How William Shatner Deals With Producers/Execs

This hilarious MP3 clip from the Howard Stern Show features an excerpt from a commercial recording session by William Shatner. Listen to the interaction between Shatner and the clueless producer. The relevance of it to animation should be clear to anybody who’s ever worked in the industry; I never thought I’d say this but we definitely need more Shatner-type artists in the animation biz.


  • Gerit Vandenberg

    There’s a CD compilation out there called “Celebrities at Their Worst” which has this sort of thing in spades. It includes more Shatner going aggro on yet another recording session producer. Without launching into a full-on promo, I’ll just leave it at that.

  • http://www.rikkisimons.com Rikki Simons

    Our sound guy used to play this clip once in a while when I was on ZIM. It’s as hard to listen to now as it was then because, man that’s some wicked spite. I don’t recommend voice actors who aren’t William Shatner to try this.

  • http://www.playlistcomics.blogspot.com Justin

    “no i don’t know what I want”

    truer words never spoken.

  • http://www.ulimeyer.com Uli Meyer

    PRICELESS!

  • http://www.dagnabit.tv Robert Pope

    GENIUS! That should be played at the start of every recording session. It also is a wonderful variation on John K’s recent “what makes an Animation Executive qualified to tell cartoonists how to make cartoons?” discussions; the clueless “recording director” is more than happy to micromanage Shatner with vague, meaningless direction, but when Bill demands he read the copy for an example, well…it’d be kind of like asking one of those executives to draw a funny cartoon character on the spot!

  • http://jimmyd.blogspot.com Jimmy D

    hahah! Derailed the revision train.

    Great find!

  • Jeff Kurtti

    How long do you have to be involved in entertainment before you learn–NEVER give an actor a line reading! Discuss what you want and need, involve them in understanding what you’re trying to do, and encourage their participation. But to sit in a booth and treat an actor like some kind of meat puppet is just insulting, naive–and fairly typical of the morons I’ve seen increasing their ranks in the past dozen years. I’m delighted that Shatner was equally insulting and unprofessional. (BUT–you know the “director” went off told his chums what a jerk Shatner was…)

  • Bill Field

    Ohhhhh Man—Maurice LaMarche turned me onto an Orson Welles bit from a commercial session, and he questions every word in the script and where the Shatner V/O seems tame by comparison. Stars are unpredictable–
    Sherman Hemsley was great to work with–Alan Thicke was a pill( but wound up being cool)– Waylon Jennings was –heck–just Waylon Jennings-a buddy you’d want in a bar fight.

  • Steve Gattuso

    Thank you. I haven’t laughed that hard in weeks. Personally, I’ve found Mr. Shatner to be warm, friendly, and funny when spoken to one-on-one. But he has that wicked streak that just comes to the front when someone does something dumb to him. This clip was a perfect example of that streak coming out in force.

  • http://www.shamoozal.com Frank

    Hah! I heard this when Stern first played it a little while back. Its almost hard to listen to because he lashes into the guy so bad. But who knows how many times he’s had to put up with these types. Shatner’s a seasoned actor (like him or not), and he knows how to do his job. I think its hilarious.

  • Bugsmer

    Thanks, Amid. I can see Fred Quimby sitting in a room listening to this in utter confusion. The director had no right to interrupt at first and later go back and tell him just to do it whichever way he wanted to. That’s not direction. Either he has a clear idea of what he wants done, or he doesn’t. Shatner put the imbecile in his place.

  • http://www.adamkoford.com Adam

    Thank goodness no one turned off the mike. Someone should animate that.

  • http://www.okgrillo.blogspot.com Oscar Grillo

    You should hear Orson Welles rubbishing a JWT producer in London in the mid-seventies during a recording session. A jewel…Far more aggressive than this. Painful to hear.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    The Orson Welles session was recorded at FilmFair London. One of my first jobs at FilmFair in LA was running hundreds of dubs of that tape to send out with the company’s Christmas cards.

  • Moe Town

    Adam said:
    “Someone should animate that.”

    I second that motion!

  • http://www.superspecialstuff.blogspot.com jeannine schafer

    “um, are you making fun of me?”

    that was so funny, it almost sounds like that poor producer is crying!

  • http://petyoanimation.blogspot.com Peyote

    Uh….Uhhhhh….Maybe you could you make it sound a little more purple, but maybe a little more reddish purple?? Uhhhh….Uhh. Thanks.

    Hilarious, thanks Amid.

  • http://www.louiedelcarmen.com Louie del Carmen

    I heard that Orson Welles clip years ago on a local morning radio show. Welles really rips the ad-men a new one and didn’t even pretend to be funny at all. I think Shatner’s tirade is amusing because he tries to mask his anger with some humor. Classic!

