William Shatner ('Stalking Santa')
'Captain Kirk Takes On Santa!'
William Shatner has cultivated a career spanning over 50 years as an actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist and world champion horseman. He has also established himself as a major Hollywood philanthropist. As the narrator of 'Stalking Santa', William Shatner reveals the history and conspiracy surrounding Santa Claus.
Children everywhere defend his existence, and one man will stop at nothing to discover the truth. This Christmas Dr. Lloyd Darrow, with the emotional (and financial) support of his wife Barbara, and their children Keith (naughty) and Kiely (nice), will conduct an experiment so ambitious that it could very well capture THE visit from Santa Claus himself!
In preparation for the big night, Dr. Darrow and his intern Clarence (self-proclaimed Santologists) gather extraordinary evidence of the jolly gift-giver from the North). Their research takes you from the pyramids of Egypt, to the Town Center Shopping Plaza in Polka City, Ohio, and even to the UFO fields of Roswell, New Mexico.
Chatting recently to William Shatner, I first wondered how 'Stalking Santa' was going to bring a fresh take to the Holiday spirit? William Shatner - "Well, anything that doesn't propose that Santa has got a long white beard, answers all your requests for gifts, comes in the night, and needs cookies and milk along the way ... anything that doesn't say that is just a spoof! You know, Christmas is fun anyway. It's a myth organized over the years and gained different mythological qualities as the years have gone by. And so here's another one to add to the vast variety of things that Santa is."
So what brought you to this project in the first place? "The company came to me and outlined what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. They then sent me the script ... and it seemed like fun. Christmas is a fun time and is great for kids. It's something that you want to share. It was a good Christmas project. It seemed like a worthwhile thing to do and it certainly was."
So what appealed to you most about 'Stalking Santa'? "The fun of it. They approached me with a script that amused me. It was simply a voice over that didn't require the commitment of a lot of time and it seemed like a project that would be exuberant and amusing to do. That's really all it was to me ... fun. And I think the audience of this piece will have fun watching it also. It's not gonna change the world, but if it makes people feel better when looking at it it's all we ask."
What was your relationship growing up with Santa, being that you were raised Jewish? "Christmas has gone from a Pagan holiday, to a Christian holiday, to another Pagan holiday. Maybe it's cyclical. So, Christmas is circular for the most part and if done in the right tone is a time to give thanks, a time to share and a time to give to those who are doing as well as you are. So, I take that opportunity on at Christmas time for people that I'm associated with, in one way or another. I try and make an effort to make some kind of difference with them."
"In addition to that, to try and make a specific moment in time I give to the charities that I'm working with that specific year. And so it becomes a definitive moment. And a lot of people do choose Christmas to do just that because of the expectations that our culture has engendered."
We've heard your voice on many things in the past years, but this vocal tone of yours for 'Stalking Santa' is much softer. Intentional, perhaps? "I've done a lot of voiceover narration to a variety of things and each project that requires my voice I try to characterize differently. In that the challenge for me is to try and reach your ear - which then becomes the well-known phrase, 'The Theatre of Your Mind' - and I'm able to invocate your imagination into projecting what you see, what you hear from my voice."
"So when you say it's a different type of narration, a different use of my voice it's something that I've done for a long time. And that's the challenge and the joy of narrating. Choosing a sort of character way of doing it. I thought this was what was required for the project of 'Stalking Santa.' And if you've noticed that difference that's both good and bad! I hope you forgot it after the first few lines though and just went with it. But, doing a voiceover has a whole series of challenges that are unlike anything else."
And how long did it take to narrate this film in the studio? "If I remember correctly I spent one big chunk of time doing it. I think it was mostly done in one day."
Is it weird for you now that after all those years of appearing in films and on TV that it seems all people want from you in these latter years is your voice for narration and voiceovers?! "Yeah, that's right. That's interesting. Well, I started off in radio in Canada prior to getting out after college when my face became better known. I put myself through school with radio work. So I'm very much aware of the colorations that the voice carries when speaking."
"As a matter of fact, and just as a sidebar, because I get paranoid being recognized in places I sort of think that if I avert my eyes and try not to make eye contact with the person who's coming at me, maybe they'll ignore me. So, I walk around a lot in crowded places looking down a lot, just looking away, pretending not to notice. Hoping that the people will just do the same."
