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Stardate 0012.18: The Gossip Column

The latest skinny on Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Jeri Ryan and more.

By Michelle Erica Green     December 18, 2000

It's been something of a slow week for Star Trek news, since Star Trek: Voyager is racing toward it's holiday break and the show's in reruns through December. But that doesn't mean the actors aren't busy coming out with new movies, making plans for next year and chatting with interviewers about their work. Here's what some of them are currently up to. Many thanks to TrekToday, TrekWeb and Star Trek Central for pointing out links to various articles mentioned herein.

Patrick Stewart

The newlywed actor who plays both Trek's Captain Picard and The X-Men's Professor X will co-star with comedienne Mercedes Ruehl in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a drama best known for the film version in which Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play feuding couple George and Martha. The play will open at the Guthrie Theater in late February.

Ruehl won an Academy Award in 1992 for The Fisher King and a Tony Award in 1991 for Lost In Yonkers. Her theatrical resume can rival Stewart's list of Royal Shakespeare Company credits. Stewart recently starred in Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan and caused controversy when he complained that the Shubert Organization had not done enough to promote the play, prompting the threat of sanctions that later caused Stewart to apologize. David Esbjornson, who directed The Ride Down Mount Morgan, will direct Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf as well.

William Shatner

The incomparable Captain Kirk stars in Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock, who plays an FBI agent working undercover as a beauty pageant contestant. The film opens in the U.S. this weekend. Shatner plays Stan Fields, the aging, vapid host of the Miss United States pageant, under the thumb of a controlling pageant supervisor played by Candice Bergen. The cast also includes Benjamin Bratt as another agent and Sir Michael Caine as a beauty and fashion consultant.

Shatner sings, dances and tells terrible jokes in a performance that's partly a parody of his own public image. At moments his character sounds uncannily like his persona from his Priceline ads, merged with Bert Parks and Dick Clark. We first see Fields in a meeting with Gracie (Bullock) and Kathy (Bergen), where he tries not to cringe as Gracie demonstrates her unsuitability to stand in for a beauty queen. Later he watches in horror as Gracie disrupts a talent show by demonstrating skills not generally seen among Miss America types.

In his most memorable moment, Shatner continues to sing the Miss United States theme song while chaos erupts onstage during the crowning of the winner. He appears utterly befuddled at the idea that he should be doing anything but continuing to perform. Picture Kirk single-mindedly lecturing the Klingons in 'Day of the Dove' while the alien tries to stir up troubleyou'll get the picture.

Enjoying a resurgence of popularity, Shatner has appeared recently as The Big Giant Head on television in Third Rock From the Sun and as 'himself' (a middle-aged drunken womanizing exaggeration thereof) on film in Free Enterprise. He has also written and collaborated on several books, including a new novel in his series about Kirk's life after Star Trek: Generations.

Shatner has also enjoyed visibility as a pitch man for Priceline.com, though the status of that role is currently unclear. After a Monday The New York Post article reported that Shatner would no longer appear in commercials for the struggling Internet company, the Associated Press cited a Tuesday Priceline denial that Shatner had stepped down as their spokesman.

The Priceline ads, in which Shatner sings in his unmistakable half-spoken style, helped launch the actor back to prominence. But the Post speculates that Shatner might not want his name associated with a failing company, and TrekToday notes that Priceline is no longer mentioned in the official biography on Shatner's Website.

Alexander Siddig

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Dr. Bashir is also starring in a current movie, the mountain climbing adventure Vertical Limit. In its first week of release, the Sony-Columbia film opened in second place behind How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but managed to outpace action-thriller Proof of Life despite that film's star power.

Vertical Limit tells the story of Peter Garrett (Batman and Robin's Chris O'Donnell), a young mountaineer who stops climbing after a family tragedy. But after his sister becomes trapped on K2 with the ambitious leader of her summit team, he mounts a rescue mission. When Garrett asks for volunteers to assist him, Siddig's character Kareem Nazirwhose brother is missing on the mountainagrees to accompany him on the dangerous trek above 26,000 feet to try to blast the team free from a crevasse.

In this tale of family commitment, Siddig plays a small but crucial role, accompanying one of two Australian brothers on the climb and helping the other man cope when tragedy strikes again. He looks scruffier than we've seen him on Star Trekat least, since we saw the alternate Julian Bashir in 'Through the Looking Glass'and speaks with a Pakistani accent. In his most memorable moment, Nazir prays to Mecca while his climbing partner paces impatiently, asking whether it's really necessary. Nazir looks pointedly at the volatile explosives they are carrying, changing the mind of his skeptical colleague.