    During the Screenwriting Expo’s PIXAR day last year, Brad Bird shared an anecdote about directing Samuel L. Jackson and how intimidating he can be. Jackson would supposedly look intensely at Brad and question his direction: “Oh is that how you really want me to read that?”… Brad would stand his ground and of course, Brad REALLY knew what he wanted and was directing accordingly. He responds firmly: “Yes”. Sam Jackson replied:” “Good, I just wanted to be sure.”

    Bottom line is that artists want to know if the person directing them is someone who they can respect based on their reputation and skill as well as their vision. Not some hack or stooge.

  • Jay Pennington

    I’m going to have to disagree here.

    When a narration script is written, the creators have a certain tone in mind. There is absolutely nothing unreasonable or unprofessional about asking the voiceover artist to go for that tone. There are as many ways to read a voiceover as there are variants of emotion, and any talent, no matter how much a big shot, should walk into that booth prepared to deliver any of them upon request. Hell, that’s the first question every voiceover artist I’ve worked with has had when he steps up to the mike. “What kind of feeling are we going for here?”

    If the project were about a little girl dying of cancer, and the talent read it like a car commercial, would not a retake be a reasonable request?

    The recordist only gave a reading because Shatner requested one for the purpose of setting him up.

    Shatner was the one being unprofessional. The guy should’ve called him on it. But his goat was got and it was downhill from there.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    I love how Shatner screwed with this dim-wit.

  • http://www.flyingiguannaproductions.com Zee

    William Shatner is my new hero! If I had even an ounce of the power and clout Shatner has, I would have done the same thing. As it is, I am just a peon in animation, and I am already sort of like that. The difference is that Shatner can get away with it. Me? I just get fired and black listed. I recently did development on a pilot for a new show. I was constantly getting these changes by the producers; annoying, wrong, stupid changes. Every time I got a list of changes, I would type these ranting emails. I would really let loose with a tirade about why the changes do not make the pilot any better, and why are they wasting my time and energy on changes that make no sense. My emails were very much like William Shatner in this audio clip. But I would always walk away and cool down for a minute before I hit the send button. After cooling down, instead of sending the email, I would just save it as a draft. I literally have dozens of these unsent Shatnerish emails. This was a regular occurrence during the making of this pilot. Then one day I was so angry at some of the changes, that I did not walk away and cool down, in a William Shatneresk heat of the moment, I HIT THE SEND BUTTON! I got a call from the studio a couple minutes later. “I got your email� the producer said. “Can you come to the studio? We need to talk.�
    I finished the pilot for them, but I doubt they will ever want to work with me again.

  • drone

    I’d say “never say never” as regards the rule “never give an actor a line reading”. It all depends on the situation, the scene, and the moment. There are times when the actor gives a totally unexpected reading and it is so obviously right that you’ll happily tear up and redraw the boards to use it. Then there are those boards that are absolutely solid and need the dialogue to reflect the drawn acting. There are also(I believe)differences depending on what sort of thing you’re doing–say, a commercial, a short or a feature film.

    I have no doubt that Mel Blanc was often very closely directed by Clampett, Jones et al-but he was also an absolute genius who gave 200%. Getting line readings was essential to a 7 minute cartoon, but Blanc was a skilled comedian as well as a voice artist–a genius of inflection and timing.

    Anyway, it’s all a continual exploration, negotiation, and discovery process between the actor and the director(okay, all buzzwords but all also true)

    If you think Shatner is funny, you really ought to track down Jack Palance’s utter booth rage. Seriously. Once heard, never forgotten.

  • Ian Copeland

    I agree with Jay. Shatner was the unprofessional one. Regardless of any past experience we’ve all undoubtedly had with dim-bulb types, I can’t applaud Shatner for putting this guy in his place. Shatner was way out of line . It isn’t as though Shatner provided a pitch perfect read on the script. The director wanted excitement and Shatner could not deliver – maybe he was the one who’d been popping pills all morning. Professional talent is a joy to work with, they make everyone’s job easier. But then you have the other type and who needs ‘em?

  • Gerard de Souza

    If I recall correctly from his autobio: Mel Blanc said his least favorite directors were Jones and Clampett. His favorite? Mckimson; the one we all regard his later ones to be too talky. In reading about Mckimson this’d make sense as he was the easy going compliant all-’round-nice -guy director, probably not as demanding as the former.

    Shatner was right in this case. It sounded like a producer, not even director, just gratuitously changing direction to feel useful; something we’ve all encountered.

    ….And sometimes these folks need a bit of perspective….It’s a commercial, not Richard III.

  • http://zekeyspaceylizard.blogspot.com ZekeySpaceyLizard

    Good god.

