William Shatner | The Canadian Encyclopedia


William Shatner

William Shatner, actor, author, director (b at Montréal 22 March 1931). William Shatner is best known for his role as Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek television series. The son of a clothing manufacturer, Shatner grew up in Montréal, where he began acting at summer camp at the age of 6.

William Shatner, actor, author, director (b at Montréal 22 March 1931). William Shatner is best known for his role as Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek television series. The son of a clothing manufacturer, Shatner grew up in Montréal, where he began acting at summer camp at the age of 6. When he was 12 Shatner played Tom Sawyer with Montreal's Children's Theatre. He studied economics at McGill University, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1952. As a student, he wrote the 1950 college revue, Red, Light and Blue, and acted on CBC Radio.

After graduating from McGill William Shatner became business manager for the Mountain Playhouse in Montréal before joining the Canadian National Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. He joined the Stratford Festival as an actor in 1954, and his big break came in 1956 when he replaced Christopher Plummer on 3 hours' notice in the role of Henry V, after Plummer was hospitalized. Also in 1956 Shatner made his debut on Broadway in the Stratford production of Tamburlaine the Great, which closed after 2 weeks. He stayed in New York, appearing in other Broadway stage productions such as The World of Suzie Wong (1956) and A Shot in the Dark (1962).

William Shatner made his movie debut as Alexi in The Brothers Karamazov, which opened in December 1957. In 1962 he appeared in the all-star cast assembled for Stanley Kramer's Judgement at Nuremberg, but over his long career he has worked mostly in television, including a memorable role as a bedevilled airline passenger in the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

William Shatner
Handprints and signatures of cast of Star Trek in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Photo taken on: December 12, 2014
2012 Comic Con - Star Trek Captains
Actors Sir Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew and William Shatner make their entrance to the five captains Q&A riding an electric cart at the 2012 Philadelphia Comic Con June 2, 2012 in Philadelphia.

In 1966 Shatner accepted the role that made him a pop-culture icon, Captain James Tiberius Kirk in Gene Roddenberry's intergalactic science fiction series, Star Trek. While not exactly an emotional volcano, Captain Kirk championed earthly empathy and compassion while his second-in-command Mr. Spock, relied upon pure logic. Shatner's long-running portrayal of this earnest, somewhat absurd figure often displayed humour and refreshing self-parody. The original television show lasted only 3 seasons, 1966-69, and was not a huge ratings hit. But its reputation grew in syndication, and with the special-effects breakthrough that was George Lucas's Star Wars (1977), a movie became possible. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) made $175 million at the box office, and assured that there would be many sequels. In 1989, William Shatner provided the storyline and directed one of the last Star Trek films with the original cast: Star Trek, The Final Frontier. After 7 films made over 15 years, Shatner finally put the Captain Kirk role to rest in Star Trek: Generations (1994).

William Shatner's other television roles include the lead in the police drama TJ Hooker (1982-86; he also directed some episodes of the show), and the recurring character The Big Giant Head in Third Rock from the Sun, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of sci-fi novels under the title TekWar. Four cable films based on the books were made in 1994, and Shatner served as executive producer and the occasional star of the series of the same name (1995). He hosted the series Rescue 911 from 1989 to 1996, and after playing the role of attorney Denny Crane in the final season of the series The Practice in 2004, he successfully transported the character to the popular series Boston Legal (2004-08). He hosts the weekly programs William Shatner's Raw Nerve (2008- ), a celebrity interview show, and Weird or What? (2010), which examines the unusual and unexplained; he stars in the sitcom $#*! My Dad Says (2010-11) as a shoot-from-the-hip retiree.

William Shatner has not been afraid to capitalize on his Captain Kirk cult status in numerous commercials, and he appeared in Trekkies (1997) as himself, and again in Free Enterprise (1999), mocking his fans. He had a big-screen hit when he appeared in Sandra Bullock's star vehicle, Miss Congeniality, in 2000. His other films include Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Riel, produced by the CBC in 1979, Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005), and voice work for Osmosis Jones (2001), The Wild (2006), Over the Hedge (2006) and Gotta Catch Santa Claus (2008).

Awards and nominations for William Shatner include the 1996 Gemini Award nomination for best dramatic series for TekWar; the 2003 ACTRA Montreal Performers Award of Excellence; 5 nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA, winning in 1983 for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan; the 1994 Banff Television Festival Award of Excellence; and 2 Emmy Awards, in 2005 for the outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for Boston Legal and in 2004 for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for The Practice; and the 2005 Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for Boston Legal.

In 2000, William Shatner was inducted, with a star, onto Canada's Walk of Fame. The Banff World Television Festival presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. In 2011 he received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and, from McGill University where the William Shatner Univerity Centre is named after him, an honorary doctorate.

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William Shatner

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