It seems that William Shatner is still coming to terms with the untimely death of his former co-star and friend Leonard Nimoy, and has chosen an unusual means in which to express his grief and deal with all that happened between the two men. Which is how I would like to think of his latest book, ‘Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man,’ instead of the cynical way of looking at it, which is that Shatner is cashing in on the death of Nimoy (which some people are understandably claiming).
In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the storied actor spoke about his new book and somewhat sad history with Nimoy, explaining that the novel is a kind of catharsis for him, laying to rest his tumultuous friendship with Nimoy since they never got to settle things while the man was still alive.
The first question Shatner was asked had to do with how well he knew Nimoy after 50 years, and whether there was anything he knew about the man that others would not know at this point:
“Well, he was a guy who had a mission. That was one of the things that we had together. We both wanted to be actors from a very early age, and it’s a lot to maintain and sustain that because of the exigencies that you go through. His were worse than mine — he had a harder time getting started than I did. And that drive is part of a person’s personality. That edge. That essence of rage, really, that people who are driven all have. Leonard had that — that fire — and fire is both beneficial and harmful.”
Next the questions were more directed at the tensions on and off the set of ‘Star Trek,’ where the two men competed for center stage and the admiration of the audience, and whether Shatner felt they were both responsible for that tension:
“I think so. Nothing is ever one person’s fault — one hand clapping doesn’t make a sound. I’ve got to think that Leonard had his chance and he was single-minded about on maintaining that. And at the same time he had created a unique character with Spock, and it’s a beautiful example of an actor bringing pieces of his own life to bear on a character that he’s playing. When I realized that, I found that admirable. I was filled with admiration for Leonard on many levels. His intelligence and his creativity and his passions and his focus as an actor… So yes, I would think that any clashes that we had in the beginning … you know it was so long ago that I am forced to try and re-create what fireworks that might have been. I don’t remember any fireworks, I remember going to the producers and wondering whether they were going to change the thrust of the show as a result of the popularity of Spock. So my anxieties were never directed at Leonard per say, it was about “How was the show going to go?”
The next question had to do with whether Shatner ever felt Nimoy was jealous of him in any way, as Nimoy came into ‘Star Trek’ as a bit of an underdog, and ended up having to be the alien with the pointy ears:
“I’ve never thought in those terms of “underdog,” no. On the contrary, he was in demand. In fact, only when I was doing my due diligence on Leonard, doing biographical research, that I begin to understand how much in demand he was at that time. I didn’t know he was going out to do all these things on the weekend and striving hard so that, unbeknownst to me, he was doing really well.”
Shatner also mentions often in the book that he felt Nimoy was one of the only friends he ever had, which the interviewer asks Shatner rather bluntly about:
“It’s difficult when you have a measure of celebrity because you can’t help but think that’s why people are being friendly. Also the nature of the work — on a movie, a play, a series — it’s over and everyone goes their own way and you’re the best of friends during that moment. You’ll sit around a set and talk, and you’re best friends forever. Then the event is over and you’re gone — everyone has gone their separate ways. I spent five years with James Spader on a series and I loved him, he’s a great guy, but I haven’t seen him since we left. He’s been busy on his series and I’ve been busy on my things. We communicated on occasion but we’ve never seen each other.
The structure changed that dynamic in Star Trek in that it was canceled and nobody saw each other, but then slowly the movies began and then we did six movies together. And then there were the personal appearances … and suddenly we were back in each other’s worlds on and off for years and years, and that propelled the friendship between Leonard and I. “
Finally, Shatner was questioned about why the pair stopped speaking toward the end of Nimoy’s life, which appeared to have started when Nimoy refused to appear in a movie that Shatner was producing. When asked for more details though, Shatner seemed at a loss for an answer:
“I don’t know. I thought he was joking at first and treated it as a joke because he sometimes would pretend and say, “No, I’m not going to do that” and then say, “yes,” so that’s what I thought he did. (Laughs.) But that time he really meant, no. … I just don’t know, and it is sad and it is permanent. I don’t know why he stopped talking to me.”
Fortunately, in the aftermath of his friend’s death, it seem Shatner is not holding an grudges, even working with Nimoy’s son on his documentary about his father. Still, one cannot help but wonder what exactly happened between the two titans of ‘Star Trek’ that left them bereft of friendship in the end, and whether or not Shatner is fully aware of what happened and just does not want to paint himself or Nimoy in a bad light at this point.
What are your thoughts on Shatner’s new book? Do you think he is just trying to make a buck? Or is he sincerely trying to make peace with his memories of Nimoy? Share your opinions in the comments below.