|Education||McGill University (BComm, 1952)|
(m. 1956; div. 1969)
(m. 1973; div. 1996)
(m. 1997; d. 1999)
(m. 2001; div. 2020)
|Children||3; including Melanie|
|Honours||Officer, Order of Canada|
|Selection||Blue Origin 2021|
Shatner began his screen acting career in Canadian films and television productions. He appeared as Captain Kirk in all the episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, 21 of the 22 episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series, and the first seven Star Trek movies. Shatner has written a series of books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk, being a part of Star Trek, and life after Star Trek. He has co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe and a series of science fiction novels called TekWar that were adapted for television. Outside of Star Trek, Shatner also played the eponymous veteran police sergeant in T. J. Hooker (1982–1986) and hosted the reality-based television series Rescue 911 (1989–1996), which won a People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Dramatic Series. Shatner appeared in two episodes of the television detective series Columbo almost two decades apart.
After his final appearance as Kirk in Star Trek Generations (1994), Shatner continued his acting career. From 2004 until 2008, he starred as attorney Denny Crane both in the final season of the legal drama The Practice and in its spinoff series Boston Legal, a role that earned him two Emmy Awards, one on each series. He appeared in both seasons of the comical NBC real-life travelogue with other male companions "of a certain age" in Better Late Than Never, from 2016 to 2018. He appeared in seasons 4 and 5 of the NBC series 3rd Rock from the Sun as the alien "Big Giant Head" to which the main characters reported.
Aside from acting, Shatner has had a music career consisting of eight albums, which began with the release of his debut album The Transformed Man (1968). Shatner typically speaks lyrics in an interpretive reading style. His cover songs usually involve Shatner doing dramatic readings of the lyrics, most famously in his covers of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Mr. Tambourine Man". In 1978, Shatner hosted the 5th Saturn Awards where he performed Elton John's "Rocket Man", which became widely parodied. In 2011, Shatner released his third and most successful album Seeking Major Tom, which features covers of songs such as "Learning to Fly", "Space Oddity" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". In 2021, Shatner flew to space aboard a Blue Origin sub-orbital capsule. At age 90 he became the oldest person to fly to space and one of the first 600 to do so. Minutes after the flight Shatner articulated experiencing the overview effect.
Shatner was born in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood of Montréal, Québec, Canada, to a Conservative Jewish household. His parents were Ann (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 attended two schools in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Willingdon Elementary School and West Hill High School, and is an alumnus of the Montreal Children's Theatre. He studied Economics at the McGill University Faculty of Management in Montreal, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1952. In 2011, McGill University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Letters. Shatner was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from New England Institute of Technology in May 2018.
Early stage, film, and television work
After graduating from McGill University in 1952, Shatner became the business manager for the Mountain Playhouse in Montreal before joining the Canadian National Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, where he trained as a classical Shakespearean actor. Shatner began performing at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, in 1954. 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's Oedipus Rex directed by Tyrone Guthrie, Shakespeare's Henry V, and Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great, in which Shatner made his Broadway debut in 1956. Shatner was an understudy to Christopher Plummer in Henry V, which afforded him the opportunity to distinguish himself for a performance when Plummer could not go on due to illness. With that performance, Plummer was impressed how Shatner decided not to simply imitate the main actor's mannerisms, but did the opposing move for most of them, thus showing considerable artistic initiative and potential to become a success in his own right. The two actors would later appear as adversaries in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
His film debut was in the Canadian film Butler's Night Off (1951). His first feature role came in the MGM film The Brothers Karamazov (1958) with Yul Brynner, in which he starred as the youngest of the Karamazov brothers, Alexei. In December 1958, 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, which featured in other vignettes such performers as Jessica Tandy, Margaret Hamilton, Bernadette Peters, Richard Thomas, Cyril Ritchard, and Carol Channing. Shatner had a leading role in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents third-season (1957–58) episode titled "The Glass Eye", one of his first appearances on American television.
In 1959, he received good reviews when he played the role of Lomax in the Broadway production of The World of Suzie Wong. In March 1959, while performing on stage in Suzie Wong, Shatner was also playing detective Archie Goodwin in what would have been television's first Nero Wolfe series, had it not been aborted by CBS after shooting a pilot and a few episodes. He appeared in a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone, "Nick of Time". He appeared twice as Wayne Gorham in NBC's Outlaws (1960) Western series with Barton MacLane, and then in another Alfred Hitchcock Presents 5th-season episode titled "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" 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 the play. Shatner was featured in two episodes of the NBC television series Thriller ("The Grim Reaper" and "The Hungry Glass") and the film The Explosive Generation (1961).