"So, I've become much more aware of people's voices and what the message is they're sending me - by the colorization of their voice. I've become very closely attune, as we all should really, to what people are really saying when they speak. When they say a word like 'Yes,' what are they REALLY saying? And so I've sort of incorporated that into my performance in that words carry intention and emotion and they're not just a word. It's not just a printed word. The spoken word carries innumerable currents with it."
So, is Santa really a Saint or simply an Elf? "Ahhh, that's the one question YOU have to answer," he laughs.
But you're not implying that Santa Clause is not real, are you?! "No, Santa is real ... it's just where is he?"
Star Trek Q&A:
Have you signed on for a cameo role in the soon-to-be made new 'Star Trek' film? "No, I have not been approached. I have heard this thing about the cameo, but I don't know what that's in reference to. I would be reluctant to do something that had so little value as to be a cameo. I'm disappointed that the story they chose to do is not include the character I play. Having been in on the birth of 'Star Trek' I would love to have been in on the rebirth. Or the resuscitation. And the fact that I’m not is disappointing. And I think a foolish business decision on their part. But somebody decided how to play this story, so we'll see what happens."
Please tell us more about the latest 'Star Trek' book you're connected with "Yes, I've got a new 'Star Trek' book that's coming out and it's called 'The Academy - Collision Course' that deals with the adolescents Kirk and Spook. I started writing about a 17 year-old Jim Kirk and a 19 year-old Spook and took the soldiers of Tarsus IV, the tragedy that's going on there with the children soldiers, updated them 300 years to a scourge that was happening then, and what the plans were going to be with Kirk and Spook as adolescents. That entertained me to tell that story. That entertained me to get this book out and that led to doing this voiceover narration for 'Stalking Santa'."
And this series of these 'Star Trek' books have been co-written, correct? "Yes, with Gar and Judy Reeves-Stevens. And the way it seems to work out is I develop the story and write out a full-fledged story outline on many, many pages, And they take that ad work that over and then we all begin to work on it together through several re-writes before the three of us our satisfied with the work."
Having read some of your 'Star Trek' books they read as if they could all be very easily turned into movies! "All the books I've written could have been a movie, yes. I write them as if I'm seeing a movie. I don't like A, B, and C stories so I write as though it were a movie. When I read a book I like to see the movie and that's the way I write. Through the storyline you're following the main characters, it's classically built with a beginning, middle and end, it's got character evolvement, the ticking clock, all the wonderful ingredients of a good old-fashioned story."
It seems that with all the 'Star Trek' movies and the 'Star Trek' books that the series just won't go away; that it is eternal "And nobody understands why! Nobody understands the phenomenon of 'Star Trek.' Especially me," he laughs. "We've got these wonderful characters, we invented a history for them and the history becomes more and more fascinating. When you read this book you'll se wheat we planned here. All the diverse things that went in to make Jim Kirk become Captain Kirk."
'Comedy Central's The Roast Of William Shatner' Q&A:
With regard your 'Comedy Central Roast' it seemed that it might have got a little uncomfortable midway through there for you. Did it? "Well, half way through I looked over at one of the guys who was roasting me and I thought, 'That guy really means what he's saying! He's really into this.' And I was aware that the camera was on me, looking at me with my face on camera listening, absorbing the blows. But what was going on in my head was how did I get myself into this thing?! And then ... we got nominated for an Emmy! Is that wild?!"
"The idea, the concept of being in a 'Roast' in itself is a two-edged sword. In that they only do one person and there's sort of an honor in that. But then what they write about you, because most of that stuff is written down by the writers of the show, is so dishonorable. It's just so wild. It was a wild thing to be a part of an ultimately I'm glad that I did it. And as Leonard Nimoy - who's my dear friend - said, when I told him we were nominated for the Emmy, 'That's absurd'," he laughs.
'Boston Legal' Q&A:
Is playing Denny Crane on 'Boston Legal' as much fun as it looks? "Yes, yes it is. It's a lot of work. I'm learning a big, 3 page closing speech and that's a lot of work. I go over it and over it because I have such a pride about my memory and my ability to recall. I don't know if it's any harder to do now that I'm older. But yes, Denny Crane is great fun and I don't mind the work ... or the Emmy's!"
So, just what is the secret you've had to the longevity of your career? "Just getting into trouble and learning how to get out," he laughs.
Finally, could there ever be a Captain Kirk Meets Santa Claus adventure in the near future?! "I think that could have been a great Christmas show for Star Trek. That there's an alien out there with a beard and a pot belly and he meets Captain Kirk!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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