Film

Lea Thompson on directing Star Trek: Picard and her plan to make a Howard the Duck sequel

Actor and director Lea Thompson reveals she’s pitched a Howard the Duck follow-up to Marvel and hopes her experiences directing Star Trek: Picard might help make it so

Howard the Duck

Studio Publicity Still from "Howard the Duck", which starred Howard the Duck and Lea Thompson © 1986 Universal Pictures File Reference # 32633 900THA Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Lea Thompson straddles three of the biggest entertainment franchises of all time.

She is perhaps most famous for playing Lorraine McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy. Remember, the mother who has a crush on her time-travelling son? And 47- and 77- year old versions of the character across the films.

Then she starred in an early Marvel Comics adaptation, which became one of the most infamous films of all time.

Before the MCU came to dominate cinema, there was the quackers attempt to bring Howard the Duck to the big screen in 1986.

Although it drew on a Marvel character and was produced by George Lucas, Howard the Duck failed to take off in quite the same way as Star Wars did, due to its incredibly bizarre tone and not so special SFX.

But over time, the film about the foul-mouthed fowl with its feathery sex scenes has become a cult favourite.

In recent years, Thompson has moved behind the camera. She directed two episodes of the second series of Star Trek: Picard, which has not long concluded. In the episodes she helmed, the crew happen to go back to their past, which is still our future, Los Angeles of 2024.

Star Trek is a big gig, but Thompson told The Big Issue why she really wanted to direct on the show.

“I actually went into Marvel with a pitch,” she said.

“That’s part of the reason I’ve been doing these big, special effects jobs. I want to prove to them that I could direct one of those movies.”

Thompson said that she’s surprised about how many people tell her that they still love watching Howard the Duck.

She continued: “I’d love to do, not a reboot of Howard the Duck, but a new version now that they have the technology that would make Howard the Duck much better.”

So what was the pitch she took to Marvel?

“I can’t tell you my pitch! Can’t do it, not doing it.”

But she confirmed that Marvel have some plan for the character who has already popped up in the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thompson said: “They don’t want any of those characters to go to waste. There’s just too much money to be made.”

Of course, another direct link between Star Trek and Marvel is Sir Patrick Stewart. Alongside Captain Jean-Luc Picard, his most famous character is X-Men leader Charles Xavier, who he played most recently in SPOILER ALERT!

Lea Thompson talked about what it was like to work with the acting legend and how a visiting director engages with characters and plots that have a history of decades.

She said: “I’ve acted a lot. So my first thing is that you don’t say ‘your character wouldn’t do that’. Then you’re dead.

“Like, I’m going to tell Sir Patrick Stewart, I don’t think that your character would do that?!

“It’s about creating a space that gives them the most fertile environment so that they can do the best job. Don’t wear them out with too many takes. Be an ally and a good audience, make them feel comfortable. That’s something I know a lot about since I’ve been working in the business for 40 years.

Thompson added: “What I got from Patrick was mostly just that some people are just stars. You put the camera on and you just can’t take your eyes off them.

“That’s who Patrick is. His voice is amazing. He has so many levels of delicious emotion that makes him just completely fascinating to watch.

“I enjoyed every minute of working with him. He’s got such a great sense of humour, such a sense of excitement about the day and about working with new young people. And he cares so much about the work. He wasn’t jaded one bit.”

Directing episodes of Star Trek was a dream come true for Thompson, especially because she got to address big issues.

“The little flaming liberal in me loved Star Trek when I was a little girl. I love that science fiction can use the future to talk about the present. And so I felt completely lucky to be able to talk about racism in America in Star Trek: Picard.”

Thompson directed the third and fourth episodes, in which Picard and his posse travel back in time. A new incarnation of a favourite character is also introduced.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Whoopi Goldberg played wise El-Aurian barkeep Guinan. In the LA of 2024 she’s played by Ito Aghayere.

Thompson said: “I had this new, beautiful, amazing actress and it was her first time on the show. I felt lucky to be able to be her advocate and to help her be comfortable with what she had to say. Because it was specific about racism and how she felt about it.

Whoopi Goldberg as the older version of Guinan and Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard. Photo Cr: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved.

“It’s a lovely time now where people are more respectful of how minorities are represented and care about their voices being heard. In my business, representation makes the story more interesting.

“Because a pretty white girl and a pretty white guy falling in love? We’ve seen that story a lot. It’s more interesting if the girl is a little heavyset, the guy’s East Indian.

“I feel lucky to be able to represent women and be an ally for other people that are marginalised.”

Lea Thompson appears in new romantic comedy Unplugging. The film stars Eva Longoria and Matt Walsh who play a could trying to reboot their marriage by cutting themselves off from technology.

Lea Thompson plays a prepper, who she describes as a grown up version of the character she played in Red Dawn. There will be more from Lea Thompson about that in The Big Issue magazine next week.

But until then… Star Trek: Picard leading to a Howard the Duck sequel? Make it so.

Unplugging is on Digital Platforms 13th June

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