(1931 - )
William Shatner on LARRY KING LIVE:
KING: You were raised an Orthodox Jew in Montreal, which is a very serious Jewish community.
SHATNER: That's correct.
KING: Did that help at all?
SHATNER: No. No. Those people with a vivid faith, with a knowledge of the afterworld and they know exactly what's going to happen, I envy them. I wish it could be mine. You know, you're going to see -- I'm going to see Nerene (ph) . And Elizabeth is going to see Mike. That doesn't go for me. I'm see my animals die, I put my dogs down when they're ill and old. And they die in my arms. And they're dead. Why is any one life more or less important than any other?
KING: Does the Jewish culture remain with you?
KING: Without the religion.
SHATNER: Well, what is the religion?
William Shatner (born in Montreal, Quebec, March 22, 1931) is an actor, writer and musical performer. Shatner is most famous for his starring role as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the television show Star Trek from 1966 to 1969 and in seven of the subsequent movies. Shatner has written three books chronicling his experiences playing James T. Kirk and being a part of the Star Trek franchise.
He has since worked as a writer, producer, director, musician, and best-selling author.
Upon reaching his seventies, Shatner showed no signs of slowing down. His acting career reached a new peak when he won two Emmy Awards for portraying attorney Denny Crane in the television series The Practice and Boston Legal.
Shatner, of Ukrainian Jewish descent, attended Baron Byng High School in Montreal, Quebec, and earned a Bachelor's degree in commerce from Montreal's McGill University in 1952. Trained as a classical Shakespearean actor, he performed at the famed Shakespearean Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, Ontario before going to the United States to work. In 1954 he was cast as "Ranger Bill" on the popular Howdy Doody Show in the United States. His official movie debut was in the 1958 MGM film The Brothers Karamazov with Yul Brynner, in which Shatner starred as the pious Russian Orthodox monk Alexei (he had earlier appeared in a 1951 Canadian film entitled The Butler's Night Off). In 1959, he received good reviews when he took on the role of Robert Lomax in the Broadway production of The World of Suzie Wong. In 1962 he starred in Roger Corman's award winning movie "The Intruder." He also appeared in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg, appeared in two episodes of the acclaimed science fiction anthology series The Twilight Zone, and starred in the unusual 1965 Gothic horror film Incubus; one of only two movies known to have all dialogue spoken in Esperanto, an artificial language developed in the 1880s.
Star Trek career
William Shatner was first cast as Captain James Tiberius Kirk for the second pilot of Star Trek, entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before". He subsequently was contracted to play Captain Kirk for the Star Trek series and held the role from 1966 to 1969. In 1973, Shatner 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 Star Trek: 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 Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Between 1979 and 1991, William Shatner played Captain Kirk in the six Star Trek films, and directed the fifth. In 1994, he returned to the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations (his character's final role, as Kirk was killed in the film).
In the summer of 2004, rumors circulated that the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise were considering bringing William Shatner back into the Trek fold. Reports in the media indicated that the idea was given serious thought, with series producer Manny Coto indicating in Star Trek Communicator magazine's October, 2004, issue that he was preparing a three-episode story arc for Shatner. Shortly thereafter, Enterprise was cancelled, likely ending all hope that Shatner would return to Star Trek.
Post-Star Trek career
Shatner had a long dry spell in the decade between the original Star Trek series and the first Trek film, which he believes was due to his being typecast as Captain Kirk, making it difficult to find other work. He says this period was a humbling one, as he would take any odd job, including small party appearances to support his family. In 1970, Shatner appeared as the prosecutor in a PBS television film of the Broadway play The Andersonville Trial. Trial was directed by George C. Scott and received excellent reviews. He also took roles in made-for-TV productions, such as The Horror at 37,000 Feet. The dry spell ended for Shatner (and the other Star Trek cast members) when Paramount produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, under pressure from loyal fans of the series. Its success re-established Shatner as an actor, and Captain Kirk as a cultural icon.
While continuing to film the successful series of Star Trek movies, he returned to television in the 1980s, starring as a uniformed police officer in the T.J. Hooker series from 1982 to 1986; this show became a popular hit. He then hosted the popular dramatic reenactment series Rescue 911 from 1989 to 1996.
As the unwilling central public figure of a widespread geek-culture of Trekkies, Shatner is often humorously critical of the sometimes "annoying" fans of Star Trek. He also has found an outlet in spoofing the cavalier, almost superhuman character persona of Captain Kirk, in films such as Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and Saturday Night Live, in which he advised Star Trek fans to "Get a life," repeating a popular catch-phrase. 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.
Shatner has enjoyed success with a series of Tek science fiction novels. The first—published in 1990—was entitled TekWar. This popular series of books led to a number of television movies, in which Shatner played a role, and to a short-lived television series. 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 1990s Shatner appeared in several plays on American National Public Radio, written and directed by Norman Corwin.
Shatner has appeared in several episodes of the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun as The Big Giant Head, a womanizing, substance-abusing, high ranking officer from the same alien planet as the show's protagonists. He was nominated for an Emmy for this role.
In 2004, Shatner was cast as the eccentric but highly capable attorney Denny Crane for the final season of the legal drama The Practice, for which he was awarded an Emmy, and then its subsequent spin-off, Boston Legal, for which he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 2005. With the 2005 Emmy win, Shatner became one of the few actors (along with co-star James Spader [as Alan Shore] and Kelsey Grammer [as Frasier Crane in Cheers and Frasier]) to win an Emmy award while playing the same character in two different series (even more rare, Shatner and Spader each won a second consecutive Emmy while playing the same character in two different series).
In late 2004, Shatner reserved a $200,000 seat to fly aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise, and is expected to become a full-fledged astronaut when he flies into suborbital space in 2008, along with other paying passengers.