There is a long-held superstition among the people who make--and watch--"Star Trek" films, one that, oddly enough, history seems to bear out: The even-numbered films will be winners and the odd-numbered one will be duds. But that's not the only reason the vibe is so positive on the set of "Star Trek: Nemesis." Yes, this is the 10th movie in the "Trek" canon and the fourth to
feature the cast of the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the actors gathered on soundstage 16 at Hollywood's Paramount Studios feel that they are more than just numerologically blessed.
Without exception, they say that "Nemesis"--written by John Logan, the hotshot Hollywood scribe who shared an Oscar nomination for 2000's "Gladiator"--could be the best big-screen "Trek" ever. And it could also be the last.
On the set, director Stuart Baird positions Next Generation regular Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf) and Brent Spiner (Data) at the bottom of a tall, wide, elegant staircase--something Fred Astaire might dance across--for a sequence in which the U.S.S. Enterprise-E crew will come face-to-face for the first time with the film's arch-villain, Shinzon. The scene is a twisted little riff on a very famous movie moment--the one in which Dorothy and her pals first encounter the great and powerful Oz.
But Shinzon is no silly charlatan. He is a genetically bred psychopath, a clone of Picard created by the Romulans to one day take Picard's place and wreak mass destruction on Earth. Well, that was the original plan, anyway, The Romulans later signed a peace accord with the Federation, and Shinzon--who was banished to the slave planet Remus--is now mad as hell and not gonna
take it anymore. He plans to reunify Romulus and Remus, commandeer the Neutral Zone and bring the Federation to its knees. There's just one hitch: Though some 25 to 30 years younger than Picard, Shinzon is dying, due to an accelerated aging process that was a necessary aspect of the cloning. In fact, he needs Picard's blood to survive.
Back to the set. Baird sends Tom Hardy, the British newcomer ("Black Hawk Down") who plays Shinzon, to the top of the stairs and offcamera. Hardy is followed by Ron Perlman, star of the old TV series Beauty and the Beast, who plays Shinzon's Nosferatu-like henchman, known as the Viceroy. As the scene begins, the highly theatrical Shinzon, dressed in a long, sleek coat of metal and rubber with shoulder pads that Joan Crawford would have killed for,
makes his entrance and surveys the Enterprise-E crew like a cobra hovering over field mice. Shinzon is sly, sarcastic, seething with rage. He casts aspersions on Picard's height. He makes an overt pass at Troi.
After four or five takes of dialogue, Baird calls for a break ....
Sirtis swears she didn't care what she was given to do in the film ("and they know that," she says, "which makes me a real idiot, I guess"), but as it turns out, "Nemesis" is a particularly juicy opportunity for her. Word is that Troi, who is an empath, is psychically raped by the Viceroy but later gets splendid revenge....According to the set buzz, "Nemesis" is full of life passages, including the funeral of a major character. The film kicks off with a wedding reception for Troi and Riker (guests include such former Next Generation characters as Guinan, played by Whoopi Goldberg, and Wesley, played by Wil Wheaton). Geordi La Forge (LaVar Burton) finally links up with Dr. Leah Brahms (Susan Gibney) something hinted at in the Next
Generation series finale. Voyager's Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) has officially been promoted to Admiral--foreshadowed in the Voyager series finale--and it is she who sends Picard on the mission that is central to the film's action. (Voyager's Jeri Ryan declined an offer to revive her Seven of Nine character.)
"Nemesis" also deals heavily with Picard's advancing age....And it will end with several members of the Enterprise-E crew--including Troi, Riker and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden)--going separate ways.
"I think 'Nemesis' is the most cerebral and the most emotional of all 10 'Star Trek' films," says Spiner, whose android character, Data, becomes involved in a heart-tugging story line involving the fate of his sweet, childlike doppelganger (a newly found android named B-9). Will
"Nemesis" be even more emotional....the screenplay has been fashioned in such a way "that this could be the last time we see Picard,” admits Logan. "In fact, this story could conclude the Next Generation cycle of 'Star Trek' altogether. Or not. It could also be a new beginning for some of the characters."
Either way....If this is Picard's swan song, it's a doozy. Few actors, after all, have the chance to play a character in the throes of a midlife crisis who must simultaneously confront his much-younger self....in "Nemesis" Picard will put the pedal to the metal in a jeep race on the planet Kolarin III. And he has a blast. "That's something he's never done," says Stewart of the childless, wifeless, joyless Picard. "We've never seen him really having fun, fully enjoying an experience just for the sake of the experience."
