William Shatner (Captain Kirk, TOS), Part One
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William Shatner at  the Galileo 7 III convention in Berlin

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Get A Life
William Shatner's favorite Star Trek episode
Black woman, white man?
About the movie "Free Enterprise"
Working with Will Smith
About T.J. Hooker
Have water, will drink it
Deforest Kelley, V 1999
DeForest and Chihuahuas
DeForest's habits
On playing "bad guys"
The future of Star Trek
A new Star Trek novel
Most spectacular action scenes
A Captain Kirk stunt
Soundbyte: Beam me up... (wav)

Photos, audio & transcript: © Erich Habich 2000

Get A Life

This is my first convention in two years (30.Oct.1999). 

clickI wrote a book this last year, called Get a Life!  The book is about Star Trek fans and what I discovered about the fans, the people who love Star Trek, and what they are like.

In order to see what went on in the dealers rooms at conventions I put on a mask.  And I'd walk around a convention hall with a mask on.  I tried to get people upset to see what their reaction would be. I'd go around the dealers and I'd say "Why are you here?"  And they said "Shatner, will you get out of here!"  None of my research worked like that.

I made a big discovery while I was writing the book.  The discovery I made in the book was that the fans who come to conventions are here for a number of reasons.  One is to see the Star Trek actors.   But the other reason is to see each other.  You are here because there is something you communicate with each other. 

You come here because if you love Star Trek you are accepted.  And that's the thing that I discovered while writing this book.  I interviewed a lot of people.   And this came as a shock.  I had never understood that before.  I never understood that people come to Star Trek conventions for a number of reasons.  And mostly it's to see each other. 

In this book I wrote down a lot of stories that I liked to tell at conventions.  So I don't want to tell you those same stories.  When I was doing a number of conventions a year there was an opening that I had:  I was once noticed in an airport and a little biddy said: "There he goes!  Look!  Captain Nimoy!" (Laughter)

But I don't want to do that any more.  I don't want to tell those stories anymore. 
I want to tell new stories.

Message Board

William Shatner's favorite Star Trek episode

This question is there all the time.   And I don't know what my favorite episode is.  They are all kind of one big episode.  You know, making a series is a very difficult job.  It's fourteen, fifteen, sixteen hours a day.  You got ten pages of dialogue to learn for the next day.  So you work with a lot of words and then there's publicity and all that.   It's very difficult.  So, when the series was on, there was a lot of activity going on.  The writers were very busy trying to make the scripts good.

And frequently the scripts were late.   They often handed me a script as I went onto stage, saying that it was that weeks episode.  Sometimes, later in the season, it would get so bad that they would hand me a scene from the episode before I'd seen the whole script so I didn't know where the scene fit in.  It got to be that difficult. 

So, if you ask me what my favorite episode is, the favorite episode would be the one which was the most difficult one to do.   And I remember having been handed a scene and I didn't know where it fit in.   And I started to read the scene and it said  "And a woman enters his body".  And I had no idea what to do.  I had no idea where that fit in.  

Later on I read the script when they had it ready and it was the woman who enters my body and I didn't know how to perform that.   I tried everything.

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Black woman, white man?

Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura)What was my feeling on the Captain Kirk's relation to Lieutenant Uhura, as regards to kissing?

What was my feeling?
Well, black woman and white man.  That's an OLD question. 

This question of Uhura and Captain Kirk is a non-question.  It was two people doing their job and I kissed her because the script asked for it.  During that time was a little bit of fuss in the United States about this.  It was a non-event.

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About the movie "Free Enterprise"

This year I have been doing quite a number of things.  And one of them was a movie called "Free Enterprise".  It was a funny occasion.  These producers came to me and asked me to be in their film.  And they gave me a script. 

And the script was about these two young guys in their middle twenties who were having trouble with their lives, relationships, work and dealing with people.  And what they do for advice, for wisdom, is that they would ask "What would William Shatner do?"  That's in the script.

