovered Country.
Though his official movie debut was in the 1951 Canadian film entitled The Butler's Night Off, Shatner's first feature role came in the 1958 MGM film The Brothers Karamazov with Yul Brynner, in which he starred as the youngest of the Karamazov brothers, Alexei. In December of the same year, he appeared opposite Ralph Bellamy playing Roman tax collectors in Bethlehem on the day of Jesus' birth in a vignette of a Hallmark Hall of Fame live television production entitled The Christmas Tree directed by Kirk Browning and featuring in other vignettes such stars as Jessica Tandy, Margaret Hamilton, Bernadette Peters, Richard Thomas, Cyril Ritchard and Carol Channing. In 1959, he received decent reviews when he took on the role of Lomax in the Broadway production of The World of Suzie Wong. In 1960, Shatner appeared in two television series. He starred twice as Wayne Gorham in NBC's The Outlaws Western series with Barton MacLane and then twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes titled "The Glass Eye" (Season 3) and "Mother, may I go out to swim?"(Season 5). Prior to all of the above, a very young Shatner also had a leading role in the same Hitchcock series during its third season (1957—58) titled "The Glass Eye", making it one of his first TV appearances. In 1961, he starred in the Broadway play A Shot in the Dark with Julie Harris and directed by Harold Clurman. Walter Matthau (who won a Tony Award for his performance) and Gene Saks were also featured in this play. Shatner also starred in two episodes of the NBC television series Thriller, "Grim Reaper" and "The Hungry Glass".
Guthrie had called the young Shatner the Stratford Festival's most promising actor, and he was seen as a peer to contemporaries like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Shatner was not as successful as the others, however, and during the 1960s he "became a working actor who showed up on time, knew his lines, worked cheap and always answered his phone." His motto was "Work equals work", but Shatner's willingness to take any role, no matter how "forgettable", likely hurt his career. In 1962, he starred in Roger Corman's award-winning movie The Intruder. He also appeared in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg and two episodes, "Nick of Time" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", of the science fiction anthology series The Twilight Zone. In the 1963-1964 season, he appeared in episodes of two ABC series, Channing and The Outer Limits ("Cold Hands, Warm Heart"). In 1963 he starred in the Family Theater production called "The Soldier" and received credits in other programs of The Psalms series. That same year he guest starred in Route 66, in the episode, "Build Your Houses with Their Backs to the Sea." In 1964, he guest starred in the episode "He Stuck in His Thumb" of the CBS drama The Reporter.
Shatner guest-starred in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in an episode that also featured Leonard Nimoy
, with whom Shatner would soon be paired in Star Trek. He also starred in the critically acclaimed drama For the People in 1965 as an assistant district attorney, costarring with Jessica Walter. The program lasted for only thirteen episodes. Shatner starred in the 1965 Gothic horror film Incubus, the second feature-length movie ever made with all dialogue spoken in Esperanto. He also starred in an episode of Gunsmoke in 1966 as the character Fred Bateman.
Star Trek, the TV series
Shatner was first cast as Captain James Kirk for the second pilot of Star Trek, entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before". He was then contracted to play Kirk for the Star Trek series and held the role from 1966 to 1969. In the episode "Annihilate!" he also played the corpse of the recently killed George Samuel Kirk (the brother of James Kirk).
In 1973, he returned to the role of Captain Kirk, albeit only in voice, in the animated Star Trek series. He was slated to reprise the role of Kirk for Phase II, a follow-up series chronicling the second five-year mission of the Enterprise, but Star Trek: Phase II was cancelled in pre-production and expanded into The Motion Picture.
Stalled in the '70s
After Star Trek, Shatner found finding work difficult in the early 1970s, which he believes was due to his being typecast as Captain Kirk. Moreover, his wife Gloria Rand left him. With very little money and few acting prospects, he lived in a truck bed camper in the San Fernando Valley until acting bit-parts turned into higher paying roles. Shatner refers to this part of his life as "that period", a humbling one in which he would take any odd job, including small party appearances, to support his family.
He again appeared in "schlock" films, such as the horror film The Devil's Rain and Corman's Big Bad Mama. Shatner received good reviews as the lead prosecutor in a 1971 PBS adaptation of Saul Levitts play The Andersonville Trial. Other television appearances included a starring role in the western-themed secret agent series Barbary Coast during 1975 and 1976, and guest roles on many 1970s series such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Columbo, The Rookies, Kung Fu, and Impossible.
