The highlight panel for Friday at Star Trek Las Vegas was Sir Patrick Stewart who said he “loved” coming to the Vegas cons but can’t always do so as work keeps him away. His hour-long panel to a packed house covered a wide range of topics spanning his entire career, but a few moments related to his time starting (and ending) as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation really stood out.
Roddenberry ‘profoundly disagreed’ Stewart was right for Picard
When asked about his relationship with Star Trek: The Next Generation creator Gene Roddenberry, Stewart revealed:
Gene and I did not have a close relationship. We had a respectful relationship. Gene had very strongly felt that I was wrong for the role…I am told, and I don’t know the details, but there was a lot of warfare that went on in the producers offices about that.
Stewart also recalled how he was originally discovered by producer Robert Justman leading to a less than satisfying first meeting with Roddenberry.
I was invited up to Gene’s house one morning after I had been seen by Robert Justman on the stage at Royce Hall in UCLA. Justman discovered me. Apparently – and his wife claimed this was true – at some point during this scholarly, academic evening he turned to his wife and said “we found the captain.” Gene saw me the next morning and profoundly disagreed.
The actor noted that eventually Roddenberry was “worn down” and convinced to cast him for the role, and he added:
I got the feeling that he was ultimately kind of satisfied with how it turned out.
Becoming one with Picard, but mixing the tea
During the Q&A in response to a question about his favorite episode (“The Inner Light”), Sir Patrick opened up about how the line between himself and the character became blurred:
The thing is with Jean-Luc Picard, the longer I played him, the closer and closer I came to him and he came to me. It reached a point where I no longer had to sit in my trailer and think “OK, what did Jean-Luc have for breakfast this morning/” and “How does Jean-Luc feel about Commander Riker?” because I knew. It became ingrained so that my responses and behaviors on the set was one that was internalized. I knew him well. The character and the actor merged so totally so that I could not separate them at all.
However, he didn’t completely become Picard. When asked about his preference for tea he noted that he did differ somewhat with Picard’s favored choice:
Actually I do [like Early Grey]. What I like to do is mix Earl Grey tea with English Breakfast.
Proud to be Picard – but didn’t want it to dominate life
Stewart also talked about life after The Next Generation and how there was a downside to being so associated with the role of Picard (something he has also discussed before). He recalled the story of how it was due to Picard that he originally turned down the role of Professor Charles Xavier for the X-Men franchise:
Some of you may not like the sound of this but you have to see it from my point of view. It was a handful of years after Star Trek and the movies – and I was already experiencing that not everything that came out of my world of Captain Picard was good. I found that competing for other roles was challenging…I realized I had a little bit of a battle to fight to persuade people that I was not just Jean Luc-Picard. I am very proud to be Jean-Luc Picard, but I certainly didn’t need to have it dominate my life. So I said no. I am already struggling with one franchise, why would I take on a second franchise.
However, due to director Bryan Singer being a “smooth-talking bastard,” Stewart was persuaded to take on the role, which he has played in multiple films including this year’s Logan.
Never was to play Shinzon
During the Q&A portion a fan asked Stewart about a rumor that he was originally supposed to play the Picard clone Shinzon in the film Star Trek: Nemesis (in addition to playing Capt. Picard). Stewart quickly dispelled the notion:
I have never heard that before. It is news to me. [Star Trek: Nemesis producer] Rick Berman and I did discuss the casting of Shinzon. And hasn’t [Tom Hardy, the actor cast as Shinzon] done really well?…It would have been interesting but there would have been a problem that he was meant to be many years younger than me and I don’t know how we could have done that. It would have been difficult. It is an interesting concept, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable with it.
One last thing, at one point during the panel Sir Patrick delighted the crowd with a demonstration of the famed Picard Maneuver. We caught the moment during our live-tweeting.
#stlv @SirPatStew demonstrates the Picard Maneuver pic.twitter.com/BX8dVzGj1l
— TrekMovie.com (@TrekMovie) August 4, 2017
More Star Trek Las Vegas Coverage
Denise Crosby talks about her plan for ‘Trekkies 3’
Full videos from ‘Discovery’ actors and writers panels
Star Trek Online announces LeVar Burton to reprise his role as Geordi LaForge for game
Panel: Details and covers for first ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ novel and comic revealed
Interview: Sam Vartholomeos and Wilson Cruz
Interview: Mary Chieffo And Kenneth Mitchell
Panel: Actors Discuss Different Klingon Houses In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ + First Image of Kol Revealed
Panel: Writers Talk Technobabble, Timelines And How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is Telling Our War Story
Stay tuned for additional coverage coming all week long.
One hell of an actor!
Picard is easily still my favorite Captain. Its a shame Stewart never got an Emmy for playing him. Watching all the clips on youtube people have made with Picard shows just how great that character was.
He was good enough that he’s transcended genrations (no pun intended). He entered contemporary popular culture as much as Shatner’s Kirk did. My nieces know him from the Picard Facepalm meme.
Stewart turned out pretty perfect as Picard. Of course, we will never know what someone else might have done with the role.
It’s all moot at this point. I believe Roddenberry wanted Stephen Macht(?)as Picard, who would have played it broader, maybe more action-like. But Stewart did an excellent job.
I thought Macht was in consideration for the role of Riker.
Stewart is a very big reason for TNG’s survival in the first three years, I think. His shakeapearean background probably had a big part to play in his talent to lead a cast like he does in TNG.
If you ever have the chance, watch him in the 1976 BBC version of I, Claudius. He was very young (he had actual hair!), but he was already amazingly good.
Just a delight to watch
Steven Macht would no doubt have done well too, having seen him in other roles (aside from Krim in DS9, he’s been doing a recurring role as a Harvard law professor and, perhaps, mentor, to NYC lawyer Harvey Spector – played by his son, Gabriel Macht). But Patrick Stewart not only was great in the role, he was far better suited as something he rarely gets credit for – being an “ambassador” for Trek, a class act who is gracious with fans and, to a great extent, lives up to the ideals Trek tries to embody. Next Gen is lucky to have landed such a talent, both on and off stage.
Of course today they could CGI a younger Stewart with relative ease.
I don’t think its ‘easy’ to cgi anyone. There is a difference between it can be done with ease and it can be done, but it is not easy or cheap to do it.
Tarkin in Rogue One likely cost a lot of money, effort and time to achieve. It looks very good, still not convincing to be utterly seemless, with a flesh and blood actor though. I think we are still ten years or more away from that kind of CGI.
Check this interview with Steven Macht out at 21 minutes… How Macht met Dorothy Fontana and how Roddenberry used the Bible to try to convince Macht to be Picard… Interesting confluence….
Whew! sure glad Sir Patrick got the part instead.
Macht did have that “continental” look Roddenberry may have sought — the dark eyes, hair, and aquiline nose … he was pretty good-looking. But the minute he opened his mouth he would have spoiled that impression!
Just thinking about Patrick Stewart’s delivery of lines, his posture, the sound of his voice, the authority in his tone … he made a *great* captain.
Roddenberry should have gone with his gut.. This guy sucked.
Nothing against the French but I always thought they should have changed The Captain’s background to British. Am I the only one???