The need for such unique moments extended to other cast members. Dorn, who admits that he nearly took a pass on "Nemesis" for both salary and story line reasons, says he "fully understood that this film would heavily focus on Patrick and Tom and Brent and his new Data, but I wanted at least one interesting thing to do." In the end, he got two. Says Dorn: "Riker and Worf have a great physical sequence--it's always cool to see them in a shoot-'em-up--and Worf gets drunk as a skunk at the wedding and gets a bad hangover. It'll make the fans happy.
HOLLYWOOD, December 11, 2001 — "Star Trek: Nemesis" has begun principal photography, filming primarily on soundstages and locations in Southern California. The fourth motion picture featuring the cast of the Emmy-winning television series Star Trek: The Next Generation created by Gene Roddenberry, "Star Trek: Nemesis" is produced by Rick Berman and directed by Stuart Baird. The screenplay is written by Oscar®-nominated John Logan ("Gladiator" and the 2002 release "The Time Machine") from a story by Logan & Berman & Brent Spiner. Marty Hornstein serves as executive producer and unit production manager, Peter Lauritson serves as co-producer and Jeffrey L. Kimball ("Mission Impossible 2") is director of photography. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc.
Reprising their starring roles as the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Commander William T. Riker), Brent Spiner (Lieutenant Commander Data), LeVar Burton (Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Commander Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer), and Marina Sirtis (Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi, Counselor).
On their way to celebrate the wedding of First Officer Will Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew are suddenly diverted for an unexpected diplomatic mission to the planet Romulus. Longtime enemies of the Federation, the Romulans have expressed their desire to initiate negotiations that will hopefully lead to a long-awaited unity in the galaxy. But upon their arrival on Romulus, the Enterprise crew is faced with a threat that could lead to the destruction of the planet Earth, and Picard comes face to face with a man who may prove to be his most dangerous adversary yet … and surprisingly personal nemesis.
Stuart Baird previously directed the political thriller "Executive Decision" starring Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal, as well as the follow-up to the Academy Award®-winning "The Fugitive," "U.S. Marshals" starring Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes. Producer Rick Berman continues to guide the Star Trek universe after producing "Star Trek Generations," "Star Trek: First Contact" and "Star Trek: Insurrection." He was executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the co-creator/executive producer of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Berman is also currently producing the "prequel" series Enterprise, which he co-created as well.
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". . . .at this point it's not like I have hundreds and hundreds of choices. I avoided sci-fi as long as I could. I'd rather be working than not working, so if it's sci-fi, then I'll do it!"
She'll be doing it next year, in the eagerly awaited 10th STAR TREK movie. "I just can't wait," says Marina. "I'm really excited about the whole thing." Rick Berman has said the story is going to be "a whopping good tale" and "a lot more grand in scale" this time; is Marina going to be upset if Troi doesn’t get quite so much to do? "I just want to be in it!" she says. "If we're talking galactic and battles, it's bound to be more the boys. I know that sounds a little sexist -- that girls can be involved in battles too -- but the genre does tend to suit males better. And you've just got to be realistic; Patrick is the star of the show and then it's Brent, and they pay those guys the most money. They're not going to pay them and have them sitting in their trailers! For me it's not about how big my part is; it's about meeting up with all my buddies again."
The next Star Trek film will inject some new creative blood into the mix with the addition of John Logan as the primary screenwriter. Logan's previous film credits include "Bats" (1999) and work on the screenplays for "Any Given Sunday" and "Gladiator," as well as last year's acclaimed TV movie "RKO 281."
In terms of the next film, Star Trek Executive Producer Rick Berman recently told the Star Trek Communicator magazine fans can expect "a very action-oriented story that revolves around a remarkable villain. A higher percentage of this film will take place in outer space than in our previous films."
"Star Trek X" (tentative title) is scheduled for release the weekend of Thanksgiving 2001.
(July 8, 2000) STAR TREK UPDATE with Executive Producer Rick Berman from Star Trek Communicator #129
2001 The Year of Star Trek!
Star Trek Update: with Executive Producer Rick Berman
What is currently happening on the new motion picture?
We completed our story for the film and submitted it to the studio. We're waiting for a "go ahead" to start on the script. The storyline revolves around The Next Generation crew.
Would you describe the next film as more epic in scale than prior films?
Well, we've never done a film where I wouldn't say to you "this is going to be the biggest and the best." And this one is no different. We have a writer who has never done Star Trek before and has an extremely fresh approach. We're dealing with a story that's poignant in ways that I wish I could tell you. It's a very action-oriented story that revolves around a remarkable villain. A higher percentage of this film will take place in outer space than in our previous films. It is tentatively scheduled for Thanksgiving of 2001.
