To generations of Star Trek fans, he is and will always be Captain James Tiberius Kirk, but William Shatner's achievements extend far beyond the worlds explored by the USS Enterprise. In a career that crosses six decades, Shatner has headlined five different TV series, starred in more than three dozen movies, and made more than 75 memorable TV guest appearances. As comfortable with light comedy or Shakespearean tragedy as he is with science fiction, Shatner is also a best-selling author, an accomplished director, a respected horse breeder, and a dedicated environmentalist.
Born in Montréal on March 22, 1931, Shatner originally set his sights on a career in finance and entered McGill University as a commerce student. Mid-way through his studies, he changed his major to acting. In 1954, esteemed stage director Tyrone Guthrie asked Shatner to join him in rural Ontario for a fledgling initiative called The Stratford Shakespearean Festival. After three seasons, Shatner departed Stratford for New York - and immediately earned success both on Broadway and in live television.
Dozens of high-profile TV roles followed, the most famous of which remains his bravura 1963 performance as a bedevilled airline passenger in the chilling Twilight Zone episode Nightmare At 20,000 Feet. In 1965, Shatner landed his first series lead in the short-lived drama For The People. The following year, writer-producer Gene Roddenberry invited him to view a 90-minute pilot he'd developed that had been rejected by all the major networks. Intrigued with Roddenberry's futuristic tale of inter-galactic exploration, Shatner offered some suggestions for re-jigging the plot and agreed to accept the starring role in a revamped version. His life would never be the same.
"I was built for the long run, not the short dash." - William Shatner
Star Trek debuted in September 1966 and lasted three seasons. At the time, however, it wasn't a big hit. Trekmania wouldn't ignite for another 16 years, with the release of the second Trek film, The Wrath Of Khan, and the subsequent popularity of the spin-off series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the time the world rediscovered Captain Kirk, Shatner was establishing himself as a more down-to-earth TV hero, playing street-smart cop T.J. Hooker for five hit seasons.
Still, there was no escaping the stalwart James T., and Shatner wisely chose not only to embrace the role but to have some fun with it. He starred in five more Trek films, finally laying Captain Kirk to rest in Star Trek: Generations. Kirk did resurface briefly in 1993 in a clever episode of Star Trek: Voyager that parodied the classic Trouble With Tribbles episode from the original series. Even more memorable, though, was a brilliant Saturday Night Live sketch, with Shatner screaming at a convention full of overzealous Trekkers to "Get a life"!
In 1990, the ever-enterprising Shatner decided to try his hand at writing. His first novel, the sci-fi adventure Tek War, proved so popular that eight sequels, and a syndicated TV series, followed. He has also written 10 other books, including two best-selling volumes of Trek reminiscences.
Recent years have been bittersweet for Shatner. Last summer, the announcement of his first Emmy nomination - for his brilliantly funny turn as The Big Giant Head on Third Rock From The Sun - coincided with the tragic, accidental death of his third wife, Nerine. Still, as his 70th birthday nears, Shatner remains optimistic about the future. Recently, when asked about his seemingly boundless creative energy, he explained simply, "I was built for the long run, not the short dash." In other words, he fully intends to live long and prosper.