And because they used to do this as kids because they watched Star Trek:  "What would William Shatner do?", even when they were children they asked themselves this question.

And then I would appear in the movie and give them some wise advice.  You know: "Kiss the girl!", or something.  And they would say: "Oh!  Thank you William Shatner!"  And that would be like a dream sequence.  And they gave me the script and said  "We've got the money to do this film.  We'd like you to be in this film.  And I read the script and I looked like an idiot in it.  And so I said  "I can't do this script." 

And for the next four or three months they started to call me.  Weekly, then daily "Please, be in my film."  I said "I can't do it!"  It's like I'm a Guru. I'm not. I'm a dumb-bell."  They said "No, no, no.  Please be in the film."   So I said "Well, the only way I could be in the film is if we change the whole thing around.  And Bill Shatner too doesn't know what to do with his work."

clickAnyway, we changed the whole thing around.   And the character of William Shatner in "Free Enterprise" is a guy who is trying to sell a musical movie of Julius Cesar and Mark Anthony.  And at the very ending I do a rap-song of "Friends, Romans, Countrymen".  I rap it with some rappers from Los Angeles.  And we had a lot of fun with that.  It is a funny movie.  (Listen to music samples from the Movie "Free Enterprise".)

I often wonder how the guys rap their song.   You know, they come from the streets and it's the poetry of the streets rapping.   So I was told to go to a studio in Downtown Los Angeles.  We were going to record the song but I didn't know any songs.  All I knew was the soliloquy of Julius Cesar.  It was around midnight in Downtown Los Angeles when I went into a building that looked like it was falling down.  But that was deliberate because inside there was a great studio.

I met the rapper whose name was "Rated R" and his posse of half a dozen guys.  And they were all smoking.  And they were playing their instruments as I walked in and looked at these guys.  I introduced myself and they said "What's this all about?"  And I said "I don't know?  What's this all about?" 

They said "What's Julius Cesar, old man?"  And I began to tell them what the soliloquy of Julius Cesar was.  I said he is at the funeral of a dead friend and there are people watching him at the funeral who would kill him like they killed Brutus if he makes a mistake. 

Well, these guys get the idea.  And in two days, late at night, we fashioned this rap song.  And I saw first hand how these artists work.  Just spontaneously, they feed off each other.  They fed off off at me.  It was an enormous experience doing a rap song.

The Ben Folds record: Fear Of PopI did another record with Ben Folds last year.  Ben Folds is a very famous Rock'n Roll musician.  And he wrote this song for me.  I have a Rap song and a Rock'n Roll song out there and I don't sing! 

William Shatner and Ben Folds: Click Here

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Working with Will Smith

What it was like to work with Will Smith in the "Fresh Prince Of Belle Air"?

He is a wonderful guy, very funny, very generous.  The coincidence is that my daughter got married this year (1999).   And her husband, who is an actor, got his big break being in a movie with Will Smith.  His name is Joe Bretch.  The movie he starred in with Will Smith is called "The Legend Of Pegervance", directed by Robert Redford. 

Will Smith and I became good buddies on that show.  And now Joe is a buddy of Will, so, I'll get to know Will Smith better than I do now. 

I got nominated in the United States for a comedy performance on "The Third Rock From The Sun".  I got nominated for an Emmy for a comedy performance.  But I think it was a result of doing that "Fresh Prince From Belle Air", which led to this fun role on the other show.  

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About T.J. Hooker

T.J. Hooker was an incredible show to do.  I was running in it all the time.   When we were shooting in Los Angeles during the summer it was smoggy.  I'd be running down the street and there'd be a medical guy with oxygen masks.  And I never asked for one.  I'd insist, you know?  "Ah, it's okay! Hhhh, hhhh, I'm okay!" 

So one day I said "Hhh, hhh, gimme the oxygen!"

And the paramedic handed me the mask and I breathe in and the mask was filthy!  He'd forgotten to clean the mask.  So I breathed in and all the dirt caught in my throat.  That was the first and last time I used the oxygen.

