William Shatner is a force of nature.
While many octogenarians are slowly winding down, the Canadian actor, director, author, and documentarian (and, arguably, musician) is just hitting his stride. With a raft of upcoming film and TV roles, a new novel, and countless public appearances—including one in Vancouver next week to celebrate the University of British Columbia’s centennial—it’s obvious that he’s having the time of his life.
“I’m in the midst of a joyful expression of myself,” Shatner says with a laugh on the line from his office in Los Angeles.
A consummate pitchman, the 85-year-old actor even manages to squeeze an endorsement into an exclamation of joie de vivre.
“I’m flying by Bombardier, a Canadian airplane manufacturer, from Orlando to Vancouver,” Shatner explains, “and rather than dribble on my shirt at home, I might as well dribble on my shirt in a beautiful Bombardier airplane. It’s an adventure, why would I want to give that up?”
For his UBC speech, the Montreal native (“I still think of myself as Canadian”) plans to examine the differences that both divide us and bind us together.
“My theme is that we’re all different, and I harp on that a lot,” Shatner says. “We all perceive things differently, and we’ve all had different experiences, so between the two we’re all, as I say, snowflakes.”
It turns out that the timing of Shatner’s return to Canada couldn’t be better, as this month also sees the release of Canada Post’s new Star Trek stamp series—which includes a stunning depiction of Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk.
Confessing that he was floored by the honour, he says, “I’ve just recently picked myself back up. Isn’t it something?
“I was collecting stamps when I was a kid—back with the founding fathers and Prime Minister Macdonald—but the possibility of collecting me never occurred to me.” He pauses, then laughs. “I’m going to use that line again!”
Of course, talk of the stamps opens the door to another line of Star Trek–related questioning, regarding Internet rumours that Shatner has secretly filmed a cameo for the upcoming film Star Trek Beyond.
“God almighty, no—no, it’s not true,” he exclaims, laughing. “No, I am not in the next Star Trek, much to my regret, I wish I were.”
Clearly, James Kirk is still an important part of Shatner’s life.
“Star Trek is mythological,” he says. “People are looking for an explanation of things that can’t be explained—it’s the eternal desire to fill a void. Science fiction tries to give you an idea of what that might be, and that’s entrancing.”
As the conversation turns to the late Leonard Nimoy—his Star Trek costar and long-time friend, and the subject of Shatner’s most recent book, Leonard—the actor becomes more contemplative.
“When you write about somebody who’s gone, who you cared about, it’s an exercise in memory, and nostalgia, and the deeper understanding of the passage of time. It makes for a multilayered experience.”
Indeed, it’s hard not to think of the passage of time when it comes to the original Star Trek series, especially with the show celebrating its golden anniversary this year.
“Star Trek is a phenomenon. There’s never been a show on the air continuously for 50 years, and to be a part of it is quite wonderful. Part of the reason that I’m coming to UBC is because of Star Trek,” he says, reflectively.
“I never forget that.”
William Shatner speaks at UBC’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday (May 28).