Maybe you remember him as Capt. James T. Kirk on Star Trek or currently watch him as the outrageous lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal. But until you read his recently published memoir, Up Till Now, you’ve really just scratched the surface of William Shatner.
It’s all in there, including the fights with Star Trek cast members, the four marriages, his third wife’s drowning and the subsequent painful inquiry by police, the professional triumphs, and the personal tragedies.
I wondered aloud if the book would offend Leonard Nimoy (Spock), his former Trek co-star, whom Shatner describes as an alcoholic—sober on the set but stewed when off.
“No,” said Shatner. “He and I discuss it often, and Leonard’s become a motivational speaker about the problem.” Of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, William said flatly, “He was a chiseler who wanted a cut of outside money his cast earned, demanded to be called ‘master,’ and prohibited poor Nimoy from using a company pencil.”
Shatner and I spoke during his lunch break from shooting one of Boston Legal’s final episodes of the season. The successful series is currently in its fourth year, with no signs of stopping, and Shatner’s Crane remains quirky.
In real life, William has an edge. He admitted that when he and Legal lead actor James Spader first met, it was chilly. Spader called him Bill, and Shatner said, “Is it James, or can I call you Jimmy?” “No,” Spader coldly responded. “It’s James.”
Today, Shatner adds, “Him, I don’t love. But certainly I like him and respect him.” Shatner himself is respected by his fans and peers, even if they were slow to reward the actor for his many contributions. When William won an Emmy in 2005 for his Boston Legal work, he demanded of the applauding audience, “What took you so long?”
The poor kid from Montreal had made it, or as Shatner more gracefully put it to me, “Fate has dealt with me so kindly.”
Shatner is quick, funny, and irreverent. He is the grandfather of five, the kids ranging in age from young to “one little boy of 6 foot 2.” Born in 1931, Shatner lives in Tinseltown and is a wealthy man who struggled early on— even now he is a workaholic. He and his fourth wife, Elizabeth, met in the world of Saddlebred horses. Just what is a Saddlebred? “It was a horse bred for the ease of the rider,” Shatner told me. “When you see pictures of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse, that was a Saddlebred.” Meanwhile, one of the best quotes from William’s new book is from a past lover: “So this is what it’s like to be in bed with Captain Kirk.”