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Have water, will drink it

One of the things I used to have and still do is stage fright.  The worst thing that can happen is that something catches in your throat.  And then you can't talk.  That's my nightmare.  So, always on stage when I'm doing a play, I have a glass of water somewhere.  In case I catch something in my throat. 

I was performing on Broadway and had been doing a play there for two years.   When we first started the run I told the people backstage "Put a glass of water right over here on this desk.   If ever I catch something in my throat I can drink that glass." 

The play now lasts two years.  And I never catch anything in my throat.  Except on the last night. 

I run over to the desk and pick up the glass.   There are four flies and green algae in it.  He'd put a glass of water there two years ago and left it there! 

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Deforest Kelley, 1920-1999

"He's really not dead as long as we remember him." / De Forest Kelley tribute page at Filmfrontier.comI went to see DeForest Kelley shortly before he died. 
I've had a real experience with death this year...
I've learned a lot about life and death this year. 

DeForest was in the hospital for some time.   He was quite ill.  We didn't know how bad he really was. 

I was talking to him on the phone and I heard something in his voice.  I don't know what but I realized that I got to go and see him.  And I called Leonard Nimoy (we are great friends) and I told Leonard and I said "I'm gonna go up to the hospital and see DeForest.  You want to come with me?"  Leonard couldn't come with and said "I'll go see him when I I get back."

And I went up to see him.  He was very, very thin.  Gaunt.  He was dying. He didn't know it, but you could see the look in the eye.  And what he said was:  "Bill.  Leonard, you and me got to do a movie.  I got a great idea for a script."

He wanted to go to work.  And I laughed with him and I cried with him a little.  His wife was there.  His wife had broken her leg and was in the hospital with him.  She was in the room.  I mean she was in another hospital room, but when I came she was there in the room in a wheel chair with her husband.  And it was beautiful.  They've been married for something like fifty years or more.  And for several books that I've done I've interviewed DeForest Kelley many times.  I know the story of his life and how he met his wife, the years that he spent with his wife.  And I was there the last moment.   Maybe he died two or three days later. 

And Leonard came back from his trip and he had missed seeing his friend. 

I loved DeForest.  He was a wonderful, wonderful man.  He was a Southern gentleman.  On one of the Star Trek films we spent a lot of time together at night because we were shooting at night.  And I got to know a few things about him. 

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DeForest and Chihuahuas

I like dogs, and DeForest likes dogs.  To me, a dog needs to be of a certain size.  I mean, I breed Dobermans.  Doberman pinchers!  That's a dog!   Okay?

DeForest liked Chihuahuas -
And I would say to him "A Chihuahua is not a Dog.  It is a rat."

And he'd say "No, Bill.  A Chihuahua is a dog.  I love my dog.  This is Emily.  I love my dog."

And I'd say "But a dog?  This is a dog!  Attack!  That's a dog!"  But a Chihuahua?  Attack?  I mean, what does it do?

So, one day he comes into the dressing room.   We were getting made up to do the show.  And DeForest was crying. 

I ask "What's the matter?" 

DeForest "Emily is dead..."

"So sorry.  I know about dogs, when they die.  So sorry.  What happened?" 

DeForest "I was walking Emily like I always do on the front lawn.  Emily ran.  Emily ran and ran.  And she hit a sprinkler head.  Emily died." 

And I began laughing.  DeForest didn't talk to me afterwards for two years.

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DeForest's habits

The other thing about DeForest was that as he got older he got more and more into a habit.  Just everything was a habit.  He'd arrive at work at exactly the right hour. 

He drove a car that was twenty-five years old.  He didn't change his car.  He loved his car.  It was a habit.

I used to hunt with a Bowie knife.  And I'd watch and stalk the game.  Got to watch the game and see what their habits are.  

We were making a movie.  And I used to watch DeForest come in in the morning.  And he'd walk over to the table where all the food was.  And he'd look down at the table and he'd pick out an English muffin.   He'd cut it.  He'd put it in the toaster.  Press the toast down.   And he'd watch it.  You know you can tell when people are happy.  They got a whole happy feeling.  And he'd watch his toast.

