William Shatner on...
Captain Kirk waxes lyrical about ...acting idols My Olivier, fast cars and naked fans Sir Laurence Olivierclassical acting background is
To many people the 79-year-old living legend that is William Shatner will for ever be best known as one Captain James T. Kirk — halting of delivery, heroic in a niftily tailored space suit and irresistible to females of any given planet. But that would be to overlook his many and varied other achievements. He has starred in 197 roles, and counting, over 60 years — including T.J. Hooker, winning an Emmy for Boston Legal and now in the sitcom S#*! My Dad Says (let’s overlook The Devil’s Rain, from 1975, in which he was melted by Satanists). He’s a YouTube phenomenon for his bizarre cover versions of classic songs (seek out his Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Common People or Cee Lo Green’s F*** You), a breeder of champion horses, an online chat-show host and all-round eccentric who sold his kidneystone on eBay (for £14,000, since you ask). His self-satirising persona could be one big postmodern crackpot joke on us; it could just be his ego craving the spotlight in any way going. Who knows? Speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, his manner is both thoughtful and self-mockingly deadpan — and yes, his stop-start, cod-Shakesperian diction. Is in. Full. Effect. $#*! My Dad Says is on digital channel 5*, Tuesdays, 10.30pm so I admired enormously the companies spearheaded by Olivier. When I was in need of a hero, I saw him on stage in The Entertainer and I recall vividly his Hamlet in film. Marlon Brando At the same time I had a foot in the camp of American emotionalism, exemplified by Brando. Olivier and Brando were totally contrasting styles of acting — and I tried to do both. It was fascinating watching me erupt!
to do Rocket Man again in a new album I’m preparing . . . Space Oditty Major Tom is a character in several David Bowie songs. I’m doing a rock opera, if you will, that involves what happened to Major Tom. What was he thinking out there in space? He begins to think about how he learnt to fly and the love of his wife; as he dies he begins to imagine Heaven and Hell. All these are dramatised by the songs I’ve chosen. It’s either going to be the best thing you’ve ever heard or terrible things will be written about it. Bohemian Rhapsody It’s fantastic to perform. I can’t do it like Freddie Mercury did it, but I’ll do it in my own way.
What to say about...
Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe “At first you think Cox is great because of his unashamedly awed enthusiasm for the cosmic mystery of space. Then, the more you watch him, the more you suspect he is just awed by absolutely everything, whether it’s a piece of toast or a solar flare.” Elbow’s new album, Build a Rocket Boys! “Admitting to not having a soft spot for the hangdog Bury band is like saying you don’t like the sight of elderly couples kissing on Blackpool Pier, FA Cup upsets or Hovis adverts. You might as well tell people you have no soul.” Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein on stage “Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of Frankenstein and his monster is not only a skilful piece of coup de théâtre, but is in itself a powerful metaphor for the one-ness of the characters. I suspect, though, that the Chuckle Brothers have been doing this for years.” The fantasy film Age of the Dragons “If anyone tries to tell you that Hollywood no longer takes any risks, you tell them about this ‘reimagining’ of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick . . . only with dragons and a central pairing of Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones.” The TV series Monroe with James Nesbitt “This series about a brilliant but maverick hospital surgeon will have to be pretty special if it doesn’t want to end up written-off as the own-cola/Sindy to House’s Coca-Cola/Barbie.” The new comedy Hall Pass (below) “How can you possibly produce a film about what happens when your wife says you can have a consequence-free ‘week off’ from marriage without it being about playing Championship Manager for 18 hours a day and eating your body weight in Weetos?” Ben Machell
...his cover versions
Horses I own numerous saddlebreds, some great champions. I’m up there knocking at the door to win world championships. And I’m a better rider than I was last year. I think it’s to do with a subtlety that I’m acquiring. Fast cars I love to drive cars fast. I recently drove a car at 155mph, with my wife next to me, on the lonely reaches of some American state. I just wanted to see what it felt like. I think if you’re caught doing 155mph you’d be put in jail. Para-motoring You strap a propeller on your back with a sort of lawnmower engine and run like hell. I flew among the birds!
up trouble. We shot it in the Deep South at a moment when schools in America Incubus (1966) I spoke fluent Esperanto in that film were being integrated and so that the seven million there was tremendous sense people speaking Esperanto of doom everywhere — all over the world realised especially towards our film that they were pronouncing company because it was words incorrectly. I learnt it known what we were doing. phonetically. The film was a The Twilight Zone I was basic good-vs-evil horror, making a living and these but the operative point was were just two innocuous that it was done in Esperanto, half-hour shows — but because the producer obviously the subject matter thought that seven million has touched a nerve, a people would all come to see universal something, as they it; he didn’t realise that live on all these years later. there’s only two in London With Nightmare at 20,000ft and five in Nottingham. (1963; left), this furry creature Roger on the wing of a plane is Corman’s absurd, but we forgive all that The Intruder because the story touches on (1962) our basic fear of flying. The I played a other was Nick of Time racist stirring (1960), in which I was getting my fortune out of a machine and it was about being unable to fight your fate — another universal. Obviously the writers knew what they were doing, but I didn’t.
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Elton John’s Rocket Man The pleasure that people have had from my covers has given me great joy. But this one [above, now a YouTube phenomenon] was not well performed by me, nor was it designed to be released outside where it happened. I was fooling around at an awards show, doing Sinatra. But I’m going
Favourite Star Trek joke? I thought some of the shows were . . . Fan encounters I’ve had the most beautiful women, painted purple (green was out of fashion), throw themselves naked at me. They twisted themselves into the most obscene shapes. It was just bizarre. Favourite Kirk conquest Spock, actually! Interview by James Jackson
I’m doing a rock opera about what happened to Space Oddity’s Major Tom