He was an occasional celebrity guest on The $20,000 Pyramid in the 1970s, once appearing opposite Nimoy in a matchup billed as "Kirk vs. Spock". His appearances became far less frequent after a 1977 appearance in which, after giving an illegal clue ("the blessed" for Things That Are Blessed) at the top of the pyramid ($200) which deprived the contestant of a big money win, he threw his chair out of the Winner's Circle. Other shows included The Hollywood Squares, Celebrity Bowling, and Match Game.
Shatner did a number of television commercials for Ontario-based Loblaws supermarket chain in the 1970s, and finished the ad spots by saying, "At Loblaws, more than the price is right. But, by Gosh, the price is right."
A return to Kirk, and to work
After its cancellation, Star Trek unexpectedly gained a cult following during the 1970s from syndicated reruns, and Captain Kirk became a cultural icon. Shatner and the other Star Trek cast members returned to their roles when Paramount produced The Motion Picture, released in 1979. It re-established Shatner as an actor, and he played Kirk in the next six Star Trek films, ending with the character's death in 1994's Star Trek Generations. His final appearances in the role are in the movie sequences of the video game Starfleet Academy (1997), and briefly for a DirecTV advertisement using footage from Star Trek VI running from late summer 2006.
While continuing in the successful series of Star Trek movies he gained a new starring role on television as a police officer in T. J. Hooker, which ran from 1982 to 1986. He then hosted the popular dramatic reenactment series Rescue 911 from 1989 to 1996. During the 1980s Shatner also began directing film and television, directing numerous episodes of T. J. Hooker and the feature film The Final Frontier.
As the unwilling central figure of a widespread geek-culture of Trekkies, Shatner is often humorously critical of the sometimes "annoying" fans of Star Trek. During a guest-host spot on Saturday Night Live, in a famous skit about a Star Trek convention, he advised a room full of Trekkies to "Get a life". Shatner also appeared in the film Free Enterprise in 1998, in which he played himself and tried to dispel the Kirk image of himself from the view of the film's two lead characters. He also has found an outlet in spoofing the cavalier, almost superhuman character persona of Captain Kirk, in films such as The Sequel (1982) and National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon (1993).
Tim Allen's role in Galaxy Quest as Captain Peter Quincy Taggart/Jason Nesmith is an analogue of James T. Kirk/William Shatner as known by the public at large; Taggart has a reputation for taking off his shirt at the flimsiest excuse, rolling on the ground during combat, and making pithy speeches at the drop of a hat, while Nesmith is an egomaniac who regards himself as the core of Galaxy Quest, and tells fans to "get a life". Poking fun at himself, Shatner professed when interviewed to have no idea whom Allen was parodying.
Subsequent acting career
Shatner has appeared in advertisements for many companies and products, and in recent years he has done a series of commercials for the travel web site Priceline, in which Shatner plays a pompous, fictionalized version of himself. Although he received stock options for the commercials, reports that they are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars are exaggerated. Shatner was also the CEO of the Toronto, Ontario-based C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, a special effects studio that operated from 1994 to 2010.
Shatner has enjoyed success with a series of science fiction novels published under his name, though most are widely believed to have been written by uncredited co-writers such as William T. Quick and Ron Goulart. The first, published in 1990, was TekWar. This popular series of books led to a Marvel Comics series, to a number of television movies, in which Shatner played a role, and to a short-lived television series in which Shatner made several appearances; he also directed some episodes. In 1995, a first-person shooter game named William Shatner's TekWar was released, and was the first game to use the Build engine.
In the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun, Shatner appeared in several episodes as the "Big Giant Head", a womanizing party-animal and high-ranking officer from the same alien planet as the Solomon family. The role earned Shatner a nomination for an Emmy. In 2003, Shatner appeared in Brad Paisley's "Celebrity" and "Online" music videos along with Little Jimmy Dickens, Jason Alexander, and Trista Rehn.
Enterprise producer Manny Coto stated in Star Trek Communicator's October 2004 issue that he was preparing a three-episode story arc for Shatner. Shortly thereafter, Enterprise was cancelled.
After David E. Kelley saw Shatner's commercials, he joined the final season of the legal drama The Practice. His Emmy-award winning role, the eccentric but highly capable attorney Denny Crane, was essentially "William Shatner the man...playing William Shatner the character playing the character Denny Crane, who was playing the character William Shatner." Shatner took the Crane role to Boston Legal, and won a Golden Globe, an Emmy in 2005, and was nominated again in 2006, 2007, 2008, & 2009 for his work. With the 2005 Emmy win, Shatner became one of the few actors along with co-star James Spader as Alan Shore, to win an Emmy award while playing the same character in two different series. Even rarer, Shatner and Spader each won a second consecutive Emmy while playing the same character in two different series. Shatner remained with the series until its end in 2008.
