Mania Interview: Chatting with Shatner (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Thursday, September 06, 2012
He has not only kissed himself, but stabbed himself in the back, as well. The man will be a hero to, what will undoubtably be, countless generations of dorks, scientists, and space explorers. However, James T. Kirk is no mere man. He isn’t even that, because he doesn’t really exist. He is portrayed by an actor named William Shatner; an actor that has made the leap to director, author, entrepreneur, and documentarian. With the success of his 2011 documentary titled Captains, which featured details and life of every Captain from the Star Trek universe, Shatner decided to point the camera at the fans and tell them to “Get a Life”. Obviously, this is a reference to the now classic Saturday Night Live skit where Shatner visited a Star Trek Convention. Mania had the chance to catch up with the former captain of the Enterprise about his latest endeavor.
Mania: Why so long between the book, “Get a Life”, and the movie, Get a Life?
William Shatner: There is no relationship. Well, the relationship is that the head of production wanted to call it Get a Life. I didn't want to. I thought it had a smack of disparity. He insisted and it’s his money. So we called it Get a Life, based on the skit and the book. There is a relationship, but it is far fetched.
Mania: What is Get a Life going to focus on?
William Shatner: For the book I asked myself that question, who comes to Comic Con? Who comes to a Star Trek Convention? I did my due diligence by doing interviews and I discovered some fascinating characters, that are in the book, and concluded that they are there to see each other. Instead of coming to see the actors, which all the actors thought they were doing. They were coming to renew old friendships. Okay, well that’s an interesting conclusion and that was the conclusion of the book. When I decided to try again, maybe by the dent of being older or by luck I came across other answers as to why people dress up and come to conventions. And why they are the potential source of jeering. The conclusion that I come to in the documentary are cultural, sociological, and are on a far deeper basis then the fun they are having by dressing up... or by putting on a Klingon Omelette.
Mania: Having enjoyed the documentary Captains, I have to ask, what were the surprises to you in making the film, as well as the surprises in Get a Life?
William Shatner: As you are a writer and a story follower... an expositor of a story, you go after a story, you ask questions. Some of those questions lead to other questions. I don’t know how frequently in writing a news story that the news person wants to go back to a previous interview based on new information. You can’t go back, but you wish you could knowing what you know now. That’s what I realized when I made my documentaries, that’s what I was doing. I couldn't go back, because I couldn’t get it back on camera. I’ve done four or five documentaries, now, and I realized it’s about the third day when I think, “what I am saying? what’s the story here?” By that third day, I get the story. As it happens with you, you get what this guy or thing is about. That’s why [Tom] Cruise broke it off... (smiling). That’s the story, but you don’t know it until then. Making the documentary is a journey of exploration. It is a journey of surprise. Everything becomes a surprise. The surprise of Captains, I struggled a lot with what we had in common, but I didn’t know what, and that was the idea of Captains. Then as I began to do these interviews, people began to talk to me in strange and wonderful ways. I then became enamored of the whole thing, and that’s what has happened here. People talk to me about why they came [to conventions]. What I found were really intelligent and knowledgeable people, far more than I. I came across the logical ideas of what happens at these conventions.
Mania: Will we see more documentaries from you in the near future?
William Shatner: I am a news-oholic. I love watching the news. I love watching the stories. I love the human history that is exposed on CNN, CSPAN, and all that type of thing. I love the humanity behind what is going on and the discovery of it. I love the concept of making documentaries, but what would I make a documentary of that people were going to buy? So, faced with that, in the market place and the curiosity, I was able to combine the first half and make a documentary about Star Trek. Now, they see I can make a film. My ideas are being met with more approvals. I’ve got a couple of docs in the pipeline. For example, I went to a Xena Convention. Who goes to a Xena Convention? People in need. People who are so in need that they cling to each other because of the mutuality of what they are. It is a love fest. It is an embracing of like-minded people. That’s what I discovered. I am editing it right now and it is a fascinating documentary.
Mania: It’s as if you have found a whole other career now outside of acting. Is it more fun for you to do this on your own or just be a part of one?
William Shatner: This is like directing your own film. What I found is the best way to do this. I am working on a project right now that I can’t talk about because I am in the process of discovering if there is a story there or not, but I am discovering the way this type of documentary works for me is that it’s my discovery; that I am on camera discovering so that you, the audience, discover it along with me. I don’t want to be in it, but they [producers] demand that I ask the questions and that I am seen on camera. I am looking into their eyes, same as you, getting the non-verbal language as the verbal language is allowing the viewer to get inside.
Mania: Real quick, are we ever going to see a director’s cut or special edition of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier?
William Shatner: I would love to do that. I approached that subject years ago and they laughed me out of the office.
Mania: Thank you, Mr. Shatner.