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Shatner Talks New Book, Kirk & More

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The irrepressible, unstoppable William Shatner is back in action with a flurry of projects. Star Trek’s iconic Captain Kirk has a new book, The Spirt of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable, out this week from St. Martin’s Press – and we have an excerpt. In it, he shares not only his deep love of horses, but also the actual writings of literary figures ranging from Jonathan Swift to Aesop to Jack London. Shatner has also just wrapped a new film, Senior Moment, a comedy that reteams him with Christopher Lloyd, his Star Trek III: The Search for Spock nemesis. And, of course, there’s more. StarTrek.com caught up with Shatner the other day for a phone interview in which he discussed all of the above and revealed that he is really, truly ready, willing and able to play Kirk one more time…

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What made now the time to write a book about your love of horses?

I've been evolving to a philosophical place over years and this personal evolution, spiritual evolution, with the horse has been taking place both inside and outside with the people that I've talked to who hold similar views and are much better at expressing it than I. I've learned from people and I've evolved in my own life.

What's your earliest recollection of experiencing the majesty and raw power of a horse?

When I was 12, I jumped on a horse, galloped around and thought about how great that is and how great a horse is, but I was just into the excitement of it. The last 30 years or more in which I've been riding, been a horseman, I always thought the horse was more, but I've only begun to really understand how much more a horse is than just being a figure of work.

Star Trek, The Original Series, Wiliam Shatner, Leonard Nimoy

It's not the old western episodes you did or Star Trek that really set you on your path to owning and breeding horses, but rather T.J. Hooker. Tell us a little about that, which you cover in detail in your book…

I was driving police cars in a barn up and down the aisles chasing the bad guy doing a T.J. Hooker. I became aware of these extraordinary horses in the stalls who were excited, but not crazed. They were also so beautiful and I learned that they were American Saddlebreds. I fell in love with American Saddlebreds. As a result of that, I became involved in Kentucky and I entered the horse world of Saddlebreds and Standardbreds in Kentucky. I became this figure of the horse.

You share excerpts of published stories about horses or those that involve horses. We particularly liked the Jonathan Swift/Gulliver's Travels story you have in there. Which were you personally happiest to share with people?

Well, they all have an interesting cast to them. There's one with an ancient old-timer, about bringing the horse into the house. The way horses were treated, at one time, horses in Arabia were part of the family. They bring them into the tent. There are such wonderfully unique stories. The Gulliver's Travels thing is wonderfully fun. It's hard to put a finger on this one's better than the other. Each is a different take on horses by these various writers whose opinion, in many cases, mimic mine.

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You make a comparison in the book between horses and the Enterprise, arguing that “the starship Enterprise was a metaphor for horses of all times and every location, riding that vehicle, that means of transportation, into the sunset.” …

Well, the thesis is that horses for the last 10,000 years have been the means of conveyance and the means of taking man on the voyage of discovery. If you want to take the West, for example, Europeans came to the New Land bringing horses with them, the Spaniards down South, the English bringing their Thoroughbreds up North and gradually made their way across the continent on horseback. That’s the voyage of exploration. As a result of the horse, the intrusion... Horses had existed in North America thousands of years before, but they had gone extinct. Now, mankind Europeans brought horses back to the North American continent. They multiplied and had to fit into an environment to which they were foreign. There was intrusion into the civilization. That voyage of discovery on the horse is replicated in the voyage of discovery on the Enterprise by the means of conveyance.

You share an anecdote about Christopher Reeve. Horses are wild beasts, and there can be a price to pay for being in their presence, riding them. How hard was it back when Reeves’ accident happened to accept it, and what was it like to visit him in rehab?

I knew him vaguely. I met him a couple of times and had spoken to him. He wasn't really even an acquaintance of mine, really, but I identified with him and his accident. I knew he was in the hospital in New Jersey and I was flying to New York, so I went through the New Jersey airport, Newark, and took a car to his hospital. I, of course, called him in advance to see whether he would see me and he accepted with alacrity. I went to the hospital. It had glass doors, and I could see him waiting for me in the wheelchair and I thought, "What am I going to talk to him about?" I came into the lobby where he was sitting in the wheelchair, and he had a battery-driven motor breathing for him. He'd take a gasping breath every three words and get three words out and have to take another breath. I thought, again, “What in heaven's name am I going to say to him?” His first words were, "Talk to me about horses." We spent the whole time talking about our joy of horses.

Star Trek, Star Trek Generations

Your worlds crossed in Star Trek Generations. What did it mean to you to ride a horse on screen in that film? And you’d pushed for that, right?

I did. The writers knew of my interest, so it was written in the stars, you know? It was great fun and Patrick (Stewart) and I joked about it and laughed a lot about it. It was great.

Let’s talk about a few other things. If you ever get to play Kirk again, what would you like to explore?

I've written about the aging of Kirk. My books are all about his life as I saw it. I was given to permission to do that, which was in defiance of everything else that Captain Kirk was. Captain Kirk got married and Captain Kirk lost his wife. He has a lot of autobiographical material in those books.

Star Trek, The Original Series, William Shatner

Let us ask you straight-up. How interested are you actually in playing Kirk again?

Oh, it would be incredible to do a film, which is never going to happen… to do a film of Kirk aging. I just finished a movie called Senior Moment in which I played the leading man, an older guy who has a car that he really loves and no personal relationships. He has an accident and the judge takes both his car and his driver's license away because they say he's too old to drive. He pines for his car, and eventually he meets the girl and finally gets the girl and gets the car back. That's the story: kiss the girl, get the car, and I’m the leading man. One more time. I finished Senior Moment a couple of days ago, enthralled by the idea I was given one more chance to do this, to allow all the skills that I still have and to use them and to hone them on playing this role. So, what I would love, what I wouldn't give to play Captain Kirk in the last of his age, the last of his years, doing something reminiscent of the young Kirk.

Star Trek, Star Trek III

Your co-star in Senior Moment is Christopher Lloyd, Commander Kruge to your Kirk in Star Trek III. How much fun was it to work with him again, and to do so in a comedy as opposed to a drama?

Hysterical. He's very funny. It was great. We had a great time together.

Last year, you were part of Star Trek Las Vegas. You hosted the cruise. How did you enjoy all 50th anniversary activities?

It was a lot of work. It was a lot of stuff going on. I took full advantage of the fact that it was the 50-year anniversary. I celebrated with everybody. Now, the 51st year, I'm not doing anything much, just things here and there, like Vegas this summer.

Star Trek, The Original Series

You've got your annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show coming up on June 3. Give us a preview.

We've got Nancy Wilson, the great singer, with a new group (Roadcase Royale), to entertain us. We've got a great dinner, great entertainment in the afternoon, horses and riding. And we’ve got the joy of being able to help these kids (who benefit from the charities the event supports).

Last question… What else are you working on?

I'll be off in the next few days to do Better Late Than Never, the second season with the four guys that I worked with last year. I've got another book on aging that I've already written. It's just a matter of a re-write and compiling. I’ve got the second Zero G book (Green Space) coming out. I’ve got all kinds of documentaries and other things in the works, but those are the major things.

Spirit of the Horse is available this week. Go to amazon.com to purchase it. And additional details about the Hollywood Charity Horse Show can be beamed up at www.horseshow.org.

 

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