Guthrie 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, but 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", however, Shatner's willingness to take any role, no matter how "forgettable", likely hurt his career. He took the lead role in Roger Corman's movie The Intruder (1962) and received very good reviews for his significant role in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). He starred in an episode of the science fiction anthology series The Twilight Zone, titled "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". In the 1963–64 season, he appeared in an episode of the ABC series Channing. 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, Shatner guest-starred in Season 2, Episode 2 (titled "Cold Hands, Warm Heart") of the ABC sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits. Also that year, he appeared in an episode of the CBS drama The Reporter ("He Stuck in His Thumb") and co-starred with Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Newman, and Edward G. Robinson in the Western feature film The Outrage. 1964 also saw Shatner cast in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that also featured Leonard Nimoy, with whom Shatner would soon be paired in Star Trek. 1964 also saw him as the titular Alexander in the pilot for a proposed series called Alexander the Great alongside Adam West as Cleander. The series was not picked up and the pilot wasn't broadcast until 1968 when it was repackaged as a TV movie to capitalize on West and Shatner's later fame. Shatner hoped that the series would be a major success but West was apparently unsurprised by the rejection, later noting that "It turned out to be one of the worst scripts I have ever read and it was one of the worst things I've ever done."
In 1965, Shatner guest-starred in 12 O'Clock High as Major Curt Brown in the segment "I Am the Enemy". He also starred in the critically acclaimed drama For the People in 1965, as an assistant district attorney, co-starring with Jessica Walter. The program lasted only 13 episodes. Shatner starred in the 1966 gothic horror film Incubus (Esperanto: Inkubo,) 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. He appeared as attorney-turned-counterfeiter Brett Skyler in a 1966 episode of The Big Valley, "Time to Kill". In 1967, he starred in the little known film White Comanche starring as two characters: Johnny Moon, a virtuous half-Comanche gunslinger, and his twin brother Notah, a bloodthirsty warlord.
Shatner was cast as Captain James T. Kirk for the second pilot of Star Trek, titled "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. During its original run on NBC, the series achieved only modest ratings and was cancelled after three seasons and seventy-nine episodes. In his role as Kirk, Shatner famously kissed actress Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) in the November 22, 1968 Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren". The episode is popularly cited as the first example of a kiss between a white man and a black woman on scripted television in the United States. In 1973, he returned to the role of Captain Kirk, albeit only in voice, in the animated Star Trek series, which ran for two seasons and twenty-two episodes.
After the cancellation of Star Trek in early 1969, Shatner experienced difficulty in finding work in the early 1970s, having become somewhat typecast from his role as Kirk. With very little money and few acting prospects, Shatner lost his home and lived in a truck-bed camper in the San Fernando Valley until small roles turned into higher-paying jobs. Shatner refers to this part of his life as "that period", a humbling time during which he would take any odd job, including small party appearances, to support his family.
Shatner again appeared in various movies, such as Corman's Big Bad Mama (1974), the horror film The Devil's Rain (1975), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), and the TV movies The People (1972) and The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973). Shatner received good reviews as the lead prosecutor in a 1971 PBS adaptation of Saul Levitt's 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, Ironside and Mission: Impossible. A martial arts enthusiast, Shatner studied American Kenpo karate under black belt Tom Bleecker (who trained under the founder of American Kenpo Ed Parker). Shatner was an occasional celebrity guest on The $10,000 Pyramid and The $20,000 Pyramid in the 1970s, once appearing opposite Leonard Nimoy in a week-long match-up billed as "Kirk vs. Spock". In a notable 1977 appearance, he gave an illegal clue ("the blessed" for Things That Are Blessed when he intended to say "the Virgin Mary") at the top of the pyramid ($200), which deprived the contestant of a big money win. He reacted strongly, throwing his chair out of the Winner's Circle. Other shows included The Hollywood Squares, Celebrity Bowling, Beat the Clock, Tattletales, Mike Stokey's Stump the Stars and Match Game. Richard Dawson, during an Archive of American Television interview, mentioned that Shatner was Mark Goodson's first choice to host the Family Feud pilot in 1976, but (after Dawson's agent sent a sternly worded threat to Goodson) gave the job to Dawson instead. He did a number of television commercials for Ontario-based Loblaws and British Columbia-based SuperValu supermarket chains in the 1970s, and finished the Loblaws ad spots by saying, "At Loblaws, more than the price is right. But, by Gosh, the price is right." He also did a number of television commercials for General Motors, endorsing the Oldsmobile brand, and Promise margarine.
Kirk's return and T. J. Hooker
After its cancellation, Star Trek engendered a cult following during the 1970s from syndicated reruns, and Captain Kirk became a cultural icon. Shatner began appearing at Star Trek conventions organized by Trekkies. In the mid-1970s, Paramount began pre-production for a revised Star Trek television series, tentatively titled Star Trek: Phase II. However, the phenomenal success of Star Wars (1977) led the studio to instead consider developing a Star Trek motion picture. Shatner and the other original Star Trek cast members returned to their roles when Paramount produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture, released in 1979. He would play Kirk in seven Star Trek films, to include Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and ending with the character's death in Star Trek Generations (1994).
