-Noordwijk- 19 April 2002.
Being a very big fan of Star Trek, I managed to arrange for myself to be present at the press conference Patrick Stewart (known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation) gave in Noordwijk.
Patrick Stewart (61), an actor who has a lot of movies and theatrical plays on his CV. Besides Star Trek, Patrick Stewart is an actor in a lot of Shakespeare plays, one of his biggest passions. He has been on stage 26 years before he became Captain Picard.
Patrick was due to arrive at 10 o’clock, but the good man had the opportunity to experience real Dutch traffic, which means, traffic jams. But he managed to arrive after all with fans cheering at him, and after he gave a short introduction of himself and Star Trek, the press conference got underway.
The last time he was in The Netherlands was over 32 years ago. This was for a Shakespeare play (you could clearly tell that his hart still lays with Shakespeare, in the manner he spoke of his time with the theater). He retained some good memories about The Netherlands, he particularly likes Amsterdam and he arranged his schedule for the weekend of to be in Amsterdam this time. His wife, an American, has never visited The Netherlands before and they wanted to use the opportunity to shop and tour Amsterdam. So if you decide to visit Amsterdam this weekend, you might run into him! On Sunday afternoon he will depart for Paris to promote the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD box-set there.
After the introduction the questionnaire could begin, the first question from the audience was a good one for starters. Nemesis, the next Star Trek Motion Picture was the subject. Of course everybody wanted to know a little bit from the movie, so the question was if he could spoil us a little bit information. As always Paramount forbids their actors to reveal any information about the plot of the movie but Patrick is a nice guy so he told us a few things. Three weeks ago the scene recording ended and the editing has begun. In the new film there will be humor, excitement, a marriage and a tragedy never seen before in Star Trek. Also there will be a never before used concept in this movie, namely: Sex. The bad news is that it doesn’t involve Captain Picard.
The movie will also contain 3 main storylines, the entire Next Generation cast will be joined together once again and also guest stars on the show will be in this movie. You can think of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Wesley Crusher (Will Wheaton) for example. Nemesis will be a second Star Trek: First Contact, the movie Patrick & the rest of the cast think is their best production, an opinion I agree with. Also he revealed that the Enterprise-E has a new interior and doesn’t look like the flying version of the Holiday Inn anymore.
To the question in what matter Captain Picard became part of his life, Patrick managed to give a very extensive answer. He told that Captain Picard operates in a certain way, first he asks for the opinions of the crew and then makes a decision on his own to give an order. Patrick would like that people today consider that way of operation more closely, he referred to the current situation in Israel.
Patrick mentioned that he never seriously thought about plain Captain Picard 15 years ago. During the time of audition he just enjoyed what was happening and would just sit back and watch the results come in. When he was offered a contract, it wasn’t just for one year, but for no less than 6 years! At that time he didn’t think he would be able to do that, to be gone 6 years from the stage, no Shakespeare but Star Trek.
At that time, Everyone said to him he should go forward with Star Trek, because The Next Generation would never be able to replace The Original Series, so it would probably end after the first year. Today he and every fan with him know that it didn’t turn out that way.
Another question was asked about the amount of frustration that people see him more like a Star Trek character instead of a Shakespeare actor. He pointed out that nothing in life is easy and life itself is more like a job and the main goal is to please his fans.
Patrick came to The Netherlands to promote the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD Boxes. So a little attention was paid to that. In The Netherlands fans are more fortunate because in the United States the boxes are made of carton, here there is nice Trek-like box around them, the fans should feel pleased because of that.
Also each box contains parts of an interview that lasted for 4 hours, he and several other actors from The Next Generation and also some of the producers where interviewed for the DVD’s.
The box that contains the DVD’s themselves has a nice space painting on the back, if you put all boxes together you will have a nice circular painting.
Patrick appeared not to find this very interesting, he enjoyed telling stories and entertaining the press (that was made up of Star Trek fans, who talked their way into the press room, for a big part) better. But what needs to be done, needs to be done!
From the audience the next question was fired at Patrick. The question was about what Patrick thinks of fan’s that are trying to dress up like him or putting on Starfleet Uniforms. He thought that fan’s sometimes are really pushing the limit, such as shaving off their beautiful hair just to get a Picard-like look. But he just loves it on how fan’s express themselves about him and Star Trek.
