William Shatner’s Most Personal Role Premieres at SXSW  | Shalom Austin

William Shatner’s Most Personal Role Premieres at SXSW 

The Jewish Outlook

Mar 20, 2023

William Shatner on the red carpet at the world premiere of his new film, “You Can Call Me Bill.” Credit: Allison Teegardin

By Allison Teegardin 

The inclement weather warnings did not stop the crowd from filling the historic Paramount Theater on Thursday, March 16 to get a first look at the much-awaited documentary starring actor, author, musician, director and philanthropist, William Shatner. The film is titled, “You Can Call Me Bill” and is the first collaboration between Exhibit A Pictures and Legion M productions, a fan-owned entertainment company. 

Writer and director Alexandre O. Philippe spoke to the audience before the world premiere and warned that this would not be the film most people expect. More than a film, Shatner has created, “a gift for us and future generations.”  

The soon-to-be 92-year-old Shatner, who had just concluded extensive touring, began his journey to SXSW at 2:00 a.m. Philippe said when he asked Shatner how he does it all, Shatner responded, “I just set the alarm.”  

Having played Captain James T. Kirk, Sargent T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane, and many other roles, in the film, “You Can Call Me Bill,” Shatner plays his most authentic role ever – himself. Set in a studio with occasional film clips and photographs woven into the film, Shatner talks about everything from personal stories such as the love and loss of his first dog as well as growing up Jewish, to lessons and highlights from his acting career, to space travel, ecology and the inevitably of death. The premiere concluded with a Q&A.  

Earlier in the day, Shatner shared the SXSW stage at the Austin Convention Center for a keynote session with the founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Tim League. He was also interviewed by SXSW Studio Host Wajahat Ali, columnist for The Daily Beast and MSNBC and co-host of the weekly Democracy-ish podcast. 

During his interview with Ali, Shatner shared some of the advice and knowledge he’s gained throughout his life and why now was the right time to make his documentary. Even for a man who has accomplished so much, he still experiences the “wow” moments in life and it’s one of the reasons he says he doesn’t want to die – he’s having too much fun. However, he says that day will come and when it does, he wants to be a tree. “Don’t put me in a box. Skip the fancy shiva and platters of bagels and lox,” Shatner sang on April 29, 2022, at the Kennedy Center. “Just plant me like a seed, ’cause, I want to be a tree.”  


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