William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill – The Man Behind the Mask

What comes to mind when you hear the name, William Shatner?

Comedian? Grandfather? Scoundrel? Star? (Or simply Star Trek?) 

Directed by Alexandre Philippe, William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill is an intimate portrayal (maybe) of Shatner’s life and career. Having been a performer for over 70 years, Shatner’s career has boldly gone from space (Star Trek) to the streets (T.J. Hooker) and here, he’s invited to share the insight and wisdom that make him one of the more unique in Hollywood today.

In Bill, Philippe takes an interesting approach. Instead of delving into heavy research regarding Shatner’s past, the director simply lets the iconic actor speak his mind. Yes, Philippe intersperses Shatner’s speech with clips from his many roles. However, this is an opportunity for Shatner to sit in the spotlight and wax upon his many insights into the world around him.

And it’s completely compelling.

Even at the age of 93 years old, Shatner still knows how to command one’s attention. (“Command presence is what you need. And I think that’s what I try to do most of the time,” he suggests.) By giving him the opportunity to share his views on the world, one can’t help but see the glimmer in his eye. Despite his age, he appears to have the energy of a young man. To him, the world remains a place fueled by wonder and he revels at sharing that insight with the rest of us.

Waxing on topics ranging from death to the natural world, Shatner seems genuinely excited to speak his mind freely. He believes that we all share a connection, both spiritual and physical, that brings us together. To him, everyone’s life matter and yet remain entirely meaningless. (“The occasion of your death is meaningless. You’re one of billions upon billions who lived upon the earth,” he waxes ecclesiastically.) He is a man of legacy and yet believes that nothing we do in life is ‘worth an award’. 

To him, everything is an adventure. 

And yet, there’s a mystery to Shatner that comes across within the film. Even in his most intimate of conversation, we’re left questioning whether or not he’s truly being authentic with us. He argues that ‘everybody wears a mask, until you take it down’… but has he truly taken it down? Are we watching the realBill Shatner? Or is this merely another aspect of some great performance of his life? These are the real questions left behind from such an intimate portrait of a beloved figure. Although this feels like a genuine portrait of the man behind the camera, one can’t help but wonder if this is still really him. 

At 93, there remains a mystery to the man.

In many ways, one might argue that You Can Call Me Bill feels like a farewell for the Hollywood legend. But they would be wrong. It’s clear from the outset that Shatner has no intention of slowing down, even at his age.

And why would he? There’s still so much for him to do.

William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill is available in theatres on Friday, March 22nd, 2024.

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