William Shatner admits he’s not completely sold on the concept of alien life and he’s even passed up the chance to actually travel into outer space, but one opportunity he’d grab in an instant would be to return to the role of Captain James T. Kirk for Quentin Tarantino’s potential “Star Trek” film project.
“Oh my god — that would be extraordinary,” the 88-year-old star of the original 1966 “Star Trek” series told CNN before taking the stage at Alien Con in Los Angeles, one of the largest gatherings of alien life enthusiasts and experts. “That would be wonderful. He’s a dynamic director.”
“I’ve gotten to know Tarantino a little bit over the years,” Shatner revealed, having previously sounded off on social media in favor of the filmmaker bringing his famously R-rated sensibility to the 50-plus years old sci-fi franchise. “He flirted with the idea of my being in one of his movies, and I never did — I don’t know why. But what an extraordinary last trumpet note that would be. My goodness.”
On stage, Shatner joined his longtime friend Kevin Burns, producer of the History Channel’s popular “Ancient Aliens” series, which explores the theories surrounding the possibility of extraterrestrial visitations throughout the early history of the planet, for a discussion about the prospect of the existence of alien encounters. Given his most iconic role, the actor may have surprised the believers in the audience with his curious-but-skeptical stance on such speculation.
“I’m an agnostic,” he said backstage. “I’m intrigued by the subject… and so I’m looking forward to maybe making discoveries of my own in terms of information.”
Indeed, Shatner’s hosting History’s “The UnXplained,” a companion series produced by Burns which debuts July 19. The eight-episode anthology explores compelling mysteries of science.
Shatner’s personally interested in the science facts that may inform a sci-fi-esque future. He hasn’t shied away with associations with the latest technology, beyond his well-known mastery of Twitter, as his on-screen persona has led to close ties with bleeding edge innovations: his recent tech treks include a foray into cryptocurrency and being injected with stem cells.
“It’s my brand,” Shatner says. “So people come to me with futuristic ideas, and I’m thinking, ‘That’s good. If just one of these ideas exists in the future, my family will love it.’ They’ll have the benefit of it. It’s exciting to be part of it, so in a lot of cases, I’m becoming part of the company, against taking a salary.”
But not every futuristic opportunity appeals to Shatner: during the stage conversation, audience members who’ve equated the actor with the dashing starship captain he’s played over the years were bemused to learn just how reluctant he felt about boldly going where no one has gone before himself.
“I’ve been offered, from time to time, the ability to go into space, into the stratosphere,” Shatner revealed on stage. “And I’m thinking, ‘Do I want to leave the swimming pool?’ Do I want to jeopardize my life?”
Unabashedly concerned about the amount of things that need to go seamlessly right to travel to and back from space, Shatner recalled one instance in which he was offered a trip into the void, if he was willing to pay $250,000. Shatner’s response: “You give me $250,000!”
He does embrace the humanistic optimism baked into the DNA of “Star Trek” storytelling by franchise creator Gene Roddenberry. Asked if he was surprised that, even after five decades of the pro-tolerance, compromise-rich allegories of the “Trek” saga, the nation is currently so wildly divided on issues of inclusion, Shatner begs to differ.
“Look at the people who are running for president,” he says. “A diverse a group of people…Not only black and white, but gay. I mean, it’s extraordinary [compared to] even 10 years ago.”
“So yes, we’re polarized, but we’re being polarized,” he continues. “It doesn’t have to be that way, because I think the majority of people in this country and in the world believe that most people are good, most people want fairness. Most of the majority of human beings feel that way.”