Friday, June 25, 2010

Shatner says he's not the governor general type

It might be the closest we'll get to a straight answer from William Shatner about whether he will ever become Canada's governor general.

Before a packed audience at the Banff World Television Festival, an audience member asked the 79-year-old actor outright whether he would ever consider taking the role.

A Facebook campaign pushing to have the 79-year-old iconic actor proclaimed governor general started in April has garnered nearly 46,000 supporters.

"The only governor generals I know have been old, distinguished and rich," said Shatner. "And I don't qualify on any of those."

It was a typically self-deprecating answer from the actor, who at last count had received at least three standing ovations from worshipful TV industry types since arriving in Banff, Alta., on Monday afternoon.

On the closing day of the festival, delegates lined up for more than a half-hour to see Shatner interviewed by Bill Prady, creator of the successful geek-boy sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

The actor spoke on a number of topics with what is becoming a trademark knack for comedy, as he recalled his rise from Shakespearean actor to television bit player to Captain of the Star Trek Enterprise in Star Trek.

But the governor general campaign points to the strange position the actor has attained in the pop-culture universe. Respected enough to be introduced as both "incomparable" and "legendary," he is still a target for good-natured barbs.

Prady started the animated, one-hour interview with a quote from George Clooney about the general awfulness of Shatner's 1968 melodramatic take on the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," before moving on to the fact that Shatner's halting acting style is frequently imitated.

"When I see it, I have said frequently to my wife, 'Are they doing me?'" says Shatner. "And she says 'no.'"

It was certainly a more playful Shatner than what delegates saw Tuesday night during the Banff World Television Awards, when the actor gave a moving acceptance speech upon receiving his lifetime achievement award. Suggesting that he had lived a sometimes troubled personal life filled with loneliness, the actor nearly choked up when dedicating the award to his wife Elizabeth.

On Wednesday, a beaming Shatner discussed his most famous role of Captain James T. Kirk and his surprise at how Star Trek became a phenomenon after its cancellation in 1969. He remembers hearing about the first Star Trek convention with disbelief.

"At one point in that era, they said 'there's this thing for 15,000 people'" Shatner says. "'Will you go out there to New York?' and I'm in L.A. 15,000 fans? Of what show again? They said, 'It's Star Trek, they're all coming out and they're going to dress in costumes.' I said 'Are you crazy, I'm a Shakespearean actor.'"