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LE Newsletter - June 17, 2010

 

Captain Kirk Reveals His Demons

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 16, 2010) Banff, Alta. —
William Shatner moves down the red carpet with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Ask him serious questions and you get wisecracking answers. He’s a jokester, all right, never afraid to poke fun at himself, those Trekkers who so revere him, or anything else, it seems. But it was a much darker, more private, even tortured side of the man that Shatner revealed at the Banff World Television Festival this week. As he took the stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, the actor stunned the audience full of TV types with a moving acceptance speech about his own emotional difficulties, and his marriage to his fourth wife – which he called his real lifetime achievement.

At 79, the Montreal-born Shatner remains a beloved and seemingly unstoppable force in Hollywood. Best known for his portrayal of Captain James Kirk on Star Trek, he is also celebrated for his later-life roles on The Practice and Boston Legal, for which he’s won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.

But despite fame, fortune and wide-ranging creative opportunities, he revealed Tuesday night that it has been a difficult journey.

“My life was a series of pools of loneliness [from] which every so often I was able to emerge with some companionship, and subdue that dreadful feeling that had dogged me for much of my life,” he said. “And frequently even with the kudos I was receiving, I was not happy with the private part of my existence. But slowly I changed. The drill that life puts you through can make you or break you, and fortunately I became more comfortable with relationships and slowly evolved in reaching out to friends and family.”

Shatner has had personal troubles, to be sure. Eleven years ago, his third wife was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at their home. It was ruled an accidental drowning. Shatner has since spoken of her battle with alcoholism and his fight to help her.

At Banff, he suggested that he is doing well now, but that life has been a struggle. “My lifetime achievement in my opinion is really the slow acquisition of the ability to be vulnerable and needy, and to be able to accept love as well as give.”

Shatner, who will star next fall in the new TV series $#*! My Dad Says, talked about his own father’s role in his career choice. The acting bug hit young Bill after performing in a play at summer camp in the Laurentians outside Montreal. “My father proudly held me in his arms and showed me to his friends, and it was the siren song of fame.”

Shatner went on to repertory theatre in Montreal and Ottawa (where his main goal, he said, was to make $100 a week so he could pay the rent, buy food and save money for a car), the Stratford Festival, Broadway and ultimately Hollywood. He still has his hand in many projects – including a feature-length autobiographical documentary announced this week at Banff – and does not appear to be slowing down as he enters his next decade, which he called “statistically my last.” With everything he has on the go (and he says he’s in talks with broadcasters about more work), he asked: “Is that achievement or is that insanity?”

As for that Facebook site (more than 46,000 members strong) promoting him as the next Governor-General of Canada, Shatner was irreverent when asked about it: “I’m really interested. They’re trying to get me to run for it. Is it an elected office or does somebody appoint you?” When told that it’s an appointment by the Queen, Shatner made a joke about the 1970s rock group Queen.

But speaking to the industry crowd from prepared notes, Shatner was anything but flippant. Sure he’s an actor, but when he choked up as he dedicated his award to his wife Elizabeth, he seemed to have everyone in the room convinced. “My lifetime achievement is being married to her, and every day reminding myself that sustaining a marriage is in itself the achievement of a lifetime.”

The couple has been married for nine years.

“I was totally overwhelmed ... and consumed with love,” Elizabeth Shatner, who was in tears during the speech, said afterward. “It’s his lifetime-achievement award, but I would thank him for taking me on the adventure of a lifetime.”

The Banff World Television Festival wraps up Wednesday night.