So next year is going to be a busy year for Star Trek?
The fall of 2001 could very well see a new series and a Next Generation movie literally coming out within a few months of each other.
This must be an exciting time with all of these new projects in the works.
I am at a stage now where I'm chomping at the bit to come into work each morning because of the fun I'm having with the development of the movie and the new series. I can't wave Ken Biller's flag enough on the job he's doing with Voyager. There is nothing that would excite me more than to be able to tell you in rambling detail about both of our new projects, but I'll have to hold my tongue until the powers-that-be say it's time.
Rick Berman Interviewed in Star Trek: The Magazine (July 2000)
The new millennium is a busier time than ever for Rick Berman, STAR TREK's executive producer, with a new show and a new movie in the pipeline as well as the final season of STAR TREK: VOYAGER.
All of STAR TREK's fans have been eagerly discussing the possibilities for the next movie and for a new show. Right now, it's too early to be specific, but Rick Berman is happy to talk about the kind of thing we can look forward to.
The next movie
Things are also moving on to the next feature film. "There's hopes that we'll have a movie for Thankgiving of 2001," says Rick. "We are in the early stages of writing and we still have a number of potential obstacles between now and the film being ready for that period, but hopefully those will be ironed out, and we'll be getting to work. We have a wonderful story, and hopefully we'll go into production in the spring."
Interestingly, a writer who is new to STAR TREK has been brought on board to work on the screenplay, but his name had not been released at the time of going to press. "The motion picture division of Paramount will announce it," says Rick. "It's someone who I can happily say is an A-list writer with some major movies that are in various stages of pre-release and pre-production to his credit. We've very excited about having some fresh blood in to develop our script."
Looking back on the previous two films, Rick is taking some lessons forward. He says, "I would say that if there was one thing we learned from the last movie, it was that the next one needs to have a little more of a sense of adventure and for us just to be telling a whopping good tale, and to have something that's perhaps a drop less serious when it comes to Picard's character and the need for him to find himself in an emotional crisis as he was in the last picture. The story that we're developing here is I think a lot more fun and a lot more grand in scale, and we have some wonderful villians: villians more in the character of FIRST CONTACT than the other two movies we've done."
As the man in charge, Rick is involved in every single element of the shows and movies. How does he square his responsibilities and the production team's creative thinking with the demands of the fans and the constant rumors? "I'd love to say that I put them to one side completely, but you can't" he says. "It's like when a lawyer in a trial says something and the jurors hear it and the judge strikes it from the record; it's still been heard. We listen to what we hear from the fans--the core fans and the broader group of fans--and also we learn about the rumors, and we don't entirely ignore them. We can't entirely ignore them.
"I think that because this is the first time in seven years that we've had only one STAR TREK show on the air, and because that show is going to be going off the air in another year, and because there's not going to be a movie in the year 2000 as there was in '94 and '96 and '98, it breeds a very ripe environment for rumors. They're annoying in the sense that so many of them are completely fabricated, and they're always accompanied by 'I know that the following is true from an insider . . . ' or 'I know from a high ranking person at Paramount' or 'within the STAR TREK organization.' And then you read stuff that is completely made up.
"It's usually humorous; sometimes there are wisps of truth in it, sometimes they're taking things completely out of other contexts and its completely mixed up--they'll have a television pitch rumored as being the next movie, or the next movie pitch will be somehow incorporated into some previous rumors about the television series. So we try to take it in our stride!"
Vision of the future
Rick is very aware, however, of the torch he has to carry: that of Gene Roddenberry's concept of the future. He says, "I would like to think that the new show will come much closer to Gene's vision of what STAR TREK is all about than either of the two previous series. I would say it will come back to a level equal to NEXT GENERATION when it comes to Gene's vision of the future." So the fans' ideals should be safe, and we're all hoping for announcements very soon of what STAR TREK will bring us in its fifth series, and its landmark 10th movie.
(May 2, 2000) STAR TREK UPDATE with Executive Producer Rick Berman from Star Trek Communicator #128
New Series in Holding Pattern While New Film Progresses
How is the next movie progressing?
I am actually beginning work on the story of the new film this week with a new writer that I can't reveal just yet. He is a non-Trek writer and someone you've probably heard of. There are a lot of variables between this step and this movie going forward but we are taking it one step at a time. We have a general idea of a story and a writer that I think is great.
Is your plan still to make this a Next Generation movie?
I'm still optimistic that it will be a Next Generation film but, again, there are a lot of variables involved before that will happen. We have to wait and see.
Are you still tentatively shooting for a Christmas of 2001 release for the film?