Tom McLaren, the guide for the imperiled away team, is played by The X-Files' Nicholas Lea (Krycek), so genre fans get a double dose of popular, under-used television actors. Both men give impressive performances and (if you will forgive me for saying so) greatly enhance the eye candy factor for audience members. In its first weekend, Vertical Limit did very well with both male and female audience members, suggesting the film may have legs and will do well over the winter holidays. That should mean good news for the careers of both Lea and Siddig.

Siddig's official Website reports that both HBO's First Look and E!'s Behind the Scenes have features on Vertical Limit during the month of December, so fans who get cable may want to check local listings. The Vertical Limit official Website contains more information on production, plus an ungodly number of pop-ups offering Webcasts and screen savers.

Siddig's official Website, announced the week before last that the actor's next project will be on the other side of the camera. He plans to direct a television pilot about Queen Boadecia, who led the Iceni against the Romans in ancient Britain (Xena fans will remember a version of the character from that series' alternate history). Siddig, who directed episodes of Deep Space Nine, is currently writing and working on pre-production for the series, which is scheduled to begin filming in Scotland in March.

Siddig promises Star Trek Monthly that he intends to stay in touch with Trek fans. He and his wife, Nana Visitor, continue to appear at conventions. 'We love doing it together 'cos it's so much easier. You can just palm it off to the wife!' he laughs. Like many other former Trek stars, Siddig feels that the franchise could use a break before launching a fifth series, but adds that he thinks Bashir might appear again someday. 'Especially if Mr. [Colm] Meaney wants to get involved,' he says, making reference to Bashir's friendship with long-time Trek stalwart Miles O'Brien. 'The double act will come again.'

Nana Visitor

Speaking of double acts...Visitor, whom everyone knows as Kira from Deep Space Nine, has also kept busy in the past year. After playing Roxy in a production of Chicago that had been on Broadway, she joined the cast of Golden Boy at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. Now that production, too, is being discussed as having the potential to move to New York.

The New Haven Register featured an interview with the actress in which she talks about her new role, as well as the difficulty of juggling work with her family. Visitor revealed that she turned down a role in the national touring company of Cabaret because the travel was too difficult, given that she has two young sonsone with Siddig, one with her former husband. But Golden Boy interested her because she liked the artistic risks taken by the director, Keith Glover.

In the play, Visitor plays Lorna Moon, the mistress of a boxing manager and the lover of a much younger boxer. She explains that the character's dubious morals make her a tough sell. 'You know right away an audience isn't going to emotionally like you. They may appreciate you; you hope you can get them to understand you.' Visitor is appalled by the racist hate mail she has received because her character falls in love with a black man: 'You don't choose who you love; you just love 'em.' Kira once said something similar about being in love with a shapeshifter.

Visitor finds Golden Boy timely and relevant, since it concerns a character trying to decide between getting rich as a boxer or following his dreams of medical school. She spent many years struggling as an actress. 'In TV, you can say, 'Hey, it was the producers...I hated it, but I did it for the money.' You do a show like this and people take hits at you. And you've got to humbly take it because it's not about the money.'

Though she is willing to play Roxy in Chicago again, and isn't old enough to play her dream roleMama Rose in GypsyVisitor would like her next project to be on Broadway, where 'there are a lot of good roles for women of my age.' She does not believe there will ever be a Deep Space Nine movie, but says no matter what, she'll be there if they do one, because Kira is in command of the station. 'I'm ashamed to say that that was really important to me, as was sitting in the captain's chair,' she tells the New Haven Register.

Visitor has done several interviews to promote the computer game Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, to which she contributed her voice. Still, she told the gaming site Stomped that the violence in computer games disturbs her. She would like to see a game enabling a player to experience the Bajoran Occupation. And she would love to see what would happen if a loose cannon like Kira were given a position of authority in Starfleet. 'It seems that no one has a problem living with the Prime Directive. I'd like to see someone struggle with it like she would, like a real loose cannon would.'

Sid and Nana share a fan club, Far Beyond the Stars, which does charity work and keeps fans informed of the pair's projects. Information can be found at the fan club's Website.

Jeri Ryan

TrekToday has posted a link to an interview with the actress who plays Seven of Nine from The Rebel Yell, the student newspaper of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The article focuses on Ryan's work in Wes Craven's Dracula 2000, opening Dec. 22. The film remakes and updates the classic horror story originally written by Bram Stoker.

