William Shatner has visited dozens of cities all over the country in the past several months to participate in Q&As following screenings of 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” which still stands as arguably the best of the 13 films in the venerable sci-fi franchise.
And while it’s probably a silly question, one has to ask: He doesn’t actually sit through the movie every time, does he?
“No,” says Shatner, laughing from his belly. “First of all, I find it hard to see myself on film anyway. But imagine sitting through the movie time after time and realizing that I’m making the same mistake every time it plays.”
So who knows exactly what he’ll be doing between 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday, when Ovens Auditorium goes dark and his fans settle in to watch Captain James T. Kirk (starring a then-51-year-old Shatner) do battle against his old nemesis Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) on a big screen.
Just know the actor will be in the room for an hour after the lights come back on — to answer your questions about the movie and his career.
In the meantime, we recently engaged in a brief Q&A session of our own with Shatner, who at 87 appears to be showing no interest in retirement.
Q. So whose idea was this in the first place?
Probably the booking company. They’re called Mills Entertainment. They approached me, and it sounded like a good idea, and fun, and we tried it out earlier this year, and it was successful, so they started booking cities. The more cities they booked, the more popular it became. Now it’s really good. And we’re moving around the country, little bit by little bit. I’ll go out every so often on a weekend and do three or even as many as four shows. And, well, here I come to Charlotte. ... It’s great fun, in that I’ll take questions from the audience, and let the audience’s interest carry the theme of the show. It makes it entertaining for me as well as for the people watching.
Q. There are obviously a bunch of “Star Trek” movies and TV episodes to choose from to do something like this. What is it, do you think, about “Khan” in particular?
Well, it followed a very large, expensive movie called “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” which didn’t do too well. They were going to stop the whole movie thing about “Star Trek,” which would have I think stopped the making of “Star Trek” in general. But then, through a series of circumstances that I talk about in the show, they decided to do one more and see if they could make it cheaper but better — which they did. So it has a historical significance. But also, it tells a fun story, a moving story and a story that is very human. I think that’s really part of it.
Q. Yeah, I was reading Janet Maslin’s old review for The New York Times and she said of “Khan”: “Here comes a sequel that’s worth its salt. The second ‘Star Trek’ movie is swift, droll and adventurous, not to mention appealingly gadget-happy. It’s everything the first one should have been and wasn’t.”
It’s a good movie. It got a lot of good notices, and people came to see it. So that encouraged everybody to make more films and renew the “Star Trek” franchise.
Q. And how would you rate your performance?
At times pretty good. That said, I’m more than a tough critic when it comes to my own work. I sort of hate myself. I’m prejudiced against myself. So I hate to look at it, and do it as little as possible.
Q. I know you’ve been around “Trek” fans a long time, but I was curious whether in doing this particular event you’ve learned anything new about your fans or the way they perceive you.
You know, every individual’s different. I’m very respectful of their emotion, and their taste and their desire to see something I’m doing. I think I interact more and more deeply with them as time goes on.
Q. Do fans ever scare you with the amount of passion they have for “Star Trek”?
Well, you don’t quite know what some of the folks are gonna do. So I’m a little apprehensive at times. But mostly — 99.9 percent — they’re people who are motivated by the best of emotions, which is they love “Star Trek” and science fiction. They’re aware of the awe and mystery of the universe, and how brief (our) time is ... on Earth. So not only is there nothing to worry about, but we all share the same sort of emotions, the same thoughts about the world.
Q. What other projects have you got going on this year?
I’ve got two albums coming out, a country music album and a Christmas album. The country music album, called “Why Not Me?,” will be out in middle of the summer (Aug. 10), and then the Christmas album will be out in October. In between, there’s a book called “Live Long and ...” We’re putting the final touches on it now, and I just keep thinking, “God, there’s something more I could have done there. I wish I’d done something here or something there.” There’s always this self-criticism, especially when you don’t have the ability to change anything anymore. And that’s frustrating. But you try and bring the lessons along for the next time.
Q. And what’s the Christmas album called?
Q. That’s a great title. Did you come up with it?
No, I wish I had. I remember I was in a room somewhere with a few people, and somebody said, “What’ll we call it?” I said, “Gee, I don’t know.” Then somebody popped up with “Shatner Claus,” and we all laughed and said, “That’s it!” Just like you did. That settled it. There was no more discussion.
Q. So give me a couple of examples of what’s on that album.
Well, I just finished modulating — trying to finesse “Jingle Bells,” with Henry Rollins. Henry Rollins and I do a jazzed-up version — a rock-and-roll version, really — of “Jingle Bells.” But there’s so so much more. “Blue Christmas” with Brad Paisley. Judy Collins sings “White Christmas.” I contribute what I can, but there are many, many wonderful musical artists that play alongside that are phenomenal, mostly instrumentalists, names that people will recognize if they’re familiar with modern music.
Q. You stay awfully busy for a guy in your late 80s.
Yeah, trying to stay sane, I guess. Trying to avoid senility. Maybe that’s what I’m doing, I’m avoiding senility. Although some people think I haven’t avoided it.
Q. Do you feel your age?
Very much so. In almost every bone, yeah. A guy came up to me and said, “I’m your age.” I said, “Does anything hurt?” He said, “All over.”
Q. What’s the best thing, though, about being 87?
Not being 88, I guess!
Q. Do you ever think to yourself how remarkable it is that at 87, you can still fill these big auditoriums with fans?
I do. Every time I get off that airplane and sleep in a bad mattress, I realize how heroic this is.
William Shatner: Live on Stage
Following a screening of “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”
When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
Tickets: $41 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ovensauditorium.com.