William Shatner's Fascinating Life, from 'Star Trek' Icon to Real-Life Astronaut

The original Captain Kirk has been thriving in Hollywood for over seven decades, and recently made history as the oldest person to go to space

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William Shatner
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Born on March 22, 1931 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, William Shatner grew to fame as a television star, most famously as the original Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, and expanded his repertoire into film, books and video games.

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For the People, television series broadcast on CBS in early 1965. William Shatner (as David Koster), a New York City assistant district attorney. Image date January 1, 1965.
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His early roles included John Crane and Jim Whitley on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957-1960), Bob Wilson and Don Carter on The Twilight Zone (1960-1953) and New York City assistant district attorney David Koster on For the People (1965).

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William Shatner in Star Trek
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Shatner landed the role of Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series in 1966, which ran until 1969. The show, which also starred Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and George Takei, went on to become the most successful TV sci-fi franchise ever and spawned a loyal fan base who call themselves Trekkies.

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Actors George Takei, Stephen Collins, Majel Barrett, Persis Khambatta, Grace Lee Whitney, William Shatner, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig and Michelle Nichols on the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise.
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The actor went on to voice Kirk in 1973's Star Trek: The Animated Series, and starred in the 1979 motion picture.

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DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Bibi Besch as Dr. Carol Marcus and William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk in the movie, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Release date, June 4, 1982.
CBS via Getty

Years later, he got back in the saddle as Kirk in the next two film installments of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and The Search for Spock (1984).

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BARBARY COAST - Cast Gallery - Shoot Date: July 2, 1975. L-R: WILLIAM SHATNER; DOUG MCCLURE
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In 1975, the star led the TV western Barbary Coast as Jeff Cable, alongside Dough McClure (Cash Conover), Richard Kiel (Moose Moran) and Dave Turner (Thumbs).

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T.J. HOOKER - Cast Gallery - Shoot Date: June 22, 1983. HEATHER LOCKLEAR;JAMES DARREN;ADRIAN ZMED;WILLIAM SHATNER
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

He took the lead on the action-crime drama T.J. Hooker (1982-1986) with Heather Locklear (Officer Stacy Sheridan), James Darren (Officer Jim Corrigan) and Adrian Zmed (Officer Vince Romano).

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William Shatner speaks into a microphone next to Sandra Bullock in a scene from the film 'Miss Congeniality', 2000.
Warner Brothers/Getty

He also joined Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality (2000) as Stan Fields.

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In addition to acting, Shatner has a passion for music. He released his album Bill in September 2021; it includes appearances from music stars Joe Jonas, Brad Paisley and Joe Walsh.

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In 2019, the star was inducted into the Order of Canada — the second-highest merit honor in the country — in recognition of his decades-long acting career and philanthropic efforts.

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He's also authored several books, including a memoir called William Shatner: Live Long and ... What I learned Along the Way, Leonard, a look into Shatner and Star Trek costar and late friend Leonard Nimoy's friendship, and The TekWar Series, which was later adapted into comics.

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William Shatner, Elizabeth Shatner
John Salangsang/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Off-screen, Shatner has been married four times, most recently to Elizabeth (right), whom he divorced in 2020, and has three adult daughters, Leslie, Lisabeth and Melanie.

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Blue Origin
(L-R) Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers, William Shatner and Glen de Vries. Blue Origin

On Oct. 13, 2021, the real-life Captain Kirk made history as the oldest person to travel to space at 90 years old. Shatner was one of four crew members who completed the 11-minute journey on the New Shepard rocket for the NS-18 mission, thanks to Jeff Bezos' aerospace company Blue Origin.

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Blue Origin Prepares to Launch William Shatner on New Shepard's 18th Mission
(L-R) Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. Blue Origin/UPI/Shutterstock

"It's life-changing in its way, not because of the aerial adventure, but because of the people I'm meeting," Shatner said in a video that aired during Blue Origin's livestream about fellow space travelers Audrey Powers, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries.

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Shatner trip to space with Blue Origin
(L-R) William Shatner, Jeff Bezos. BLUE ORIGIN/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Upon landing, Shatner and his crew were met with applause and a hug from Jeff Bezos.

"In a way, it's indescribable," the actor told Bezos, who made his own trip to space back in July.

"Not only is it different from what you thought, it happens so quickly," he added during Blue Origin's livestream.

The star got emotional, sharing his wish for all humans to experience the wonders of space travel.

"Everybody in the world needs to do this," Shatner said. "Everybody in the world needs to see."

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