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YOU CAN CALL ME BILL: Why Star Trek’s William Shatner Decided Captain Kirk Had to Die Again Over 30 Years Later

Actor William Shatner celebrated his 93rd birthday on March 22nd, the landmark date coinciding with the wide theatrical release of You Can Call Me Bill, a documentary about the Hollywood legend, who first appeared in a bit role in the little-known 1951 film, The Butler’s Night Off. Its ever-energetic subject has been pounding the pavement on a promotional tour, doing interviews and making appearances to discuss the film.

Directed by Alexandre O. Phillipe, You Can Call Me Bill covers Shatner’s life and more than 70-year (and counting) career. His most memorable role, of course, is that of Captain James T. Kirk on the science fiction television show and movie franchise, Star Trek,  a character that met his fate in the 1994 film, Star Trek: Generations. As it turns out, Shatner’s always been dissatisfied with the death scene … so he decided to kill Kirk all over again, and do it right this time, 30 years later.


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All this happened on late night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Kimmel brought up a segment of the movie in which the actor mentions his disappointment with his portrayal of Kirk’s demise (he famously dies in Generations to prevent the destruction of the planet Veridian III, saddening fans around the world). Pinned under a pile of rubble, with a generous schmear of blood running down his chin, Kirk gazes fearfully into the distance, presumably seeing what the afterlife has to offer and gasping out the words, “Oh my,” before taking his final breath.

Explaining his unhappiness with the scene,  Shatner said, “As an earnest artist, the take is on me. Captain Kirk is dying. So how does a person die? How do you die? How do you know when you’re dying? How do you know how you’re going to die? I think you die the way you live. So Captain Kirk always had these grotesque things happening, ‘Oh look at that. It’s an animal. I think it’s going to eat me.’ But without fear, but with joy and love and opportunity to see what’s better.”




Shatner, in short, simply believes Kirk confronted his final moments the wrong way. “See, I thought I had lived the ‘Oh my.’ I thought that he would see death; old man with a scythe on his shoulder, and look at it and wonder… So, that sounded fearful (the actual film scene) and I didn’t want to be fearful.”

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As a birthday present to Shatner, and a great interview moment for viewers, Kimmel responded by offering Shatner a “do-over”. Pulling out a few pieces of faux rubble and a bottle of ketchup for blood, he gave Shatner a chance to be re-killed (as Kirk!) in a courageous and accepting way more in keeping with the beloved character.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … 91-YEAR-OLD MAN  INTO SPACE


First released last year in a limited film festival run, You Can Call Me Bill has just now come to theaters courtesy of fan-owned entertainment company Legion M. Whether or not you’re a Trekkie, it’s hard to resist the film’s focus on a man approaching a century on earth, someone who’s acted on stage, television and the big screen for a majority of those years and made headlines for the same sense of adventure that’s at the core of his most famous character–including actually going into space at the age of 91. All this adds up to Shatner being a compelling subject as he reveals what makes him tick–and what’s made him a cultural icon over multiple generations.

You Can Call Me Bill Official Trailer:


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Born on the East Coast but currently residing on the West Coast, Andrew Martin has contributed to a variety of newspapers, magazines, blogs and other mediums  but most fondly remembers his Master’s thesis exploring the impact of the Boston Red Sox on social identity in New England. He enjoys writing about history, sports, culture and investing and recently published his first book–Baseball’s Greatest Players: 10 Baseball Biographies for New Readers, a children’s book about baseball history.

The Essential Andrew


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