Shatner made several guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, including cameos reciting Sarah Palin's resignation speech, Twitter posts, and autobiography. He has also recited Twitter posts by Levi Johnston, father of Palin's grandson. He also appears in the opening graphics of the occasional feature "In The Year 3000," with his disembodied head floating through space, announcing, "And so we take a cosmic ride into that new millennium; that far off reality that is the year 3000," followed by the tag line, "It's the future, man."
In January 2007, Shatner launched a series of daily vlogs on his life called ShatnerVision on the LiveUniverse.com website. In 2008, he launched his video blogs on YouTube in a project renamed "The Shatner Project". Shatner also starred as the voice of Don Salmonella Gavone on the 2009 YouTube animated series The Gavones.
Shatner was not "offered or suggested" a role in the 2009 film Star Trek. Director J.J. Abrams said in July 2007 that the production was "desperately trying to figure out a way to put him in" but that to "shove him in...would be a disaster." Shatner had invented his own idea about the beginning of Star Trek with his latest novel, Star Trek: Academy ... Collision Course.
Shatner's autobiography Up Till Now was released in 2008. He was assisted in writing it by David Fisher. Shatner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for Television work) at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard. He also has a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. Shatner was the first Canadian actor to star in three successful TV series on three different major networks (NBC, CBS, and ABC).
Shatner currently stars in the CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, which is based on the Twitter feed Shit My Dad Says created by Justin Halpern. The series premiered in late 2010.
Music and spoken word work
Shatner began his musical career with the spoken word 1968 album The Transformed Man, delivering exaggerated, interpretive recitations of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". He performed a reading of the Elton John song "Rocket Man" during the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards that has been parodied by Chris Elliot on Late Night with David Letterman, on The Simpsons and by Stewie of Family Guy. Ben Folds, who has worked with him several times, produced and co-wrote Shatner's well-received second studio album, Has Been, in 2004.
Shatner has been married four times: his first marriage was to Gloria Rand, from 1956 to 1969. His second marriage ... his longest marriage thus far ... lasted 21 years and was to Marcy Lafferty Shatner from 1973 to 1994. The couple divorced in 1994. His third marriage was to Nerine Kidd-Shatner from 1997 to 1999.
On August 9, 1999, Shatner returned home around 10 p.m. to discover the body of his wife Nerine at the bottom of their back yard swimming pool. Alcohol and Valium were detected in an autopsy, and a coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning. The LAPD ruled out foul play and the case was closed. Speaking to the press shortly after his wife's death, a clearly shaken and emotional Shatner said that she "meant everything" to him and called her his "beautiful soulmate". Shatner urged the public to support Friendly House, a non-profit organization that helps women re-establish themselves in the community after suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. Science Fiction News of the Week He later told Larry King in an interview that "...my wife, whom I loved dearly and who loved me, was suffering with a disease that we don’t like to talk about, alcoholism. And she met a tragic ending because of it." In his new 2008 book Up Till Now: The Autobiography, Shatner discusses how Leonard Nimoy helped take Nerine for treatment of her alcoholism. Shatner writes in an excerpt to his book:
In 2000, a Reuters story reported that Shatner was planning to write and direct The Shiva Club, a dark comedy about the grieving process inspired by his wife's death. Shatner's 2004 album Has Been included a spoken word piece titled "What Have You Done" that describes his anguish upon discovering his wife's body in the pool.
His current wife is Elizabeth Martin, whom he married in 2001. The couple came together through their interest in horses shortly after they were both widowed. Shatner has three daughters, Leslie Carol (b. 1958), Lisabeth Mary (b. 1960), and Melanie (b. 1964), from his marriage to Rand. Melanie had a brief career as an actress and is now the proprietor of Dari, an upscale women's clothing boutique. She is married to actor Joel Gretsch, with whom she has two daughters, Kaya and Willow.
Relationships with other actors
Shatner first appeared on screen with Leonard Nimoy in 1964, when both actors guest-starred in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., entitled: "The Project Strigas Affair". However, Shatner states in his autobiography that he does not recall meeting Nimoy at that time. As co-stars on Star Trek, they interacted socially both on and off the set. After classic Star Trek's cancellation in 1969, Shatner and Nimoy reunited in the production of a Star Trek animated series, as well as The $20,000 Pyramid, where "Kirk vs. Spock" appeared on two different tables. Nimoy also guest-starred on T. J. Hooker for a few episodes. Shatner starred in the title role of the show.