Some later appearances in the role of Kirk are in the movie sequences of the video game Starfleet Academy (1997), briefly for a DirecTV advertisement using footage from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country running from late summer 2006, and the 2013 Academy Awards, in which he reprised the role for a comedic interlude with host Seth MacFarlane.
Although Trekkies resurrected Star Trek after cancellation, in a 1986 Saturday Night Live sketch about a Star Trek convention, Shatner advised a room full of fans to "get a life". The much-discussed sketch accurately portrayed his feelings about Trekkies, which the actor had previously discussed in interviews. Shatner was their unwilling subject of adoration for years; as early as April 1968, a group attempted to rip his clothes off as the actor left 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
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, persona of Captain Kirk in films such as Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) and National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993). In 1994, he starred as the murderer in the Columbo episode "Butterfly in Shades of Grey".
Besides the Star Trek films, Shatner landed a starring role on television as the titular police officer T. J. Hooker, which ran for five seasons and ninety-one episodes from 1982 to 1986. He then hosted the popular dramatic re-enactment series Rescue 911 from 1989 to 1996. During the 1980s, Shatner also began directing film and television, directing both numerous episodes of T. J. Hooker and the feature film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, though The Final Frontier was not well-received by many Trek fans.
Subsequent acting and media career
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 1989, was TekWar, which Shatner claims he developed initially as a screenplay during a Writers Guild strike that delayed production of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The series of books led to four TekWar television movies, in which Shatner played the role of Walter Bascom, the lead character's boss. A short-lived television series followed, airing on USA Network and Sci-Fi Channel in the United States and CTV in Canada, in which Shatner made several appearances in the Bascom role and directed some of the episodes.
In 1995, a first-person shooter game called William Shatner's TekWar was released. He also played as a narrator in the 1995 American documentary film Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie directed by Peter Kuran. He narrated a television miniseries shot in New Zealand A Twist in the Tale (1998). In the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun, Shatner appeared in several 1999–2000 episodes as the "Big Giant Head", a high-ranking officer from the same alien planet as the Solomon family who becomes a womanizing party-animal on Earth. The role earned Shatner an Emmy Award nomination.
Shatner has appeared in advertisements for many companies and products. In the early 1980s, he appeared in print and television ads endorsing the Commodore VIC-20 home computer. Since the late 1990s, he has done a series of commercials for the travel web site priceline.com, in which Shatner plays a pompous, fictionalized version of himself. Although he received stock options for the commercials, Shatner says that 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.
In May 1999, Simon & Schuster published Shatner's book Get a Life!, which details his experiences with Star Trek fandom, anecdotes from Trek conventions, and his interviews with dedicated fans, in particular those who found deeper meaning in the franchise.
Shatner appeared in the movie Miss Congeniality (2000) as Stan Fields, playing the role of co-host of the Miss United States Pageant alongside future Boston Legal co-star Candice Bergen. He reprised the role in the sequel Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2004), in which Stan Fields was kidnapped in Las Vegas along with the winner of the pageant of the previous year. (Shatner hosted the Miss USA Pageant in 2001 as a real presenter in Gary, Indiana). In the live-action/animated film Osmosis Jones (2001), he voiced Mayor Phlegmming, the self-centred head of the "City of Frank", a community comprising all the cells and microorganisms of a man's body, who is constantly preoccupied with his reelection and his own convenience, even to the detriment of his "city" and constituents. In 2003, Shatner appeared in Brad Paisley's "Celebrity" and "Online" music videos along with Little Jimmy Dickens, Jason Alexander, and Trista Rehn. Shatner also had a supporting role in the comedy DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004), which starred Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. Star Trek: 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 brought Shatner on to 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, and 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 after five seasons and one hundred and one episodes.
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. (Palin herself made a cameo on the show in December 2009, reciting passages from Shatner's autobiography, Up Till Now in front of Shatner). 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". He also played the voice of Ozzie the opossum in DreamWorks' 2006 feature Over the Hedge.
In January 2007, Shatner launched a series of daily vlogs on his life called ShatnerVision on the LiveVideo.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", an opinion echoed by Shatner in several interviews. At a convention held in 2010, Shatner commented on the film by saying "I've seen that wonderful film". Shatner had invented his own idea about the beginning of Star Trek with his 2007 novel Star Trek: Academy – Collision Course. His autobiography Up Till Now: The Autobiography 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 Canada's Walk of Fame. Shatner was the first Canadian actor to star in three successful television series on three different major networks (NBC, CBS, and ABC). He also starred 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 and was cancelled May 2011. Shatner is also the host of the interview show Shatner's Raw Nerve on The Biography Channel, and the Discovery Channel television series Weird or What? Also in 2011, Shatner appeared in the episode of Psych titled "In For a Penny" on the USA Network as the estranged father of Junior Detective Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson). He reprised the role in an episode of the 2012 season.
