Metroid Prime GameCube
Image: Zion Dood / Time Extension

If you've spent any time hanging around in gaming spaces online, there's a not-so-insignificant chance you may have encountered this incredible photo of Jason Alexander at the 2003 People's Choice Awards.

The photo depicts the Seinfeld star, with a GameCube controller in hand, staring angrily at a photographer who's hidden out of view. On the screen behind the actor is Metroid Prime, which the star had just been playing before being interrupted. Since first appearing online in the early 2000s, the photo has been shared extensively on Reddit, Twitter, and various other online forums, becoming the source of much amusement and confusion among video game fans.

Many wanted to know what Jason Alexander was doing playing Metroid Prime in the first place and why he seemed so annoyed at being asked for a photograph at that particular moment in time. So, not being one to let questions like this lie, Time Extension recently tried to get to the bottom of things.

Obviously, to start, our first step was to contact Alexander's agent but a short time after, we received a brief one-sentence reply from his publicist telling us, "I’m afraid he has no recollection of that photo". This obviously threw a bit of a spanner into our operation, but undeterred, we did the next best thing; we contacted the picture's photographer Lester Cohen to see if he could tell us more about this famous snap.

Cohen is a celebrity photographer who has been in the business for roughly forty years. In the early 2000s, he was one of the co-founders of WireImage, an online photo-sharing company that the visual media company Getty acquired in 2007. Speaking to him over a video call, our first question was whether he was aware that one of his photos had become so popular within the video game community.

He replied:

"When you wrote me, I was like ‘What?’ I had no idea. I’ve never seen that. Then again, I’m also not actively searching for games."

According to the photographer, the photo was taken in the gifting room of the People's Choice Awards in 2003. This is a room that you'll find at most award shows where brands leave products for celebrities to collect in the hope that a photographer will snap a picture and get the company some publicity through association. It seems that during the 2003 awards, Nintendo was one of the sponsors of the event, with the lounge set up with a couple of GameCube stands and guests being able to nab a free console and copy of Metroid Prime.

Anyway, while Cohen was doing the rounds, he spotted Alexander standing at the console and tried to get a quick snap of the celebrity promoting Nintendo, but just as he called out the actor's name he turned around and was not impressed in the least with being photographed in this manner. There have been some suggestions online that it might have been staged, but according to Cohen, that wasn't the case at all.

As he told us:

"I look at that photo now and I know he wasn’t happy. I can just tell. Here’s the thing about it: when you do these gifting lounges and the products that these people have, I’ve had Academy Award winning actresses where I feel stupid saying, ‘Could you please hold up this toothbrush for this sponsor?’

"They look at me like, ‘No’. You just feel like an idiot, but that’s your job. [The brands] want a photo with their product. More and more as the celebrities caught onto this, they wouldn’t even show up. They would just send their handlers in to gather everything up and take it to them, because they say it’s too embarrassing for them."

So there you have it! It seems like Jason Alexander's reaction was entirely genuine, and not something devised for the camera. But that just begs another question — did he end up grabbing a console for himself from the event? And did he ever wind up playing more of Metroid Prime in his own time? Hopefully, one day, we'll be able to find out.