It goes without saying that William Shatner has lived an interesting life.
Since landing his breakout role as “Star Trek’s” Captain Kirk, Shatner, 82, has continued to branch into new arenas, pursuing a side career in music (his new album, Ponder the Mystery, is expected out in early October) and making more recent forays into journalism by interviewing the likes of Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and astronaut Chris Hadfield, whom he spoke with as the spaceman circled hundreds of miles overhead. In a recent phone interview, Shatner, who appears Friday and Saturday at the Ohio Comic Con, opened up about his fears, human curiosity and why he’s so fascinated by millstones.
There I was in a bathrobe sitting on a sofa with a telephone in my hand, and there’s a guy, A FELLOW CANADIAN, in a futuristic vehicle about 300 miles above my head — ABOVE MY HEAD! And I’m talking to him. I knew he was a test pilot, and test pilots by the nature of their work face death all the time. “Is this thing going to fly or is it going to crash and blow up?” So I talked to him about fear. I was able to talk to him about that feeling for about 10 minutes as he appeared overhead, and then he disappeared beyond the horizon. GONE.
I’m going to make a speech at a little observatory in a couple weeks in which I will speak about how “Star Trek” stimulates and stimulated the imaginations of kids to think about science and the cosmos and the scientific world.
This past week I was in Louisville, Kentucky, and I won a couple of World Championships [at the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show]. There, specifically, you’ve been successful. But in my business if you think you’ve given a successful interview and then the interviewer writes some caustic remark you realize you were wrong. It’s the same way with a performance. You think, “That was pretty good,” and then someone says something negative and it brings you back down. You never know if you’re successful in my business.
Failure and death [frighten me]. The hard truth, and it’s very difficult for anybody to embrace, is that you have to fail. Freeform rock climbers are out there because of the thrill of not having any safety equipment; if they’re climbing a safe mountain there isn’t any thrill. You have to keep pushing the edge, and some people keep pushing the edge until they fall off. You have to fail in order to succeed because you don’t know what your limits are. In show business you can fail and not die, and though you feel like it’s a small death you don’t literally plummet to the ground. You probably do figuratively.
Where does curiosity stem from? That’s a very interesting philosophical question. We’re hardwired to be curious. I’ve got two puppies. I looked at those puppies this morning and they’re into EVERYTHING. Everything is curious to them. They’re looking at the bush; they’re looking at the food; they’re sniffing and licking and tasting everything. That’s what human beings should do.
I’m childlike, in many ways, as my wife is prone to tell me.
I’m fascinated by millstone. How ancient is the millstone? The whole idea that 10,000 years ago suddenly we became an agricultural species, taking wheat from a wild grass and using water as a means of breaking the kernel so it can be edible and then making bread and having bread and cheese. It all came down through 10,000 years to a baguette. It’s weird, ISN’T IT? And isn’t it mystical and isn’t it curious and isn’t it just full of AWE AND WONDER?
Photo courtesy of William Shatner