So one day he goes to the breakfast table and he puts the English muffin in the toaster.  And I call a make-up man over   "Bruce, come over here!  Bruce, distract Dee..."

Bruce goes "Ah, Dee... come over here.   Just turn this way please...  Will you..."

And while his back was turned I went up to the toaster.  I lifted the English muffin out of the toaster.  I ran back.   You see, DeForest was afraid of losing his memory.  He was always afraid of forgetting his line.  When he turned around and he's leaning over the toaster the toaster went PING and there was no bread. 

DeForest goes "I could have sworn..."
He takes another English muffin, slices it, puts it in and puts the toaster down.   And now he is not happy anymore.  You can tell he is agitated.  He's waiting.

I say "Bruce!  Distract Dee!"  

Bruce goes to DeForest "Dee, why are you perspiring so much?"

I go up and take the toast out again.   And I run back.  And of course DeForest turns back and now the toaster pops up and there is NO TOAST!  And he turns around and looks around and he sees me!

And I'm over here, choking, because there is nowhere else to put the toast.  I'm choking on the toast. 

He says "Shatner! That's you!"   And I say "Call 911!  I'm choking!"

We had a lot of fun.

DeForest was a wonderful, loving man and a great friend.

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On playing "bad guys"

There is really no difference in playing a bad guy or a good guy.  There is no difference between drama and comedy.   It's all cut from the same cloth.  The bad guy should be like a good guy and a good guy should have a little bad guy in him. 

That's a secret that scientists don't know.   They think playing a bad guy is a bad thing, but it isn't.  It's all the same.

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The future of Star Trek

I'm working on a book about the future.   I've just been in Pittsburgh, were I've interviewed some professors at the Carnegie-Mellon university, which is a big scientific university.  I spent two days talking about robotics and what the future of robots will be in our society. 

The book is called "I'm Working On That!". 
And that's what Stephen Hawking said when he visited the Star Trek set.  Stephen Hawking looked at the Star Trek set and said "I'm working on that...".

The book has it's roots in Star Trek and the science of Star Trek.  I never really understood the science of Star Trek until now and I was curious. 

When I said "Warp speed!", what was I saying?

What does it mean when I say 'warp speed'?  

"Beam me up, Scotty.", what does that phrase mean?  What is that 'beam-me-up' process?  What happens?  I always thought that an electron circled around a proton.  Didn't you think yourself that the electrons go around the nucleus of an atom?  Does anyone think that? 

They don't!  You were wrong.  We're talking quantum-mechanics.  The electron doesn't go around, although that's what I learned at school.  And the Earth going around the Sun is like an electron going around the nucleus, that's what I learned.  It's all so symmetrical.  It's so wonderful and simple.  It shows a design, a plan.  No, the electrons, it has been discovered, don't go around the nucleus

I asked "What do they do instead?"   And they said "We don't know."  Because in the observation of the electron it is  disturbed.  So they don't know where it goes.  Isn't that wild?  Quantum mechanics.  This book "We Are Working On That", which will come out in the summer of 2000, is an explanation of warp speed.  It will give an answer to the question of what it means to warp time and space.

Have you ever wondered?  What did Einstein mean?  What did he mean by E=mc˛?  What does that mean?  I still don't know. 

shatner5.jpg (75636 bytes)But here is what I do know.  I do know that light can be bent by gravity.  So gravitational forces are bending light that we see from the stars.  It's bending it like a river, water going down a mountain side as it flows and bends.  That's what light is doing in space.  Where did it bend?   What is affecting the light we see?  Coming from all those billions and billions of light-years away?  Where was it and where does it appear?   We don't know.  But we know it does bend. 

We know something else.  We know that a body travelling in space at its time and at its speed and distance, moves at a different pace than another body travelling in another space and at another speed.  They are different.  Not just because we think they are different.  They discovered that bodies around the Earth, like the Shuttle going around the Earth, do go slightly slower, a billionth of a second slower when it is in space, than when it is on Earth. 