    This reminds me of that clip where Barry White was in a voice recording session, and the script had the lines written with too many words put in and grammatical errors.
    And Barry gets all ticked off and starts swearing like a sailor.
    Funny stuff.

  • http://reddiabla.blogspot.com/ Red Diabla

    I thought the point of this being posted was not whether Shatner or the producer was unprofessional, but that it’s a parallel to how the bean-counters and other non-animation folk tell animators how to do their job.

    Zee made an interesting point about being an animation peon. What if ALL the animation artists out there didn’t do gratuitous revisions and edits, but insisted that the producers have a clue about what they want and edit accordingly before wasting the artists’ time with drawing entire scenes and segments that will definitely be cut because the product is running too damn long to begin with?

  • http://educatedmetalhead.blogspot.com/ dano

    Ian, Shatner did do a pitch perfect read. He NAILED it. The first time and even moreso the second time. If the director wanted an exuberant, giddy, exaltation for that line of script then he picked the wrong actor to read it, because hearing Shatner acting out of character would be worse than a bad read.

    That voice director is a complete moron.

  • http://www.rikkisimons.com Rikki Simons

    However funny this recording, I have to agree with Jay and Ian. I’m a voice actor and on average we are asked to do three takes on every line, because that’s our job. I don’t know how many takes Shatner was on before before he became entertaining in this instance, but if any actor who didn’t have on-camera presence tried this, he would never find work in animation again and probably even get dropped by his agent. Shatner can only get away with this because he is a live action actor. Is the guy getting chewed out really the producer? It’s just Howard Stern who calls him a producer. If he’s the casting director, then it’s his job to do exactly what he did. The best situation an actor can be in is with a director or show creator who really knows what they want, who really has a vision and trusts your talent as well, and in those cases a line reading can be really exciting because you end up with the kind of energy that excites the storyboard artist later.

  • Gerit Vandenberg

    The irony though is that post-Trek William Shatner is beloved for being campy in his own “Shat-tastic” way. His over-acted renditions of popular music lyrics are legendary and, indeed, hilarioius. I can’t think of another actor who is so financially invested in his own tongue-in-cheek image at the moment –Comedy Central’s “Shatner Roast” anybody??? But like most celebs, Shatner clearly has an ego, as demonstrated here. And it’s kinda’ scary to see the mechanism of that ego seize upon smelling blood and, instead of making his point and moving on, he sees fit to make the producer go prostrate, lick his boots and drive the session into hell. That’s animal.

  • http://jedaniels-adventures.blogspot.com/ Jpox

    “I’m going to do it the way you want me to do it…”
    That’s what Shatner is being paid to do, and that’s what the producer is “suppose” to do.
    Funny stuff!

  • stavner

    I wonder–could animation unions make the following part of contracts: only people with experience in animation should be allowed to be producers?

  • Jeff Kurtti

    Jay’s comment, “When a narration script is written, the creators have a certain tone in mind. There is absolutely nothing unreasonable or unprofessional about asking the voiceover artist to go for that tone. There are as many ways to read a voiceover as there are variants of emotion, and any talent, no matter how much a big shot, should walk into that booth prepared to deliver any of them upon request.” This is absolutely true, but that is far different from giving an actor a word-for-word line reading. What I suggested is essentially what you said, “Discuss what you want and need, involve them in understanding what you’re trying to do, and encourage their participation.” And Rikki, you should know–this person didn’t ask for a few takes, which would have really been the way to roll things along, but kept popping on the booth mike with “Uhhhhhhh…” which is REALLY what got things going. Every actor is different, but each one needs to be in a situation of comfort and respect in order to meet expectations, or exceed them. I think the point of this whole tale was to show how, more and more often these days, people with no real aptitude for things creative are constantly being stuck in positions where some erudition, experience, and skills would be minimally expected. “That was fine. On the next take, could you do it better?”

  • RODAN

    I work in Television and deal with talent everyday… This is just so spot on.. you don’t mess with a veteran. Some fresh green former intern? Yeah sure.. But Captain Kirk? Are you kidding me? What was this a PSA? I’m sure… A multiaward winning, Emmy winning 40 year veteran can’t handle it, RIGHT? I bet the water cooler someone at that agency is bubbling…

  • http://www.rikkisimons.com Rikki Simons

    I see what you mean, Jeff. Maybe I’m wrong. Shatner’s so relentless in this I think I just focus past the “Uhhhhhhh….” and listen wide-eyed and stunned at his bravado. But still, regardless, no one but someone like him, with legendary status, can get away with this without repercussions. On Invader ZIM, the creator, Jhonen Vasquez never allowed the producers into the sound record with us. They tried to get the casting director in there with us in the beginning but even she was politely chased out. We were cancelled half way through the second season, and it wasn’t because the show wasn’t any good. Producers just really hate to give up control, but despite our show’s short life I’m glad Jhonen stood his ground, because I really love what we were able to squeeze out of our short time. It seems the only way to make something good these days is to engage in some kind of guerrilla warfare.

