Shatner Interviews Shatner About 'Invasion Iowa'By Michelle
April 7, 2005 - 10:42 PM
Liz Shatner interviewed "none other than my own dad, the Billster", William Shatner earlier in the week, discussing the Captain Kirk actor's Invasion Iowa reality mini-series for Spike TV and his upcoming charity horse show as well as his career plans.
Chatting live at TheFandom.com, Shatner asked his daughter, "What happened to 'Daddy'?" and told her that she grew up too fast, teasing at one point that she drives like a sloth in comparison to himself and owning up to his reputation as, in Liz's words, "a practical joke connoisseur." It was because of his "dubious reputation as a practical joker" that Shatner wanted to do a show like Invasion Iowa, he said, as he had not done anything "really dramatic" in that vein in years since his good friend and co-star Leonard Nimoy was not around to be "a wonderful butt for my jokes - spell that with two Ts."
Shatner called the miniseries in which he convinced a small town that he was there to film a movie a "monumental" joke, but said that he was concerned at first that the idea might be too cruel, like other reality series, "all these shows that require you to vote somebody down and eliminate them [where] people cry as they exit." He worried about how to get around the implicit meanness "when you raise people's expectations of fame and fortune and then they don't get it", then decided that if he made a bigger fool of himself than he was making of them, everyone would laugh at him instead of the others. "What would happen if we took a movie company to a small town and pretended to be making a movie...all kinds of histrionics in front of the people, and let them get a glimpse of the soap opera that always takes place when you're on location?" he wondered. "That concept sparked us immediately."
It was decided to film in Riverside, Iowa, the birthplace of Captain Kirk, which is famous for its annual Star Trek conventions but which Shatner says is so small that if he was talking on his cell phone while driving, he'd have missed going through it. The town is near the Mississippi River and subject to laws that allow gambling boats on the river but no gambling on land, which the residents got around by building a mile-square canal in the midst of which they built gambling hotels, hoping that gambling would bring jobs to Riverside and that the town could use the Star Trek phenomenon to get attention, rather like the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Shatner felt that the town was "ripe for the picking" when he chose it for the fake film shoot, but said he became very fond of the people and suffered from anxiety because he was afraid of hurting their feelings.
The actor also talked about his Hollywood Charity Horse Show, to be held this year on April 30th. "We entertain, feed and even clothe 1500 children," he explained. The show benefits three childrens' charities: one for physically disabled youths, one for "kids whose economic situation is bad" and a nondenominational camp for children from difficult home environments to get in touch with nature. The event takes place at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center as part of a five day horse show, with the bulk of the money raised by a Friday night dinner party with a swing band and entertainment by Ben Folds, with whom Shatner released the album Has Been several months ago. He said that the event raises about $200,000 for needy kids, with "not a penny taken off for administration; nobody gets paid."
Shatner called horses his passion - one he shares with wife Elizabeth, whom he says he was "lucky to have found" during a difficult time in his life. They raise Westerns and Saddlebreds, which he described as like the "difference between jazz and classical dance." The actor hopes to put together a therapeutic riding program in Israel with Bedouin, Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli children all benefitting together. "With all the enmity that's there, it's going to take a generation to overcome it, and this is the beginning of the generation that will eventually see that peace is the only way to go," he noted. "It's hard to overcome an adult's hatred, but children don't have that."
Currently at work on Boston Legal, which was renewed earlier this week for a second season, Shatner said that during the hiatus beginning April 30th, he will begin work on a film he is directing called Alien Fire which was written by his longtime collaborators and Enterprise staffers Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and whose pitch was assisted by Liz's fiancé, Bill's future son-in-law. "He did something extraordinary," said Shatner. "He devoted time and energy and no little money to making up some pictures of what a human being would look like if fire consumed them from the inside, because that's part of the plot of Alien Fire, and as a result of those pictures I was able to sell the concept to the Sci Fi Channel." Shatner said he will have a relatively small budget, though more than he had for Groom Lake, "so I should be able to make a decent movie."
Liz Shatner's interview with William Shatner is at TheFandom.com, where it may be downloaded as an MP3.