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William Shatner Says He Doesn’t ‘Have Long To Live,’ Worries He Could Be Forgotten

Photo Credit: Chelsea Guglielmino / WireImage / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Chelsea Guglielmino / WireImage / Getty Images

William Shatner has had a seven-decade career, and as he gets older, he finds himself facing his own mortality more frequently. At 92, he is unsure how much more time he has left on this Earth and wants to leave as much knowledge and wisdom from his life as he can before he goes.

Shatner’s new documentary was spurred by his own mortality

Headshot of William Shatner
William Shatner attends the Living Legends Of Aviation Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 20, 2023, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo Credit: Victoria Sirakova / Getty Images)

When Shatner finally agreed to create a documentary, titled You Can Call Me Bill, he was motivated by his own mortality. He admitted in an interview with Variety, “I’ve turned down a lot of offers to do documentaries before. But I don’t have long to live.” Feeling as though his time is coming to an end, he agreed to participate in the project. “Whether I keel over as I’m speaking to you or 10 years from now, my time is limited, so that’s very much a factor. I’ve got grandchildren. This documentary is a way of reaching out after I die,” he explained.

Per IMDb, the documentary is “[a]n intimate portrait of William Shatner’s personal journey over nine decades on this Earth.” It effectively “strips away all the masks he has worn to embody countless characters, and reveals the man behind it all.”

‘What am I going to do with all these thoughts?’

Shatner stands in front of a red velvet curtain
William Shatner visits SiriusXM Studios on September 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

As he approached his 92nd birthday, Shatner thought more about his death. “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?” It seems these dark musings extend to himself as well. “What am I going to do with all these thoughts?” he continued. “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.”

“The sad thing is that the older a person gets, the wiser they become and then they die with all that knowledge,” he said. “And it’s gone. It’s not like I’m going to take my ideas or my clothing with me.”

These were the driving thoughts behind the reason Shatner agreed to the documentary. It appears to be less about his legacy and more about leaving whatever helpful information he can behind.

He doesn’t regret missing Nimoy’s funeral

Headshot of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy smiling for a photo.
Actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy promote the “Star Trek” 40th Anniversary on the TV Land network at the Four Seasons hotel August 9, 2006, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

Shatner’s co-star on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy, passed away on February 27, 2015. He was 83 years old, and for the majority of his life, he and Shatner remained good friends, even long after the end of the original series. However, in the final years of Nimoy’s life, the two reportedly fell out of communication. When it came to attending Nimoy’s funeral, Shatner had a decision to make.

“When Leonard Nimoy died a few years ago, his funeral was on a Sunday. His death was very sudden, and I had obligated myself to go to Mar-a-Lago for a Red Cross fundraiser. I was one of the celebrities raising money . . . I chose to keep my promise and go to Mar-a-Lago instead of the funeral,” Shatner explained. His decision to miss his old friend’s funeral caused some backlash from the public, but Shatner had a response to this.

“Who cares? I know what I did was right. So it doesn’t matter. We’re criticized when we lift a finger. I don’t read that stuff. I try to not . . . indulge in the evil that’s out there.”

He believes there are no legacies

William Shatner speaking into a microphone.
William Shatner speaks during the 2022 Dragon Con at Hilton Atlanta on September 03, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Paras Griffin / Getty Images)

The reason he doesn’t care is that he doesn’t believe anyone’s legacy is sustainable. “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,” he said.

“But what does live on, are good deeds. If you do a good deed, it reverberates to the end of time. It’s the butterfly effect thing.”

Good deeds are more important

Shatner in a blue shirt at a Hollywood Charity Horse Show
William Shatner attends the William Shatner’s Hollywood Charity Horse Show Hosted By Wells Fargo at Los Angeles Equestrian Center on June 2, 2018 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

By attending the Red Cross fundraiser, Shatner thinks his good deed went farther than any potential legacy. If his legacy was marred by missing Nimoy’s funeral, it didn’t matter, as it won’t last forever anyway.

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William Shatner’s attendance at the fundraiser and all the good they were able to achieve that day will have a longer-lasting impact than his own legacy, he believes.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!