Thursday, August 13, 2009

Star Trek Convention Report - William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy

The highlight of Sunday afternoon at the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas was having William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in attendance.

William Shatner started off the afternoon with a solo appearance.  The man is 78 years young and as energetic and bombastic onstage as he was in the original Star Trek TV series.  While he did make a passing comment that made it clear he's still feuding with one of his former costars (*cough* George Takei *cough*—seriously, you two, it's time to call a truce already!) and that he hasn't gotten over not having role in this summer's movie, Shatner "got the joke" years ago.  He embraces his role in the sci-fi pantheon and has no problem poking fun at himself for an audience's amusement.

He also knows how to share the stage, especially with Leonard Nimoy.  Even with all of the Trek stars from all the television series and films, Shatner and Nimoy are still a huge draw at conventions because they both know how to work a crowd.  Separately, they're entertaining and riveting, but seeing them onstage together is a special treat that doesn't get old.

The two men talk together onstage like the audience isn't there and most of the time it really does feel like you're enjoying the best eavesdropping session ever.  In Vegas, Shatner and Nimoy swapped stories and harrassed each other in the way that only lifelong friends can, with Shatner starting off one part of their conversation saying, "During our forty-odd years of friendship—and they have been ODD!"

Nimoy gently chastised his friend for not embracing the new Trek movie, pointing out that he (Nimoy) watched the movie Shatner was in and he wasn't, in a reference to Star Trek: Generations.  When they polled the audience with a show of hands, it turned out that the vast majority of audience members were attending their very first Trek convention, proving that the film did something right.

[bxA]The two had a long discussion on the death of Captain Kirk and their mutual feeling that the character's end wasn't handled correctly.  Like Shatner, Nimoy is also 78 years old, and the subjects of age, death, "bucket" or "someday" lists were addressed very directly by both actors.

The conversation returned again and again to the new Trek movie.  The most hilarious moment of their shared time onstage was when Shatner told the story of trying to find out what the new movie was about.  After Shanter was no longer in talks with J.J. Abrams, he eventually called up his longtime friend Leonard, asked him what the movie was going to be about—and received the answer, "I can't tell you."  Shatner told the audience that The Powers That Be on every show he's worked on have always asked him to get Nimoy to make an appearance.  Shatner would call up his friend and make the pitch, but Nimoy almost always politely turned him down, saying he was busy or retired.  "But," Shatner said in a voice dripping with (humorous) sarcasm, "when J.J. called . . ."  And then the erstwhile Captain Kirk literally ran across the stage flailing his arms over his head squeaking "J.J.!  Oh J.J., can I please be in your movie!!" before turning back to his friend and declaring, "Whore!  Whore!"

Nimoy took it in stride, until the subject of J.J. Abrams and the movie came up again a few minutes later and Shatner repeated the performance, complete with flailing hands and "whore" declaration.  Nimoy leaned back in his seat for quite awhile with an expression that was half-amused, half "do you see what I have to put up with?"  Eventually he asked Shatner if he was quite done already and if they could move on.  Shatner, in response, took his seat and stage-whispered "Prostitute!" into his mic.  The audience couldn't stop laughing, and Nimoy got his own back by pointing out that the clip of Shatner's routine was sure to end up on YouTube (if only I'd gotten video of it!).

The former costars wrapped up their shared time onstage with Nimoy telling Shatner that he, Shatner, is one of his dearest friends and a heartfelt hug.

Leonard Nimoy has a different kind of energy onstage than Shatner does.  While still entertaining with plenty of great stories to share, he's more thoughtful and mellow, less physical and bombastic than his friend.  In response to audience questions, Nimoy talked about how happy and fulfilled he is with his life, that he's gotten to work in a field that he loves, has a wonderful family and even has a solo photography exhibit opening soon in a respected museum.  He also said that he was not planning on returning to producing because of the time commitment that being a producer demands.  Nimoy elaborated, explaining that he had been fortunate to have the opportunity to act as a producer and enjoy success as one, but that his true passion has always been acting.

Nimoy also told a fantastic story about sitting on an organization's board with screen legend Cary Grant. After working on a film with one of Grant's former costars, Grant walked up to Nimoy and said, "Well, you've been busy."  Nimoy was so flabbergasted and starstruck that he has no idea what he said in response.  It wasn't until later that he realized that Grant had been trying to strike up a conversation about their mutual costar.  To this day, Nimoy said, he regrets not realizing that sooner so he could have spent more time talking with Grant, but he is still blown away by the fact that Cary Grant came up to him to talk.

Nimoy's time onstage ended with a wonderful surprise.  Both Zachary Quinto and Jacob Kogan came onstage, uniting all three Spocks in public for the first time and causing the original Spock to exclaim to the audience, "Get your cameras out!"  Kogan, who had earlier said that he had not met Nimoy during the filming of the movie, was greeted with an enthusiastic hug and a huge smile.  The delighted audience ended the panel on their feet and enjoying one heck of a unique photo op.

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