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William Shatner finds a good reason for his new bio-doc: ‘I don’t have long to live’

William Shatner wearing plaid shirt and sitting at a mic.
William Shatner at Comic-Con in 2022 in San Diego.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)
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William Shatner is thinking a lot about death these days.

The “Star Trek” icon shared thoughts on his mortality and legacy ahead of the release of the biographical documentary “You Can Call Me Bill,” which focuses on his life and will premiere Thursday at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. After former co-star Nichelle Nichols’ death at age 89 in 2022, Shatner is one of only three surviving members of the original show’s cast, the others being George Takei, 85, and Walter Koenig, 86.

“I’ve turned down a lot of offers to do documentaries before,” Shatner, 91, said during an interview with Variety published Thursday. “But I don’t have long to live.”

At 90, William Shatner set the record for the oldest person to go to space after 10-minute flight aboard Blue Origin. “I am overwhelmed,” he said upon return.

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He said he also considered his grandchildren in his decision to participate in the film, calling it “a way of reaching out after I die.”

Shatner is grandfather of five children, all from his children with the first of his four wives, Canadian actress Gloria Rand. He previously said being a grandparent is “the greatest joy for me.”

“I have the time now to grab a grandchild and talk, and hug and kiss them and make sure that I’m taking time to be with them and to give them some aspect of the things I’ve learned,” he told the Guardian in 2014.

Actor George Takei continued his public feud with his “Star Trek” co-star William Shatner by calling him “a cantankerous old man” and “prima donna.”

Nov. 30, 2022

He said his family life is “totally encompassing” and he sees his three daughters every weekend, according to the Guardian. They take trips during holidays to ski and snorkel.

His youngest daughter, Melanie Shatner, recalled Shatner in a 2015 interview as “a wonderful, committed father” while growing up, recalling his hours-long drives to see them on weekends or taking them on set with him amid a busy filming schedule.

“So with the time I have left, I like to look at all my grandchildren and try to extract what I can out of my impressions,” Shatner said in the Variety interview.

When asked about his legacy, Shatner shared an anecdote about his controversial decision in 2015 to attend a Red Cross fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago instead of the funeral of “Star Trek” co-star Leonard Nimoy.

“I said to the audience, ‘People ask about a legacy. There’s no legacy. Statues are torn down. Graveyards are ransacked. Headstones are knocked over. No one remembers anyone. Who remembers Danny Kaye or Cary Grant? They were great stars. But they’re gone and no one cares,’” Shatner recalled.

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“What does live on are good deeds. If you do a good deed, it reverberates to the end of time. ... That’s why I have done this film.”

George Takei, William Shatner, Zoe Saldana and other members of the ‘Star Trek’ family mourned Nichelle Nichols, the series’ original Lt. Uhura.

Aug. 1, 2022

For the documentary, Shatner said he challenged himself to go beyond recollecting career accolades and worked to find a new way of looking at his life. One of his fresh takes: He can take nothing with him to the grave.

“The sad thing is that the older a person gets the wiser they become and then they die with all that knowledge, and it’s gone,” he said. “Today, there’s a person going through some of my clothes in order to donate or sell them, because what am I going to do with all these suits that I’ve got? What am I going to do with all these thoughts? What am I going to do with 90 years of observations? The moths of extinction will eat my brain as they will my clothing and it will all disappear.”

Even when asked about why he was overcome with emotion after returning from his trip to space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, he said he was “grieving about this world.”

George Takei continued his decades-long feud with William Shatner by shading his “Star Trek” co-star for blasting off into space at 90 years old.

Oct. 14, 2021

“I saw the Earth and its beauty and its destruction,” he said. “It’s going extinct. ... We stupid f— animals are destroying this gorgeous thing called the Earth. Doesn’t that make you angry? Don’t you want to do something about it?”

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In recent months, Shatner and Takei have made headlines for their public feud. In November, Takei said Shatner was a “prima donna” whom “none” of the “Star Trek” cast got along with.

Takei seemed to be responding to Shatner‘s interview with the Times U.K. in which he called his sci-fi co-stars “bitter” and said they continually criticize him “for publicity.”

“I began to understand that they were doing it for publicity,” Shatner said. “Sixty years after some incident, they are still on that track. Don’t you think that’s a little weird? It’s like a sickness. George has never stopped blackening my name. These people are bitter and embittered. I have run out of patience with them. Why give credence to people consumed by envy and hate?”

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