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Full Speed Ahead

From Captain Kirk on "Star Trek" to Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," William Shatner has played the macho man role with no regrets.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006

(continued from page 4)

In tales too many to enumerate here, almost the entire cast of the original "Star Trek" series have recounted stories of petty arguments, verbal sparring matches and even threatened walkouts over issues involving ego, the number of lines in a particular script and "face time" on screen. With almost every regular cast member from "Star Trek" having written an autobiography, not to mention the thousands of media interviews conducted over the franchise's 40-year history, the one constant has been that while the crew of the Enterprise may have loved and respected Captain Kirk, the cast and crew of the television series disliked Bill Shatner intensely.

Shatner denied or ignored the rumors of unrest for more than two decades, but as the autobiographies proliferated and the cast and crew were repeatedly quoted in interviews following every movie installment or Trekkie convention, he finally acknowledged that he was at least aware of the animosity.

Why it ever existed, he says, puzzles him immensely.

"I feel affronted. I feel that I've been assailed by some of them," complained Shatner in one of his own biography-style documentaries, "and, in defense, I've thought, 'Well, I don't like them,' but that's childish. I have no feeling of animosity. I never did feel or understand what I read is their distaste for me."

Shatner recounts a particularly odd experience in which he was interviewing fellow cast mate Nichelle Nichols for an autobiography that he himself was working on. At the end of the interview, Nichols stopped him with "wait, don't you want to hear how much we hated you?"

Shatner makes it clear that Nichols wasn't pulling his chain, but insists that he's still stymied by what prompted Nichols' comment that day or her earlier reference to him as an "insensitive, hurtful egoist." As recently as the A&E Biography filming, Shatner has continued to express perplexity over others' take on him.

The cable series, usually fairly deferential to celebrity subjects, referenced during the segment some of the accusations made against Shatner by those he'd worked with in the past, and quoted George Takei as saying that "Bill seemed totally immune to the sensitivities or efforts of those he worked with." In the same segment, following some sensitive questions about Shatner's abilities and sensibilities while on the show, even the usually very careful, very discreet Leonard Nimoy offered a modestly tongue-in-cheek response and a spontaneous outburst of laughter.

In spite of other cast mates' and biographers' statements to the contrary, Nimoy and Shatner have long purported to be friends offstage as well as on, and Nimoy is almost always complimentary when discussing Shatner, the man, and Shatner, the actor.

"Bill's energy was very good for my performance because I could then be the cool individual," Nimoy, referring to his Spock character, says in the Biography segment. "Our chemistry was successful right from the start. Very competitive [and] sibling rivalry up to here," he finishes, bringing his hands well over his head.

Nimoy simply smiles after hearing some additional comments from other cast mates, but finally breaks down for an uncharacteristically open laugh when one of the questions seems to imply scene stealing. "Bill Shatner hogging the stage?" Nimoy grins before breaking out into a belly laugh. "Never! Not the Bill Shatner that I know."

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