A different way of saying this is:
Your rhythm and my rhythm are different because I'm moving at a different rate of speed than you are.  If love is two people moving together close to the same speed and space, then their rhythm could be the same.  Or almost the same.  And maybe that's what love is, where two people are moving at the same rate of speed together.  

The future of Star Trek I don't know. 

clickI have a series of novels called " QUEST FOR TOMORROW " out there.  They are about a young man named Jim who doesn't know what his last name is because he found out that he has been adopted.  And he is trying to discover his last name and he has these adventures while he discovers the Universe. 

I think that eventually they will bring out a young cast, set in a time maybe before the Star Trek that I was in.  And they may start a new series like that.  I think that's the way it may go, but I don't know.   I got some books out there that propel that idea. 

I've got some books on Star Trek using the Captain Kirk character.  I've now written five novels about Captain Kirk and his adventures, which are taken close to my own life and the passages that I go through as I get older. 

Captain Kirk is making the same journey that I am making, except it's dramatic and extravagant.  I'm bringing more spirituality to Captain Kirk and less Science Fiction.  He realizes that time gets shorter as he gets older.  That his discovery is his discovery of the spirit and not just Science Fiction.  That's were I'm going with those books. 

The future of Star Trek really depends on Paramount studios.  I think the fact that you are all here today in all those numbers is an indication of the continuing popularity of the series.  I think it is a beautiful series.  I think everything that's been done since the original series was done has been really good.  And I think that Paramount will work hard to make it even better. 

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A new Star Trek novel

In my first book Captain Kirk wants to find the fountain of youth.
A young lady comes to him and falls in love with him and he falls in love with her.   Telany says "Come with me to my planet where we'll be young forever."

And so, against the advice of his crew and his friends he follows this young lady and discovers that there is no fountain of youth there.  But the young lady becomes the love of his life and in the next few books he marries her.  He has to fight battles, she gets pregnant and ultimately she dies.

I'm going to tell you a little bit what my next book will contain.  His wife dies in child birth and Captain Kirk saves the baby.  And the baby is monstrous.  It is an ugly, terrible baby, meaning that it is a monster.  He doesn't know what to do.  He thinks about killing it but decides because it is part of his beloved Telany he will hope he will love it.  What he doesn't know and comes to find out is because Telany is part alien that the baby at six months becomes beautiful.  Like an ugly duckling suddenly becoming beautiful.   And it has the ability to choose its sex.  Kirk always wanted a son. 

But the baby and he decide that she will be a daughter.  Because it part of Telany.  And that's what the book is about.   I hope you get a chance to read it up.  ( Click here to check latest availability of books by William Shatner .)

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William Shatner's most spectacular action scenes

Over the years there have been a lot of shots.   There was one on a movie I made that required me to get up on a train, on the top of a diesel engine.   When I came to the location I said to the director "How are we going to get that shot where the train is moving and I'm on top of a train?"  And there was supposed to be a helicopter onto which I was to hang onto, while the train was going...

I said "How are we going to do that?"

He said "Well, I don't know.  I was hoping that maybe we could do it very slowly on this train here..."

"I'm going up on that train???"

"We'll do it very slooowly... and then we'll undercrank it, put the film through slowly.  When they play at regular speed it seems faster."

I said "Could I see the stuntman on it first?" 

He said "Yeah!"

We were on an unused piece of track with this locomotive which was a big diesel.  On a diesel, unlike on a steam engine, there is nothing on the top -  no smokestack, there's nothing.  You can't tie, you can't cable yourself off.  Ordinarily you run a cable around your waist, you'd wear a harness under your shirt, and be lashed to something, so that if you fell at least something would be holding you from falling off the train.  There was no way to do that. 

So I watched the stuntman.  And the train steamed along at maybe twenty miles an hour.  The body of the stuntman became like an airfoil when the wind hit him.  He struggled against the wind on the narrow roof of the locomotive.  And to make it worse the track curved, went under a bridge, and then...

