'Getting older is terrifying': William Shatner on turning 90, loneliness and what keeps him going
In a Q interview about his new film, the cultural icon shared his fears about aging and death
William Shatner celebrated his 90th birthday on March 22, but the Canadian-born actor somehow seems as youthful as ever.
Among his numerous recent projects is a leading role in the rom-com Senior Moment, about a retired test pilot who drag races and hits on much younger women until the realities of growing older start setting in. Similar to his character, Shatner has at times found it difficult to accept his advanced age.
"It's disgusting," he told host Tom Power in an interview on CBC Radio's Q. "It's a disgusting number. I mean, I don't like 90. When I heard that 90 was coming up, I thought, 'What the heck is that?' I remember 90 way back when I was in Canada and I thought, '90! People don't live till 90.' And here I am."
WATCH | William Shatner's full interview with Q's Tom Power:
With an upcoming podcast, hit History Channel show and new album in the works (tentatively titled Love, Death and Horses, according to the actor), Shatner is busier and more productive than many who are half his age, but he's starting to notice the years catching up with him.
"Getting older is terrifying," he said.
At one point while promoting Senior Moment, he recalled experiencing a flash of senility when he couldn't remember the name of the movie.
"That shaft of fear hits you," he explained in his interview with Power. "Like, wait a minute, I don't know where I'm going. I'm totally lost. I totally don't know where I'm going and what I'm doing. I had that for a moment — a split second."
Loneliness and a fear of death
In 2016, Shatner received a prostate cancer diagnosis, which was later discovered to be a false positive. When asked if that diagnosis changed the way he lives, he said fear caused him to forget all about it.
"If you had asked me, 'Did you ever have a cancer scare?' I would have said no," Shatner told Power. "Because it's so frightening. It went out of my mind."
A scary day is dying.... The mystery of loneliness now comes in.- William Shatner
The philosophical question of whether there's life after death is something the actor said he's thought about a lot. His new song, Loneliness, off his upcoming album poses that question and explores his personal feelings about having always been alone.
"Loneliness is endemic to human beings," said Shatner. "We are all essentially alone. As much as we are with other people, we are alone now. People who are religious say, 'Well, there's God. And God is with you and is the father figure.' And I don't happen to believe that. I envy those who do. I think we die, and our bodies are consumed, and we enter the universe."
While Shatner may be 90, he said he's no less fearful of death now than when he was younger.
"A scary day is dying," he said solemnly. "The mystery of loneliness now comes in. The mystery — what's going to happen? That's scary."
Fortunately, Shatner's fears are tempered with a healthy exuberance that keeps him going day to day.
"I try to focus on the beauty of life, which is eggs, and the mountains, the horses, love, dogs, tea, [and the] taste of orange, which I just had. The sensory and philosophical beauty of life, the connection that I know that all life has is something so profoundly moving that I think of it a lot."
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Catherine Stockhausen.