It’s impossible to believe William Shatner is 87 years old. On tour yet again — this time with the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (he’ll be doing a live talk-back after the film), the octenagarian is sharp as ever on a call from his home in Los Angeles, and only too willing to answer the questions we’ve all been wondering for ages: Who’s cooler, The Fonz or Captain James T. Kirk? What does he have left to check off his bucket list? And perhaps the most burning question of all: Who’d win in a fist fight, T.J. Hooker or Captain Kirk? Finally, Shatner reveals all…
French Davis: Talk about your show Better Late Than Never. How did that come together and what drew you to it?
William Shatner: Well, NBC got the idea from a show in Korea. I think the English translation for the Korean show was “Flowers For My Grandfather.” And then they thought long and hard as to who to have in it, and they thought Henry Winkler and then Henry suggested me, and so I came aboard and then the others. And it was sort of a meeting of minds. Everybody thought it would be a good idea, and out we went to Asia and it got very funny and very popular.
FD: Henry brought you in, huh? So who’s cooler, Captain Kirk or the Fonz?
WS: Well, the Fonz says “(aaayyyy)” right? And I think Captain Kirk says “Giddyup.”
FD: …And I’m pretty sure the Fonz wouldn’t have thought ahead to handle the Kobayashi Maru the same way Captain Kirk did, either.
WS: Right. So that’s the best I can do with that one.
FD: What do you think about Chris Pine as Kirk in the reboots? Is he getting it right or wrong?
WS: Chris Pine is really a terrific actor. Good looking guy. He’s young and rich, he has everything going for him. He makes a wonderful Captain Kirk. As far as I can see, he’s not doing anything wrong.
FD: What are you most proud of in your career?
WS: I guess just hanging around as long as I have. Peering around corners, standing by lamp posts, lived by the light with a mist… I’ve been just hanging in there.
FD: Is there anything you regret?
WS: I am so lucky to be where I am, with my health and family, and doing the things I’m doing, that to regret anything would be too callow to even think about, so no. I regret nothing… I seem to have done the right thing along the way.
FD: What is something you will still need to check off your bucket list?
WS: Well, there’s so much to do. I want to win another saddle in my horse competition. I want to make a great movie with a great director. I want to have the romance of life continue with me.
FD: Who would win in a fist fight, T.J. Hooker or Captain Kirk?
WS: Well, I guess I’d have to hit myself in the head to find out.
FD: What’s one thing people probably don’t know about you yet?
WS: They don’t know that I’m getting older.
FD: What else are you doing these days that you’re excited about?
WS: I’ve got an album coming soon, a country music album called Why Not Me? that I did with Jeff Cook of Alabama. And it’s going to be terrific. And then I did a Christmas album, in which I took well-known Christmas songs and kind of bent them a little. It’s called Shatner Claus, and it’s got great musicians along with me. I think it’s gonna be sensational. I got a book coming out called Live Long and… and advance notice on that is good as well. So I’m looking forward to that and all the other things I’ll be doing this year. But those three things are what I’ll be promoting most of.
FD: Where do you get all the energy for this? I mean, by all accounts, from what I’ve heard from people who’ve seen your live show, you walk out on stage like a man 30 years old still. It’s like you have captured the fountain of youth, and between that and all your projects, is there a secret? Is it just–
WS: I’m drowning in the fountain of youth. I don’t know. I’ve got wonderful people to work beside that stimulate you and intrigue you and all that.
FD: Last question, if you take Star Trek off the table and you look at the science fiction landscape, what are you most drawn to?
WS: Once you take Star Trek off the table there’s no table. It’s a chair. The emperor has no clothes… I digress. I find these computer graphics today so mesmerizing. What the great artists working on their computers can do nowadays is absolutely phenomenal. I sit there watching films, either on TV or occasionally go to the big screen, but mostly I’m at home with a large television set looking at these wonderful films. And I just can’t believe what the technology in films is capable of.