In 2011, Shatner starred in The Captains, a feature-length documentary that he also wrote and directed. The film follows Shatner as he interviews the other actors who have portrayed starship captains within the Star Trek franchise. Shatner's interviewees included Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine. In the film, Shatner also interviews Christopher Plummer, who is an old friend and colleague from Shatner's days with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
In February 2012, Shatner performed in a new one-man show on Broadway called Shatner's World: We Just Live in It. After a three-week run at the Music Box Theatre, the show toured throughout the United States.
In May 2012, Shatner was the guest presenter on the British satirical television quiz show Have I Got News for You, during which he coined the portmanteau "pensioneer", combining the words "pensioner" and "pioneer".
On July 28, 2012, the premium cable TV channel Epix premiered Get a Life!, a documentary on Star Trek fandom starring Shatner that takes its title from his infamous Saturday Night Live line and his 1999 book on the topic.
On April 24, 2014, he performed for one night only an autobiographical one-man show on Broadway, which was later broadcast in over 700 theatres across Canada, Australia, and the United States. A large portion of the revenue went to charity.
In 2015, he played Mark Twain in an episode of the Canadian historical crime drama series Murdoch Mysteries. Also in 2015, he played Croatoan – main character Audrey Parker's interdimensional, dangerous father – in the last episodes of the fifth and final season of SyFy channel's fantasy series Haven.
In August 2015, he appeared in William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge, a documentary uncovering the creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, featuring cast interviews from the original series which he also wrote, produced and directed.
Premiering August 23, 2016, Shatner appeared in the NBC reality miniseries Better Late Than Never, which documented the adventures of Shatner and three other aging celebrities (Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, and George Foreman) as they travel to Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. That same year, he cofounded the comic-book company Shatner Singularity, whose titles include the graphic novel Stan Lee's 'God Woke' by Stan Lee and Fabian Nicieza. It won the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards' Outstanding Books of the Year Independent Voice Award. Better Late Than Never was renewed for a second season on NBC with a "preview" episode on December 11, 2017, and an "official" season premiere on New Year's Day, January 1, 2018. Shatner later joked that legendary Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw was "putty in my hands".
In 2017, Shatner again appeared in a music video with Brian Evans, whom he previously appeared with in the 2012 music video "At Fenway", in the singer's cover of the Dolly Parton song "Here You Come Again".
In 2017, Shatner appeared in the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as the voice of Grand Pear, the estranged maternal grandfather of Applejack and her siblings, in the seventh season episode "The Perfect Pear". Shatner noted himself as a "brony", a member of the Friendship Is Magic fan base; he confirmed his involvement in the series via his Twitter account following a post where he recited one of the show's catch phrases.
Shatner's show I Don’t Understand is due to be broadcast on RT, formerly known as Russia Today, from July 12, 2021. In tweets, Shatner said the station had merely bought the show's distribution rights, while RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said "Captain Kirk has come over to the good side."
1968-1998: The Transformed Man and subsequent work
Shatner began his musical career with the spoken word 1968 album The Transformed Man, delivering exaggerated, interpretive recitations of popular songs like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" paired with readings from famous plays.
In 1977 a live double album titled William Shatner Live was released. Recorded on a live tour shortly before, it features Shatner performing excerpts from The War of the Worlds and Cyrano de Bergerac, among other things.
In 1978, Shatner hosted the 5th Saturn Awards where he performed Elton John's "Rocket Man" (again, in a spoken voice). This performance has been widely parodied. Another live double album by Shatner, Captain of the Starship, was also released in 1978. In this era he also performed a handful of other spoken word renditions of other pop songs, such as Harry Chapin's "Taxi" (which he performed on Dinah Shore's television talk show Dinah!).
Shatner has occasionally spoofed his earlier musical career. At the 1992 MTV Movie Awards he performed all five of the Best Song From a Movie nominees. More recently, he performed in the same style for a series of Priceline.com television commercials. One such commercial featured Shatner with frequent collaborator Ben Folds performing an irony-laden version of the Diana Ross hit, "Do You Know Where You're Going To?". Shatner also appeared on Ben Folds's "In Love" and "Still in Love" (on the album Fear of Pop: Volume 1). Audio Antihero founder Jamie Halliday named "In Love" by Fear of Pop and William Shatner as his "favourite song of all time."