  • http://www.goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    Bravo, Shatner. I don’t think he’s being a jerk by any means, he’s proving a good point, and doing so with a smile and maybe just a little sarcasm, but I don’t think he’s out to get this guy. What Shatner is saying is that if the director doesn’t know exactly what he wants, the actor can’t do it. I though every reading Shatner did was good in this clip, even the “imitation” of the director…yet nothing satisfied this guy, since he didn;t know what WOULD satisfy him.

    It reminds me of the story about Friz Freleng and producer Edward Selzer over the pairing of Sylvester and Tweety, for “Tweetie Pie”. Selzer had a different idea of how the cartoon should be…using a woodpecker from a previous Sylvester short. Friz wanted to use Tweety, and the argument got heated enough that Friz handed Selzer his pencil and some paper, said “here, draw it then”, and walked home.

    Selzer called him back, left him alone, and the cartoon won an Academy Award. Not to mention that it spawned a series of cartoons that has been making Warner Bros. truckloads of money ever since. Selzer even accepted the award at the Oscars, I believe…tha consarn idgit!

  • greg manwaring

    I love outtakes like that! Does anyone have any stories of working with him on Osmosis Jones?

  • David Burd

    This is a day at the beach compared to some of the sessions I’ve endured. I had a producer tell me “That sucked. Do it again” after my first take. After my second he said, “What are you, a fag? Do it again.” It went on this way through 60 takes.

    When it came time to select the best performance and edit the track, the engineer said, “How can you pick one? They’re all the same!” The producer forced him to listen to 60 takes and patch together “the best.” It was, “give me the beginning from take 23 and the end of take 6.”

    I’m not sure if that means the producer was rude and demanding or if I was just terrible as a voice actor.

  • http://www.brilliantisland.com Robert Holmén

    Obviously the producer was in over his head, but would it have cost Shatner anything to draw on his years of experience to come up with an alternate reading of the line? Some talents forget they are part of a production not the whole.

    One of my college film teachers told of how he was directing a documentary and the producers had gotten their friend (Oscar-winner) Mercedes McCambridge to do the VO narrations “for free”. He found he could only get one take out of her. If he asked her to do another take in a different manner she always sabotaged it in some way, like a cough or a page turn, to make it unusable. (This was long before digital editing.)

  • Vincent Waller

    I have many times had to give actors a line read. The only rule of thumb I’d suggest is, Know what you want.

  • http://www.clenchandcheese.com Josh Carrollhach

    That was hilarious. Obviously, Shatner proved the guy was a bonehead and, while icily polite, made a fool of him. I’m sure that when Brad Bird was reading Frozone lines to Sam Jackson he was doing a hella nice job (his scratch audio for Edna was so good that it was retained for the film, remember). The producer of this commercial was incompetent, offering that Robert Townsend Hollywood Shuffle-style of direction (“Can you be more black?”). The Orson Welles piece was about the script… he thought that it was poorly written and had a tantrum.
    Shatner is an icon, remember, and is known by all for his wooden and stuffy delivery. Watch the Star Trek where he recites the preamble to the Constitution for a reminder of that. As a voice actor, though, he’s dreamy: rich, booming and commanding.
    By the by, was this something for the Discovery Channel? Was Patrick Stewart unavailable?

  • KW Lovell

    I spent some time looking for this. AWESOME!! Thanks.

  • Kevin

    The producer/engineer guy had good intentions, poorly executed. Shatner’s first take was lame and flat…especially when you consider this is Captain Kirk we’re talking about here. Shatner was probably walking out of the session with a six-figure paycheck and was still so damn bored he felt the need to ream some schmuck earning grocery money.

  • Jon

    Shatner’s first take sounded warm and inviting to me, and his second one sounded appropriately tweaked to suit the director’s request. The point is not that the director had a certain “tone” in mind, the point is that they wrote the script FOR Shatner to BE Shatner. That’s the ridiculous thing, and that’s why Shatner laughed from the beginning.

    Asking the director to line-read it for him was an invitation to the director to make a public jack-ass of himself, and that guy took the invitation willingly. A professional director would not THINK of line-reading for any performer he had cast, let alone an iconic performer like Shatner.

    Shatner gave him what he deserved (AND what he asked for).

  • http://www.puppetaday.blogspot.com Jon From Elmwood

    I know this is an old post, but I just stumbled on it… Man, Shat is always awesome… I would love to work with him just so he could give me what for when my head gets big, hahaha