In addition to a cast of lesser-known young actors like Jennifer Esposito, Sean Patrick Thomas and Gerard Butler, Dracula 2000 stars Christopher Plummerwell-known for his award winning performances as Hamlet, Macbeth and Oedipus along with many other parts. Of course, everyone reading this column knows him as General Chang from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Ryan calls it 'a thrill' to work with Plummer, of whom she has long been a fan; she finds him 'fascinating.'

Ryan also praises the diverse cast of Dracula 2000 and says the film would 'add a very cool, very unique twist to the origins of Dracula.' A fan of horror films more than science fiction, she labels her inclusion in the cast 'great and very flattering.' Ryan admits that although she has been fortunate to play Seven of Nine, she is 'looking for projects that'll break me out of what I've done for the past four years.'

Ryan has received some offers for next year since Voyager is wrapping up production, and would be interested in acting on a comedy. (Her recent performance in the episode 'Body and Soul,' in which she demonstrated a real flair for mimicry, ought to make that more likely.) She claims she will always take inspiration from Seven, particularly her strength, her intelligence and the fact that she's a role model for women.

Robert Beltran

Has Voyager's first officer gone bonkers, or was he just in a good mood the day he let SFX take a photo of him standing at the top of an escalator with his pants down around his ankles? I'm sure Beltran must be sick of the 'boxers or briefs' question that some woman always asks at conventions, but I never expected to see him answer it in such dramatic fashion.

Even stranger, in the interview that accompanies the photo, Beltran speaks affectionately about the cast of Voyager and only disses the writers a little bit. 'I'm all for keeping the fans happy,' he says, promising that if the producers want him to be in a Voyager film down the road, he'll do it. 'I've always said that this has been a good gig, and the fans have been very loyal to me. I appreciate them very much...I appreciate the fact that the fans of the show enjoy it. I don't put them down for it.'

Beltran thanked the fans for supporting charities, including Downs Syndrome, for which he raises money at the Galaxy Ball each year. (I've been told that the escalator photo was taken in the LA Airport Marriott as part of a shoot he did for the 1999 Galaxy Ball, and there was a previous photo with his pants on in an earlier issue of SFX.)

Beltran did say that although Trek tries to give the appearance of being sophisticated, 'it's all done with smoke and mirrors. The storylines are about as thin as the thinnest wafer you can possibly eat.' He also said he doesn't bother to give input to his character because they'd just change the percentage of damage to the shields or other ephemera.

The January issue of SFX is available in the UK. Fandom's Star Trek Central has a longer excerpt, while TrekWeb has a copy of the now-infamous pants photo.

John Savage

Captain Janeway's nemesis, Captain Rudy Ransom, appeared in only two Voyager episodes but fans widely agree he was unforgettable. Actor John Savage hasn't had much time to look backhe now plays ruthless Lydecker on Dark Angelbut he did speak to the official Star Trek magazine about his experiences on Voyager. 'I'm hoping he's not really dead, hut my friends keep telling me they don't think there's a chance!' laughs the actor, who calls himself a fan of Trek in general and Voyager in particular. 'They've had such great episodes for each one of the characters. Sometimes, simple things are made so wonderful you feel it's a kind of revelation.'

Savage felt as though he was in a company of theater people and particularly enjoyed his scenes with Kate Mulgrew, in which he said he discovered many levels of meaning between his character and hers. 'She was supportive enough to be there when I could open up a little bit and step out of myself or step out a little bit with the character. She is very open, and she is variable; she has colors, she'll move, she'll look, she'll change her attitude according to what's going on, and she'll say her piece. She creates an energy.'

Savage says he doesn't miss California while he's in Canada shooting Dark Angel, which is an opportunity he relishes. 'There are some really beautiful young kids and a brilliant script, but I'm the bad guy! They describe me as a kind of Darth Vader, and I'm not sure exactly how to take that.' (Deep Space Nine's Rene Echevarria has been working on Dark Angel as well.) Savage is under contract for the entire season, and hopes for a long run. Still he says of Star Trek, 'They've got a whole universe to explore...maybe they'll figure out how to bring me back!'

Jason Alexander and Ira Steven Behr

Voyager guest star and Seinfeld alumnus Jason Alexander has teamed with Deep Space Nine executive producer Ira Steven Behr to develop a science fiction show for CBS. The two are working with Eugene Tobin and Noreen O'Neill to write a one-hour pilot.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show will center on a detective who teams up with psychics to investigate paranormal activities. Sounds like it begs to be introduced by self admitted spokesman for the paranormal and fellow Trek alum Jonathan Frakes.

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