In the 1998 film Free Enterprise, Shatner performed "No Tears For Caesar" in the movie's closing scene with rap artist The Rated R, with Shatner performing Mark Antony's speech from Julius Caesar over Rated R's rap.
2000-present: Continuing his solo career
In the 2000 film Miss Congeniality, Shatner performs the song "Miss United States". This song is included in the soundtrack album for the film.
Shatner performed the voice of Buzz Lightyear in a Star Command anthem called "To Infinity And Beyond" for the 2000 film Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins.
On June 28, 2002, Shatner performed together with Brian Evans at the San Carlos Institute Theatre in Key West, Florida. He performed the songs "What Kind of Fool Am I" and "The Lady Is a Tramp". The concert was later released on the album Brian Evans Live with Special Guest: William Shatner.
In October 2004, Shatner released an album entitled Has Been, produced and arranged by Ben Folds and with songs composed by Shatner and Folds. The LP has been critically acclaimed for its unique "pop-driven" style. Its sole cover, a version of Pulp's "Common People" performed with Joe Jackson, received positive reviews.
On June 9, 2005, Shatner performed a reworked rendition of "My Way" at the presentation of George Lucas's AFI Life Achievement Award, backed by a chorus line of dancers in Imperial Stormtrooper costumes who ultimately picked up Shatner and carried him offstage. On December 11, 2005, Shatner opened up Comedy Central's Last Laugh 2005 by performing as Lucifer, singing a song about how 2005 was a good year for him as the devil.
On March 29, 2006, TV Land aired an episode of their Living in TV Land series centered on Shatner and subtitled "William Shatner in Concert". The episode features footage of Shatner working with Ben Folds on Has Been, plus live footage of Shatner performing with Folds' band and Joe Jackson, ending with a defiant rendition of The Transformed Man's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that is punctuated by Shatner giving the finger.
Brad Paisley's music videos for "Celebrity" and "Online" both feature Shatner as well, with the latter containing a meta-reference in which Shatner appears to be heartbroken when told he can't sing. He also appears as a studio producer in the music video for "Landed" by Ben Folds.
Also in 2007, a ballet called Common People, set to Has Been, was created by Margo Sappington (of Oh! Calcutta! fame) and performed by the Milwaukee Ballet. Shatner attended the premiere and had the event filmed. The filmed footage eventually turned into a feature film called William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet, which had a very well received World Premiere at the Nashville Film Festival on April 17, 2009.
On July 27, 2009, Shatner gave a "poetry slam"-style interpretation of Sarah Palin's farewell address on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. He returned to the Tonight Show on July 29, 2009, and performed a few of Palin's Twitter "tweets". Shatner went on the Tonight Show again on December 11, 2009, to read excerpts from Palin's Going Rogue: An American Life, but this was followed by an appearance from Palin herself reading excerpts from Shatner's autobiography, Up Till Now.
To promote his Biography Channel talk show Shatner's Raw Nerve, Shatner guest hosted World Wrestling Entertainment's flagship show WWE Raw on February 1, 2010, and performed a few wrestler entrance theme songs.
On the fourth episode of sitcom $h*! My Dad Says, where Shatner has a lead role, his character Ed Goodson makes a Karaoke performance of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy", also in spoken-word. On the same scene, "Rocket Man" (performed by Shatner at the 5th Saturn Awards) is mentioned as a waitress asks Ed if he wants to sing it and he answers "Not tonight!".
Shatner released the album "Seeking Major Tom" in October 2011. He initially announced the title on Twitter as Seeking Major Tom and later modified it to Searching for Major Tom, but ultimately chose to use the original title. Working on the album with Shatner were Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society, Peter Frampton, Brian May of Queen, Steve Howefrom Yes, John Wetton from King Crimson and Asia, Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, Alan Parsons, Bootsy Collinsof Parliament-Funkadelic, country star Brad Paisley, and other famous popular musicians. The album has a space odyssey theme, centred around the genre of heavy metal. The album features covers of songs such as Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly", David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".
Shatner released the album Ponder the Mystery in October 2013. Produced by Billy Sherwood, the fifteen tracks on the album include the talents of Mick Jones, Simon House, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Rick Wakeman, Joel Vandroogenbroeck, Edgar Winter, Nik Turner, Vince Gill, Edgar Froese, Robby Krieger, Dav Koz, George Duke, and Zoot Horn Rollo. All lyrics for the album are credited to Shatner, while the music is credited to Sherwood.
In August 2018, Shatner released Why Not Me, his first country music album and fifth album overall, with Jeff Cook, who is best known as a founding member of the American band Alabama. The album, on the Heartland Records Nashville label, also includes guest vocals by Neal McCoy, Home Free and Cash Creek.
Space Shuttle Discovery
Shatner recorded a wake-up call that was played for the crew of STS-133 in the Space Shuttle Discovery on March 7, 2011, its final day docked to the International Space Station. Backed by the musical theme from Star Trek, it featured a voice-over based on his spoken introduction from the series' opening credits: "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30-year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."
