Don’t believe what they tell you: movie premieres are not glamorous, at least, not for the intrepid press who wait anxiously for the stars walking the red carpet. It’s premiere night for Tribeca Film Festival entry Match at the cavernous BMCC Tribeca PAC, where the chilly temperatures have reporters improvising tap routines to keep their toes from getting cold. All of the assembled photographers, camera crews, and correspondents are fenced in behind barricades that wouldn’t look out of place at an Occupy Wall Street rally. Scooby Doo’s Matthew Lillard and Watchmen’s Carla Gugino costar in the character driven film, but the crowd is mostly anticipating the inimitable Sir Patrick Stewart, whose performances as Star Trek’s Picard and X-Men’s Professor Xavier, not to mention his Shakespearean acting chops, have earned him a permanent place in the culture. The cast and director take their time arriving, and a Canadian reporter mentions Stewart’s tendency to be nonchalantly late. “There’s ‘drag time,’” I offer. “Maybe there’s also such a thing as ‘Sir time’?” This quip does little to distract me from my anxiety over my mission. I’m here to talk to Sir Patrick Friggin’ Stewart, a veritable god among geeks. Heck, my own father likes to quote Star Trek: First Contact-- “The line must be drawn *heerah*!”—at least once a week.
When Stewart does approach me, last but certainly not least from the cast, I’m initially caught off guard by his responses. I tell him that Geeks Out is honoring his dear friend Ian McKellen with “a benefit art show.”
“Why does he need a benefit?” he asks.
“They’re doing a tribute event because of how much they love him and his place in the culture,” I explain.
“Are you giving him money?” he asks, and I realize this is one sharp, funny man.
“I think he has enough,” I laugh.
“Are you gonna ask me to give him money?” Stewart asks.
“Definitely not, I think you’ve given him enough,” I reply.
“I hope so,” Stewart says, and digs into his pocket before producing three coins. “Because, I got… 75 cents here.” The assembled reporters burst into raucous laughter.
“I don’t think he needs it,” I say.
“So what was your question?” Stewart inquires. I manage to say that Geeks Out would like some words about McKellen or perhaps an indication of what’s next for the duo following their appearance in Broadway’s Waiting For Godot and No Man’s Land and this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
“Oh, we have secret plans,” Stewart declares. “And I miss him, I haven’t seen him for three weeks, but I’ll be in London shortly and I’ll see him then.”
Earlier Stewart’s co-star, the radiant Carla Gugino, comes over to the Canadian fellow next to me. “If I propose marriage to her, hit me over to the head,” he’d told me. He gets through the interview proposal-free, and I get to speak with her next. I tell her she’s become something of a geek icon thanks to her roles in Sin City, Watchmen, and Spy Kids, and she seems flattered and amused.
“What draws you to the sci-fi and fantasy genres?” I ask.
“I like all genres,” she says. “I gravitate towards characters, I gravitate towards interesting filmmakers and the truth is I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and I’ve kind of covered a lot of things and I have so many more I want to do.” Then she says something that warms this fanboy’s heart: “I’m a geek. If a geek is qualified as somebody who is passionate about what they love . . . that’s the true nature of an artist.”
“Everybody’s a geek for something,” I say.
“Yeah, totally,” Gugino enthuses. Then the actress, dressed in a stunning black and white dress accessorized with a gleaming gold purse, excuses herself. “I have to go find my coat.” Even movie stars, it turns out, get cold sometimes.
When I ask Matthew Lillard, known for playing Scooby Doo’s Shaggy and for his roles in a smattering of films in the late 90s (Wing Commander, anyone?), if he has any thoughts on Wes Craven’s groundbreaking Scream nearly twenty years on, he takes a long moment to reflect.
“You know I choose not to think about it much,” he says finally. “Everyone’s always like, what about Scream, what about Scream? In your life and on social media, everyone’s holding on to that movie. But we as people continually go past something.”
Lillard explains that he’s been queried about a number of his early films recently; John Water’s Serial Mom celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, and he costarred with the late Paul Walker in the teen rom com She’s All That. “I look back on my life and you sort of love all those little gems, so it’s like looking back on your ex-girlfriends before you marry your wife,” he muses. “And you kind of loved them for what they were and the moment they were, and you appreciate it now more than you did when you were in the moment. Make sense?”
It does, even to someone with ex-boyfriends and not ex-girlfriends. Lillard’s devotion to his iconic costar Stewart makes even more sense. When the elder actor chats with an adorable group of high school kids filming interviews for a public access TV program, Lillard interrupts by putting his arm around him. “I just want you to know, I work for this man,” he deadpans. “I am a squire for Sir Patrick in the kingdom of Stewart. So I know you’re in high school, but if you mess with him I will run a pike through your head.” Stewart takes a moment before he adds a comment, delivered with the confidence and wit of someone who’s been around the block and loves to play with people’s expectations. He says simply, “You’d better back off.” And then he grins and makes his way into the theater.
Photos by Paul Zimmerman, Wire Image.
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