The 1999 death of Shatner's third wife, Nerine, served to strengthen the friendship of Shatner and Nimoy, as Nimoy had mourned over the loss of his best friend's wife. Nimoy also appeared alongside Shatner at the TV Land Awards (hosted by John Ritter) and was one of the many people to serve as a celebrity "roaster" of Shatner. Nimoy summarized his four decade friendship with Shatner by remarking, "Bill's energy was good for my performance, 'cause Spock could be the cool individual, our chemistry was successful, right from the start." Nimoy has also spoken about mutual rivalry between the actors during the Star Trek years: "Very competitive, sibling rivalry up to here. After the show had been on the air a few weeks and they started getting so much mail for Spock, then the dictum came down from NBC: 'Give us more of that guy, they love that guy, you know?' Well, that can be ... that can be a problem for the leading man who was hired as the star of the show; and suddenly, here's this guy with ears -- 'What's this, you know?'" said Nimoy. On an episode of the A&E Network series Biography, Nimoy remarked, "Bill Shatner hogging the stage? No. Not the Bill Shatner I know."
Shatner has been friends with Heather Locklear since 1982, when Locklear co-starred with him on T. J. Hooker as Officer Stacy Sheridan. Locklear was asked by Entertainment Tonight whether it was hard to work on two weekly TV shows at the same time. During the four years Locklear was in "Hooker", she was also appearing in a semi-regular role in a fellow Aaron Spelling production, Dynasty. She replied "...I'd get really nervous and want to be prepared..." for Shatner and the experienced cast of Dynasty. After Hooker ended Shatner helped Locklear get other roles. Locklear supported a grieving Shatner in 1999 when he was mourning the death of his wife, Nerine. In 2005, Locklear appeared in two episodes of Shatner's Boston Legal as Kelly Nolan, an attractive, youthful woman being tried for killing her much older, wealthy husband. Shatner plays Crane, a founding partner of a large law firm, and a legendary litigator. Crane is attracted to Nolan and tries to insert himself into her defense. He is about the same age as Nolan's deceased husband, so Crane courts death by pursuing her. Locklear was asked how she came to appear on Boston Legal. She explained "I love the show, it's my favorite show; and I sorta kind of said, 'Shouldn't I be William Shatner's illegitimate daughter, or his love interest?'"
For years, Shatner was accused of being difficult to work with by some of his Star Trek co-stars, most notably James Doohan and George Takei. In the 2004 Star Trek DVD sets, Shatner seemed to have made up with Takei, but their differences continue to resurface. In the 1990s, Shatner made numerous attempts to patch things up with Doohan, but was unsuccessful for some time; however, an Associated Press article published at the time of Doohan's final convention appearance in late August 2004 stated that Doohan had forgiven his fellow Canadian Shatner and they had mended their relationship.Takei continues to speak negatively about Shatner. In a 2008 television interview, he stated "he has a big, shiny, demanding ego." Shatner, in turn, recorded videos for YouTube, saying that Takei had some sort of "psychosis". And on williamshatner.com, he wrote, "Finally at the age of, I think, 70, he decides to come out of the closet and say 'I'm gay.' Like, who cares? Be gay."
Takei has repeatedly asserted (most recently on the December 26, 2009 episode of the NPR radio program Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me) that he invited Shatner (along with other Star Trek cast members) to his 2008 wedding to Brad Altman, but Shatner never responded to the invitation. Shatner has repeatedly counter-asserted (most recently in the January 2010 issue of GQ) that he never received an invitation.
Health, hobbies and causes
In his spare time, Shatner enjoys breeding and showing American Saddlebreds and Quarter Horse. Shatner has a horse farm near Versailles, Kentucky named Belle Reve, where he raises American Saddlebreds. His champion American Saddlebreds include Call Me Ringo, Revival, and Sultan's Great Day.
Shatner suffers from tinnitus and is involved in the ATA (American Tinnitus Association). His treatment for this condition involved wearing a small electronic device that generated a low-level, broadband sound (white noise) that "helped his brain put the tinnitus in the background".
On October 19, 2005, while working on the set of Boston Legal, Shatner was taken to the emergency room for lower back pain. He eventually passed a kidney stone, recovered and soon returned to work. In 2006, Shatner sold his kidney stone for US$75,000 to GoldenPalace.com. In an appearance on The View on May 16, 2006, Shatner said the $25,000 and an additional $20,000 raised from the cast and crew of Boston Legal, paid for the building of a house by Habitat for Humanity.
Shatner also plays on the World Poker Tour in the Hollywood Home games. He plays for the Wells Fargo Hollywood Charity Horse Show.
In 2004, Shatner won his first Emmy Award for his role as “Denny Crane” on The Practice. In 2005, he won his first Golden Globe award and a second Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Boston Legal. In 2009, Shatner won a Streamy Award in the category of Best Reality Web Series.