Shatner flew to space on Blue Origin's second sub-orbital human spaceflight, Blue Origin NS-18, on October 13, 2021. He was accompanied by Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries, and Audrey Powers aboard the RSS First Step, the New Shepard suborbital rocket capsule, from Blue Origin's Launch Site One in West Texas. Aged 90 years, 6 months and 22 days, Shatner became the oldest person to fly to space, surpassing Wally Funk, who flew on Blue Origin's first human spaceflight at the age of 82 in July 2021.
In a televised post-flight conversation with Blue Origin's founder Jeff Bezos, who had invited him to join the flight, Shatner articulated experiencing what is called the overview effect, a deep awareness of the fragility of planet Earth and its relatively thin-atmosphere.
Shatner dislikes watching himself perform. He claims to have never watched all the episodes of Star Trek or Boston Legal, or any of the Star Trek movies, except while editing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which he directed. However, his 1993 book Star Trek Memories says he attended the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.: 201 He is a longtime U.S. resident and has a green card.
Shatner has been married four times, first to Canadian actress Gloria Rand (née Rabinowitz) on August 12, 1956. The marriage produced three daughters: Leslie (b. 1958), Lisabeth (b. 1961), and Melanie (b. 1964). Shatner left Rand while acting in Star Trek: The Original Series, after which she divorced him in March 1969.
Shatner's second marriage was to Marcy Lafferty, the daughter of producer Perry Lafferty, and lasted from 1973 to 1996.
His third marriage was to Nerine Kidd, from 1997 until her death in 1999. On August 9, 1999, Shatner returned home around 10 p.m. to discover Nerine's body at the bottom of their backyard swimming pool. She was 40 years old. An autopsy detected alcohol and Valium (diazepam) in her blood, and the coroner ruled the cause of death as 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 nonprofit organization that helps women reestablish themselves after suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. 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 2008 book Up Till Now: The Autobiography, Shatner discusses how Leonard Nimoy helped take Nerine to treatment for her alcoholism. Shatner writes in an excerpt from his book:
Leonard Nimoy's personal experience of alcoholism now came to play a central role in my life and it helped us bond together in a way I never could have imagined in the early days of Star Trek. After Nerine and I had been to dinner with Leonard and Susan Nimoy one evening, Leonard called and said: "Bill, you know she's an alcoholic?" I said I did. I married Nerine in 1997, against the advice of many and my own good sense. But I thought she would give up alcohol for me. We had a celebration in Pasadena, and Leonard was my best man. I woke up about eight o'clock the next morning and Nerine was drunk. She was in rehab for 30 days three different times. Twice she almost drank herself to death. Leonard (sober many years) took Nerine to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but she did not want to quit.
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, "What Have You Done", that describes his anguish upon discovering Nerine's body.
In 2001, Shatner married Elizabeth Anderson Martin. In 2004, she co-wrote the song "Together" on Shatner's album Has Been. Shatner filed for divorce from Elizabeth in 2019.[better source needed] The divorce was finalized in January 2020.
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., "The Project Strigas Affair". Much like their characters on Star Trek, Shatner and Nimoy had a professional rivalry that developed into a close friendship. After the show's cancellation in 1969, Shatner and Nimoy reunited in the production of Star Trek: The 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, in which Shatner played the title role. Despite their decades-long friendship, in 2016 Shatner revealed that he and Nimoy had not spoken in the five years before his death the year before.
Nimoy spoke about their mutual rivalry during the Star Trek years:
Bill's energy was very good for my performance, because Spock could then be the cool individual. Our chemistry was successful right from the start. [We were] very competitive, with a sibling rivalry up to here, and after the show had been on the air a few weeks and they started to get a lot of mail about Spock, then the dictum came down from NBC: "Oh, give us more of that guy! They love that guy!" Well, that can be a problem for a leading man who's hired as the star of the show.— Leonard Nimoy
On an episode of the A&E series Biography, where it was also divulged that Nimoy was Shatner's best man at his wedding with his fourth wife Elizabeth, Nimoy said, "Bill Shatner hogging the stage? No. Not the Bill Shatner I know." When Nimoy died in 2015, Shatner said, "I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love." Although Shatner was unable to attend Nimoy's funeral due to other commitments, his daughters attended in his place, and Shatner created his own online memorial for Nimoy.
