William Shatner would like you to know that he is so much more than "Star Trek"'s Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. He is also, in no particular order: Shakespearean actor, B-movie star, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winner for his role as Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," musician, celebrity pitchman. And serial memoirist. His latest tome, the first to extend beyond his experiences with "Star Trek," is called "Up Till Now" and chronicles his life from a modest Canadian childhood up to his latest gig, a self-spoofing Priceline.com spokesman. NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker recently caught up with the unrepentant cheeseball and tireless huckster. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: You've had this incredibly varied career. Is it by design?
William Shatner: It's ad hoc. Fate gives you the finger and you accept.
You seem to have this healthy sense of humor about yourself. Did you intentionally set out to self-parodize?
No. It's not something I'm doing consciously. Things people say strike me as amusing, and I am prone to saying out loud what everybody's thinking.
Do you get recognized on the street as the Priceline guy?
Haven't heard that one.
Who does the best impression of you?
I don't recognize what. They're doing. When they're doing. Me.
I was disappointed not to read about any affairs with senators in your book. Did you read the Barbara Walters memoir?
I have. I've been a bit appalled at what purportedly would be a smart lady making some odd mistakes.
You mean the affair?
Talking about the senator and not thinking everybody would pounce on it.
You do put yourself into these crazy stunts—bear hunting, race-car driving, parachuting. Why?
I keep thinking that I'm not going to get hurt. That somebody else is going to get hurt, not me. The stuntman can get hurt.
What's the latest on the upcoming "Star Trek" movie remake that J.J. Abrams is doing? Have you been hearing from him at all?
I know nothing. I had a meeting a couple times with J.J. Abrams, who actually came down one time to where we shoot "Boston Legal" to visit with me—and I don't know what it was about. He never called back, and I'm not in the movie. I'm disappointed.
Were you offended?
I would have liked to have been in the revival of "Star Trek." More than that I'm fascinated by the business decision of not including that popular character and the actor who has a lot of popularity still, as opposed to anybody else in the cast who's either unknown or not in the public eye particularly.
Why do you think you were left out?
They, in all likelihood, couldn't solve the storytelling problem and decided to ignore it.
You're developing a talk show for Biography called "Shatner's Raw Nerve." Are you going to be the next Larry King?
My hope is to have a conversation with interesting people and try and delve underneath, just like you do every day. I'm really enjoying the process. I've done four already: John Voight, Judge Judy, Valerie Bertinelli and Kelsey Grammer. Very interesting guy. I look forward to talking to people I've always wanted to talk to. I'm sure you know what I mean.
I'm talking to William Shatner right now!
That's how I feel. I live near where Marlon Brando lived. All that it required was a 10-minute drive on my part to get to his house and talk to him. I never availed myself of the possibility. I regret not having done it. Suddenly I have the opportunity to ask people to come have a conversation with me and find out about them what I want to find out.
Who's on your short list?
I want to get a hold of all the people you want to get a hold of.
I didn't realize you weren't even the first pick to play Kirk for the original "Star Trek."
I didn't realize it myself for a long time. It's not the first thing they told you. The story came out there were a couple other guys in front of me.
That show, at least in syndication, has been such a phenomenon, it boggles the mind that when it wrapped, you were broke and living in your truck.
I had money to make, obligations that I needed to fulfill. So I went on summer theater tours with a shell on the back of a pickup truck and lived in that shell. Very dark days.
Richard Branson invited you to take a trip to space.
It wasn't free. They wanted me to pay the regular fee, the $250,000. I said, "No, you got it wrong, you pay me $250,000." I never heard back from them. I guess they and J.J. Abrams got together.
You starred in the only Esperanto movie ever made, "Incubus." Any parting words for us in that language?