... there was this helicopter.   Hovering.  I was the bad guy if I remember correctly and I had to get up on the rungs of the helicopter.

I said "Okay.  I'll do this once.   And be sure to go real slow."

So we started off at twenty miles an hour.   I was a little nervous about it all.  The helicopter was there and I was really scared.  We get to the end of the track about two or three miles down.   The director says "Cut!"

I get down off the train.  He says "It didn't work...  It's going to slowly.  I don't know what to do..."

So I say "Okay.  Just go a little bit faster.  I'll do it one more time.  Just go a little bit faster."

The train went backwards into position.   I get up on the train.  Now the train goes a little bit faster by five miles an hour.  Now faster and the wind is lifting me up and I lean into it and I get to the end.  It goes around a curve, it goes under the bridge, the helicopter comes...

The director says "It didn't work... Still too slow."

So I said "Okay.  Let's go faster!"

Twelve times later the shot was finished!   When I look back on what could have happened, at forty miles an hour I could have been blown into space and would have been Captain Kirk.

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A Captain Kirk stunt

This reminds me of another spectacular stunt as Captain Kirk:   A stunt which wasn't in the final movie version.  In Star Trek Six the opening scene called for me to jump out of an orbiting shuttle and land skydiving in a Californian desert.  And that's the pun of the opening sequence. 

To make it look real the wardrobe department came up with a full body rubber scuba suit.  And on top of the scuba suit they placed thick rubber tiles.  I had very heavy gloves and heavy boots together with a specially made motorcycle helmet. 

"Instead of me coming out an hour early to the location where we are gonna shoot give me the wardrobe and I'll put it on in the morning to save myself an hours sleep.  I get there an hour later."

They agreed and gave me the uniform.   That morning I got up at four o'clock, put on the Star Trek uniform, got in my car and began driving to the location.  It was way out in the California desert. 


shatner2.jpg (55599 bytes) click for RealAudio It is four o'clock in the morning.  There is no traffic.  And I am speeding along...  I am thinking about what I am going to do this morning.  And suddenly I hear a police siren and look in the rearview mirror:  a cop is following me!

I pull over and realize:  I've got the Star Trek uniform! I didn't want to get a speeding ticket so I decided to do something foolish!

I got out of my car and I walked up to the police officer.  Now, the California policemen wear this brim hat and they look very military and they wear these dark glasses.  Even at four o'clock in the morning.   They wear these dark glasses! 

I walk up to him "Yes, officer!   What seems to be the problem?"

He looks...  He said "You were speeding...."

I said "Yes!  I have a spaceship!   What seems to be the problem?  I have four-hundred men waiting for me and I must be there quickly!  Now, is there anything I can do for you?"

He said "ja..."

I said "Very well, then!"  and I walked off.  Okay?  I walked off...

I walked back to my car.  And at that last instant I weaken, and instead of getting in my car and driving off I want to see his reaction.  So I turned around and he says "Beam me up Scotty!"

I get to the location and I get into this rubber suit with all the tiles and things and the helmet.  And by now the sun is up and its summer time.  In the California desert its a hundred-twenty degrees Fahrenheit.  And they say "Come outside" as the stuntman is jumping out of an airplane with a parachute.   "We want you to see where and how he lands because the transition between what the stuntman does and what you do is that last moment where we say 'Cut!'.  You continue on with what the stuntman was doing."   So, the stuntman jumps out of the airplane.  He's sailing down with this parachute which is made to look futuristic.  He's landing in place, and he's running and running and he's running uphill. 

"Cut!  Okay. Put Bill in there."  And I walk in the California desert and hundred-twenty degrees in my rubber suit, my helmet, my boots and gloves and a parachute.  AND ALL THAT DAY I'M RUNNING UPHILL! 

And the scene isn't in the movie.

click here for part two


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Soundbyte: Beam me up... (wav)

Beam me up, Scotty!
(.Wav file)


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