Shatner has been friends with actress Heather Locklear since 1982 when she began co-starring with him on T. J. Hooker. As she was also appearing in a semi-regular role in another Aaron Spelling production, Dynasty, Locklear was asked by Entertainment Tonight whether her schedule was difficult. She replied, "I'd get really nervous and want to be prepared" for Shatner and for the experienced cast of Dynasty. After T.J. Hooker ended, Shatner helped Locklear get other roles. She supported Shatner in 1999 when he was mourning Nerine's death. In 2005, Locklear appeared in two episodes of Shatner's Boston Legal as Kelly Nolan, a woman being tried for killing her much older, wealthy husband. Shatner's character is attracted to Nolan and tries to insert himself into her defence.[clarification needed] Asked how she came to appear on Boston Legal, Locklear said, "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?'"
I was a lot more worried about working with Walter Koenig and Jimmy Doohan, two men who have made it clear on any number of occasions that my name is generally near the top of their shit lists.
—Shatner, on having to work again with two of his Star Trek co-stars in the 1994 movie, Star Trek Generations
For years, some of Shatner's Star Trek co-stars accused him of being difficult to work with, particularly George Takei, Walter Koenig, and James Doohan, the latter two of whom Shatner acknowledges in his autobiography Star Trek Movie Memories. In 2011, Koenig appeared on Shatner's interview series Shatner's Raw Nerve, and made clear that the animosity he once held was long over. His feud with Takei was mentioned in Takei's 2004 memoir, To the Stars.
In the 1990s, Shatner made numerous attempts to reconcile with Doohan, but was unsuccessful for some time, Doohan being the only former Star Trek co-star refusing to be interviewed by Shatner for his 1993 memoir Star Trek Memories. Doohan did participate in the 1994 follow-up, Star Trek Movie Memories, and an Associated Press article published at the time of Doohan's final convention appearance in August 2004 stated that Doohan, already suffering from severe health problems, forgave Shatner and they mended their relationship. At a convention directly preceding Doohan's last one, Sky Conway, the convention's head, stated, "At our show: 'The Great Bird of the Galaxy' in El Paso, Texas in November 2003, a celebration of Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, Bill and Jimmy went on stage together. Behind the scenes and before they went on stage, they hugged each other, apologized and expressed their love and admiration for each other. Bill specifically asked me to get them together so he could make amends and clear the air between the two of them before it was too late."
Shatner suffers from tinnitus, which he believes might be the result of a pyrotechnical accident on set while shooting the Star Trek episode "Arena", though he did not begin to suffer symptoms until the early 1990s, about a quarter century later. Shatner is involved in the American Tinnitus Association. His treatment for this condition involved wearing a small electronic device that generated low-level, broadband white noise that "helped his brain put the tinnitus in the background", a process known as habituation.
Hobbies, horseman career, and charity work
In 2006, Shatner sold his kidney stone for $25,000 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.
In his spare time, Shatner enjoys breeding and showing American Saddlebreds and Quarter Horses. He rode one of his own mares, Great Belles of Fire, in Star Trek Generations. Shatner has a 360-acre (150 ha) farm near Versailles, Kentucky, named Belle Reve Farm (from the French beau rêve, "Beautiful Dream" – Belle Reve was the name of Blanche Dubois' and her sister Stella's family home in A Streetcar Named Desire), where he raises American Saddlebreds. Three of his notable horses are Call Me Ringo, Revival, and Sultan's Great Day. The farm's activities help benefit the Central Kentucky Riding for Hope "Horses For Heroes" program. Shatner also plays on the World Poker Tour in the Hollywood Home Games, where celebrities play for their favourite charities. Since 1990, he has been a leading force behind the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which raises money for children's charities.
In 2018, Shatner was awarded the National Reining Horse Association Lifetime Achievement Award in the National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame. In 2019, he won a world championship with his Standardbred road horse Track Star while showing at the Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show in Louisville.
On New Year's Day 1994, Shatner was the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. Instead of riding in a classic car, he rode his horse down the parade route. For the 80th Rose Bowl game afterward, he participated in the pregame ceremonies including the coin toss between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins. Wisconsin would go on to win the game 21–16.
In 2017, Shatner hosted as "captain" of the maiden voyage of a Star Trek-themed cruise entitled "Star Trek: The Cruise". The cruise was the first licensed by CBS Productions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show. Through PETA, Shatner asked that the 2018 cruise not offer any "swim with dolphins" experiences, explaining in a letter to the Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO that "The exploitation of any species for profit and entertainment would have violated the Prime Directive."
Shatner has starred in movies and television shows for seven decades. He has also appeared in video games, primarily as James T. Kirk, as well as a number of commercials.
