William Shatner At 90…

Absolutely fascinating interview with actor/director/writer William Shatner by Hadley Freeman and presented on theguardian.com:

“Take it easy, nothing matters in the end”: William Shatner at 90 on love, loss, and Leonard Nimoy

There are few actors alive today who I can say have been a big part of my awareness from pretty much the moment I first got into film/TV shows back in the very, very early 1970’s and through today.

William Shatner is one of them, certainly, and its always fascinating to read interviews with him.

Of course, Mr. Shatner, the man, has an equally long history, sometimes not so good. Cast members of his biggest hit, the original Star Trek and the subsequent movies made with them, have been at times very harsh toward Mr. Shatner. Several of them felt slighted by Mr. Shatner and accusations of being a diva on set while demanding the spotlight are a near constant accusation.

I suppose it could be much worse but, then again, I never worked with him so I don’t know how accurate these stories are… though their consistency lends a certain credence to these stories.

Regarding this interview, Mr. Shatner sure does come across as one expects: He’s at times flamboyant, humorous, and nonsensical… and yet at other times offers profound statements as befitting someone who has lived as long as he has.

Regarding Leonard Nimoy -and at the risk of spoiling the interview- Mr. Shatner seems sad that their relationship, toward the end of Mr. Nimoy’s life, was at a low ebb and confused as to how it got there.

I wonder, though, how much of this is due to Mr. Shatner’s lack of self-awareness.

I’ve noted before elsewhere that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, considered by almost everyone the worst of the original cast Star Trek films, is also the only one of the Star Trek films Mr. Shatner directed. Many point their fingers at Mr. Shatner and his direction for the film’s failure, but the reality is that he didn’t do a bad job, IMHO, directing. What led to the film’s failure was a studio that kept cutting the film’s budget -the shoddy effects in that film are easily the nadir of Star Trek features- and the story, also by Mr. Shatner, was perhaps a little too ambitious and needed more polishing.

However, if there is one really big failure William Shatner, director, had with Star Trek V it was, again IMHO, in not getting any sort of decent performance out of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. In fact, it felt to me like that was the worst performance Mr. Nimoy ever gave of his beloved Spock character.

Why is that?

In part, one has to remember that at that time –Star Trek V was released in 1989- Leonard Nimoy was on a roll as a director himself.

Thanks to the shocking ending and stunning success of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the studios were forced to offer Leonard Nimoy more to return to the franchise. One of the lures was that he be allowed to direct the next Star Trek film.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Nimoy’s directing debut, was a success and Mr. Nimoy then directed its follow up, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That film turned out to be perhaps the biggest critical success of the franchise, mixing humor and suspense and delivering a delightful experience to fans of the franchise as well as those who knew little to nothing about it.

So successful was Mr. Nimoy that he would go on to direct Three Men and a Baby, a non-Trek comedy, and it too was a HUGE success. Quite suddenly, Mr. Nimoy was in high demand as a director.

However, Mr. Shatner, seeing how Mr. Nimoy was able to get to direct, also used his clout to get a clause in his contract which would allow him to direct Star Trek V and he came to do just that… just as Mr. Nimoy was enjoying all his considerable successes.

I can’t help but wonder, given how poor Mr. Nimoy’s performance -again IMHO!- in Star Trek V was, whether his poor acting in that film was due to petulance, disinterest, or just plain unhappiness about working under Mr. Shatner.

Worth noting is that the next Star Trek film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the last featuring the original cast, would feature a story where Nimoy’s Spock and Shatner’s Kirk were kept apart for the bulk of the film.

Was this done on purpose? Was Nimoy essentially done with Shatner by that point and no longer cared to engage with him?

I don’t know though its hard to read the above interview and subscribe entirely to Shatner’s view that their friendship had simply cooled down with Shatner having no clear idea why.

I recall William Shatner was interviewed not too long after Mr. Nimoy’s passing in 2015 on the Howard Stern radio show and he was asked if he attended the man’s funeral. Mr. Shatner said he didn’t and I got the impression that he didn’t really want to be there, either. If memory serves, Mr. Stern then noted that just because people were close in their film/TV appearances, it didn’t mean they were equally close in real life.

I don’t recall Mr. Shatner dispelling that notion in the interview, but I could be mis-remembering.

Regardless, the above interview is a fascinating one and the title of the interview, in particular, really hits home for me as the years pass:

Take it easy, nothing matters in the end.

It’s a particularly heady statement, one that resonates and saddens me because of how true it is. But, it’s not the full quote. Here it is:

I’m glad I didn’t know because what you know at 90 is: take it easy, nothing matters in the end, what goes up must come down. If I’d known that at 20, I wouldn’t have done anything!

An interesting notion and a paradox of sorts. While its true that we have only so many years to “make our mark”, and its equally true that in perhaps a hundred years whatever we have done with our lives may not “matter” as Mr. Shatner puts it, we nonetheless must feel like it does matter or else we “wouldn’t have done anything.”

Fascinating stuff.