In case you haven’t noticed, a new form of entertainment event has become increasingly common in recent years: A classic movie is shown, and then one (or more) of the actors talks about it, live, and answers audience members’ questions.
Of course, William Shatner is right on top of the trend. He’ll talk about the 1982 movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and answer questions after screenings of it at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Oct. 4, and the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, Oct. 6.
Trying new things — as an actor, director, writer, musician and entrepreneur — has been one of the trademarks of Shatner’s career. And since he’s only 88, it’s not like he’s going to stop anytime soon.
“It’s important for me” to keep on doing different things, he says. “I think I’m better at everything, now, than I ever have been: As a writer, as a director, as an actor.
“Every time I do something, I think, ‘Oh my God, is that how to do it?,’ like I’m discovering things as I go along. Whether it’s to talk to you, or to perform onstage: I’m discovering new things all the time, and I don’t want to stop.”
Last year was a particularly groundbreaking one for him, musically, as he released both his first Christmas album, Shatner Claus (featuring guest appearances by artists such as Iggy Pop, Judy Collins and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons) and his first country album, Why Not Me (a collaboration with Jeff Cook of Alabama). And in February of this year, he made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
“Country music is more simple, isn’t it?” says Shatner, who lives in Los Angeles but also owns a horse farm in Kentucky. “It tells a story, it’s down home. I deal quite often with horses and barns and hay, and people riding horses, so I’m involved in the very subject matter that country music sings about. But it’s the simplicity of the melody and the lyrics that appeals to me.”
He says his favorite country artist is “probably” Brad Paisley.
Shatner has also embraced social media, attracting 2.5 million followers to his frequently used Twitter account, twitter.com/williamshatner.
“I’ve interested myself in social media because it’s now the way to publicize and to get the word out there,” he says. “Also, it’s great to raise money for the charities I run, to get the word out about silent auctions, and where you can buy all this stuff. So social media really works. And as a result of that, I’m involved in several businesses that are futuristic, as well.”
“Electric bikes, virtual reality, solar panels. The companies that are trying to survive in this coming rough period of time that human beings are going to go through.”
He clearly does his Tweeting himself, frequently bantering with fans or playfully jousting with detractors.
“It’s lighthearted,” he says. “The insanity that you see on social media is so mean-spirited. There’s a lot of room for fun and interplay, and knowledge being passed back and forth, without it getting ugly.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing as well as the 50th anniversary of the end of the original “Star Trek” television series. (Though it’s now considered iconic, it last only three seasons, from 1966 to 1969.)
Shatner says he remembers exactly where he was when the moon landing took place.
“I was in a camper, looking up at the moon, through a window, with a little television set on my chest,” he says. “I was doing summer stock in the Hamptons, and then I watched, on a little black and white TV, and I was looking up at the moon while camping out.”
He says there was always a “relationship” between “Star Trek” and NASA.
“We brought publicity to NASA, and when the rockets started going up, they brought publicity to us. So it was a symbiotic relationship, and it worked very well. So while watching Armstrong on the moon, I felt that I had a tiny part in it.”
Before he started doing the “Wrath of Khan” appearances, Shatner toured with a one-man stage show titled “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It.”
Would he ever consider doing screenings-and-talks for another “Star Trek” movie?
“It’ might be something that would be fun to do,” he says. “The actual tour itself is onerous, with all the driving and the airplanes and stuff. Once I’m there, it’s good.”
William Shatner will make live appearances at screenings of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m., and the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
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