Awards and honours
- Two-time Saturn Award winner
- 1980 Life Career Award
- 1983 Best Actor (Star Trek II)
- Two-time Emmy Award winner
- 2005 Golden Globe Award
- 2009 Prism Award
- 2009 Streamy Award – Best Reality Web Series
- 2015 Voice Arts Icon Award
- Multiple time World Champion breeder
- 1985 American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) Meritorious Service Award
- 2017 National Reining Horse Association Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2021 ASHA C.J Cronan Sportsmanship Award
- 2011 Governor General's Performing Arts Award
- 2019 Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada by Canadian Governor General Julie Payette
- 2014 NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal – highest award NASA gives a non-government employee
- 1983 Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 1995 ASHA Breeders Hall of Fame
- 2000 Star on Canada's Walk of Fame
- 2006 Television Hall of Fame
- 2020 WWE Hall of Fame – Celebrity Wing inductee
- Two-time Golden Raspberry Award winner
- 1989 Worst Actor (Star Trek V)
- 1989 Worst Director (Star Trek V)
- The TekWar series, co-written with Ron Goulart
- TekWar (1989) ISBN 0-399-13495-6
- TekLords (1991) ISBN 0-399-13616-9
- TekLab (1991) ISBN 0-399-13736-X
- Tek Vengeance (1993) ISBN 0-399-13788-2
- Tek Secret (1993) ISBN 0-399-13892-7
- Tek Power (1994) ISBN 0-399-13997-4
- Tek Money (1995) ISBN 0-399-14109-X
- Tek Kill (1996) ISBN 0-399-14202-9
- Tek Net (1997) ISBN 0-399-14339-4
- Star Trek series, with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
- Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden, 1995, ISBN 0-671-52035-0
- Star Trek: The Return, 1996, ISBN 0-671-52610-3
- Star Trek: Avenger, 1997, ISBN 0-671-55132-9
- Star Trek: Spectre, 1998, ISBN 0-671-00878-1
- Star Trek: Dark Victory, 1999, ISBN 0-671-00882-X
- Star Trek: Preserver, 2000, ISBN 0-671-02125-7
- Star Trek: Captain's Peril, 2002, ISBN 0-7434-4819-7
- Star Trek: Captain's Blood, 2003, ISBN 0-671-02129-X
- Star Trek: Captain's Glory, 2006, ISBN 0-7434-5343-3
- Star Trek: The Academy – Collision Course, 2007 ISBN 1-4165-0396-X
- War series
- Quest for Tomorrow series
- Believe (with Michael Tobias), 1992, ISBN 978-0-425-13296-8
- Comic book adaptations
- Samuel Lord Series
- Captain's Log: William Shatner's Personal Account of the Making of "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier", as told by Lisabeth Shatner, 1989, ISBN 0-671-68652-6
- Star Trek Memories, with Chris Kreski, 1993, ISBN 0-06-017734-9
- Star Trek Movie Memories, with Chris Kreski, 1994, ISBN 0-06-017617-2
- Get a Life!, with Chris Kreski, 1999, ISBN 0-671-02131-1
- Star Trek: I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact, with Chip Walker, 2002, ISBN 0-671-04737-X
- Up Till Now: The Autobiography, with David Fisher, 2008, ISBN 0-283-07058-7
- Shatner Rules, with Chris Regan, 2011, ISBN 0-525-95251-9
- Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, with David Fisher, 2016, ISBN 0-316-38837-8
- Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable, with Jeff Rovin, 2017, ISBN 978-1250130020
- Live long And ... : What I Might Have Learned Along the Way, with David Fisher, 2018, ISBN 978-1250166692
- 2008: Up Till Now – with David Fisher – (read by William Shatner), Highroads Media, ISBN 978-1427204158
- 2011: Shatner Rules – with Chris Regan – (read by William Shatner), Penguin Audio, ISBN 978-1611760231
- 2016: Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man – with David Fisher – (read by William Shatner), Macmillan Audio, ISBN 978-1427273239
- 2018: Live Long And …: What I Learned Along the Way – with David Fisher – (read by William Shatner), Macmillan Audio, ISBN 978-1250299116
- The Transformed Man (1968) – Decca Records
- William Shatner Live (1977) – live double album – Lemli Records (reissued the following year by Imperial House as Captain of the Starship – William Shatner Live!)
- Spaced Out: The Very Best of Leonard Nimoy & William Shatner (1996) – compilation album - Universal (Includes 7 tracks from The Transformed Man + 17 tracks by Leonard Nimoy)
- Has Been (2004) – Shout! Factory
- Exodus: An Oratorio in Three Parts (2008) – JMG/Jewish Music
- Seeking Major Tom (2011) – Cleopatra Records
- Ponder the Mystery (2013) with Billy Sherwood – Cleopatra Records
- Why Not Me (2018) with Jeff Cook – Heartland Records Nashville
- Shatner Claus (2018) – with Iggy Pop, Brad Paisley and Judy Collins – Cleopatra Records
- The Blues (2020) – with Brad Paisley, Kirk Fletcher, Sonny Landreth, Canned Heat – Cleopatra Records
- Bill (2021) – Republic Records
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