Although in the beginning he did have some bad experience with the Starfleet Uniforms, for the first season the uniforms where made of spandex and they were really tight. The outfits caused a big strain on his back and also they were made of just 1 piece. After consulting with a doctor he talked about this to the producers and they retrofitted the entire wardrobe. The new suits however didn’t stick to his body as the spandex suit did. And the producers did insist that they look tight (sloppy dressing, means sloppy work). Therefore he had to straighten his uniform in the series, and the Picard Maneuver (as he called it) was born!
Patrick did mention that at one time he did got a little nervous from a small number of fans. During the premiere of Star Trek: Generations he arrived at the same time William Shatner (Captain Kirk) did. The fans where very enthusiastic, they came at them with barriers still in front of them. Except for that occasion he doesn’t get nervous from fans.
How did the difference between Captain Picard in the series and in the movies appear, was the next question. Patrick told that in the series there is more time to explore the different characteristics of a person then in a move. Although in Star Trek; Generations there was, according to him, too much psychoanalysis towards Captain Picard, and that shouldn’t belong on the big screen, this was best left for the series. In Star Trek: First Contact there was less character exploring as in Generations.
Before Patrick joined Star Trek, he didn’t know very much about science fiction. On that behalf he went to a store and bought some books about science fiction. He believed that it’s important to know something about the genre he was going to act in. Today he doesn’t even think about buying another science fiction book because when he enters a store and goes up to the science fiction section his own face is staring back at him from a lot of bookshelves.
He does enjoy watching science fiction movies, he actually played in another science fiction movie called “Dune” (He played the role of Gurney Halleck) in 1984, 3 years before Star Trek: The Next Generation was launched.
Besides all his other interests he is a big fan of Beavis & Butthead. His wife doesn’t want to know anything about that, knowing that one day she will inherit his entire collection. Patrick mentioned a show by Beavis and Butthead where they imitated Captain Picard and Commander Riker, he is very proud to have an original piece of footage of that show in his collection.
Not everyone asking Patrick questions understands that Star Trek isn’t a reality. A little while ago Patrick went for his first Formula 1 race, members of the press where asking him if the feeling of driving a Formula 1 car differs very much from piloting the Enterprise. With a big smile on his face he told us that he explained to the person who asked that question that The Enterprise doesn’t really move and nothing happens when the command “Engage!” is given. The Enterprise remains in the studio and doesn’t warp to any planet. But they kept asking him about it anyway.
Patrick did get to drive another vehicle for Star Trek: Nemesis, off-road vehicle. In the movie this will of course look like a 24th century version of this particular vehicle. In the opening of the movie Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn) and Picard (Patrick Stewart) land on an unknown planet from which they detected ‘posotronic signals’ (the real fans will know what this means). Once landed they have to travel by Off-road vehicle. Patrick enjoyed driving the car. He was allowed to do all but once scene with this car. Acting in Star Trek brings some nice extras!
The last, but most certainly not least, was mine. At the top of my list was the question what his favorite Shakespeare character is and which of the Shakespeare characters resembles Captain Picard. His first reaction was that he would have to give the second part of the question some thought.
Patrick didn’t really have a favorite character, he has played almost all of them except for Romeo, for some reason he was never casted for that role (he said with a big smile). Patrick also played a role in “King of Texas” (his first attempt at a Texas accent), that’s based on the Shakespeare play King Lear. During the recording Patrick was comparing both scripts very often, this to great annoyance of the director.
The second part of my question he was clearly giving it some thought, he squeezed his eyes a little. Finally he gave the answer; from the Shakespeare play “As you like it”, The Banished Duke resembles Captain Picard, because he uses the line “there is good in everything” something Captain Picard also always thinks of other (evil) beings.
Afterwards there was time for a photo shoot, something Patrick clearly didn’t look forward to. Also the lighting at the shooting location was very bad. I managed to get only 1 good picture. Fortunately outside where he was talking to the fans for only 10 minutes (that is very short if you ask me) , I managed to get some nice pictures. Patrick told some things about Star Trek and of course the DVD Box. Before Patrick went back inside, he told us that on the 1st of June the shooting for X-2 (the second X-men movie) will start.
After Patrick left Willem Goverde (Paramount NL) handed out some autographs. I was lucky to obtain one because it was like a free food giveaway.
In the end it was a very successful day for me. I met one of my idols, ask him a question and obtained an autograph! And of course the everlasting memory of this day!
Finally I wish to thank the people at Paramount NL, especially Willem Goverde and Anne van der Deijl for arranging that I could attend the conference and hopefully until next time!