Sunday, April 26, 2009

William Shatner's Star Trek Repartee

To the surprise of absolutely no one -- including, judging by his expression when he received the query, William Shatner himself -- the very first question directed at the actor last week during a post-screening Q&A following the Nashville Film Festival's world premiere of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet had to do with.... Star Trek. Specifically: "What do you think of the new Star Trek movie?"

Boldly going where he's gone many, many times before, Shatner seriocomically replied: "I haven’t seen it. And I’m appalled that I’m not in it. I’ve had a fun time with the director, J.J. Abrams, cussing him out on the websites and in interviews. But we’re buddies. And I called him three or four weeks ago and told him about this charity horse show that I’m putting on in Los Angeles – the Hollywood Charity Horse Show. Hey, they’re the big sponsors, so we’ve got to get their name out there. And so I invited J.J. And he said, ‘Oh, I’ll take a whole table.’ And I said, ‘Great. But, you know, you should bring the cast, because there’ll be a lot of press there…’ And he said, ‘I’ll take two tables.’ So J.J. Abrams and the cast of the new Star Trek movie are coming, and we’ll make a big to-do.

"But deep down," Shatner added, struggling manfully to maintain his straight face, "I’m still appalled."

And now -- as Paul Harvey might have said -- here's the rest of the story: To honor Shatner on the occasion of Gonzo Ballet -- a surprisingly affecting account of his collaboration with Ben Folds on Shatner's Has Been CD, which inspired a ballet choreographed by Margo Sappington -- the Nashville Festival muckety-mucks commissioned Gibson Guitar Corp. to construct, and artist Mandy Lawson to paint, a customized acoustic guitar to give the veteran actor as a special "Impact Award". The prize certainly made an impact on Shatner when he received the one-of-a-kind instrument from Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.

 "When I was a young stage actor out on tour," Shatner recalled, "I used to bring along a printout with me, to try to learn the fingering so I could play the guitar. But I never mastered it. And even later on, I never had the time -- never took the time -- to learn how to play. But let me tell you -- now I make the time."

Shatner looked so unabashedly pleased with his prize that I couldn't resist offering him a fist bump and two words of encouragement: "Rock on!" He exuberantly bumped back, smiled brightly and replied: "Yeah, I'll rock on."

10.13.2021 Update: Here is my 2009 Variety review of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet. (The documentary is available for rental or purchase on many streaming platforms.) And here is Shatner's performance of "It Hasn't Happened Yet," my favorite Shatner-Folds song on the Has Been album, and one that seems altogether appropriate on this day when Shatner boldly went no guy his age had ever gone before.

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