07 April 2018

Patrick Stewart

The career of English actor Patrick Stewart (1940) has included roles on stage, television, and film in a career spanning almost six decades. The unknown Shakespearean actor suddenly became famous as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the American TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and its successor films. Another well-known role was Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men series of superhero movies.

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991)
American postcard by Classico San Francisco, no. 105-485. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991).

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek Generations (1994)
American postcard by Classico San Francisco, no. 105-352. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Generations (David Carson, 1994).

A traumatic experience

Patrick Stewart was born in 1940 in Mirfield, in Yorkshire, England. His parents were Gladys (née Barrowclough), a weaver and textile worker, and Alfred Stewart, a regimental sergeant major in the British Army. He has two older brothers, Geoffrey and Trevor.

Stewart grew up in a poor household with domestic violence from his father who suffered a post-traumatic stress disorder. This experience later influenced Stewart's political and ideological beliefs. Stewart attended Crowlees Church of England Junior and Infants School, where his English teacher stimulated him to perform. In 1951, aged 11, having failed the eleven-plus examination, he entered Mirfield Secondary Modern School, where he continued to study drama.

At the age of 15, Stewart left school to work as a junior reporter on a local paper; he quit when his editor told him he was spending too much time at the theatre. At the age of 18, he lost his hair, a traumatic experience which made him more timid. For him, acting served as a means of self-expression. Stewart spent a year as a furniture salesman, saving cash to attend drama school. In 1957, Stewart received a grant to attend the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

In 1959, he made his stage debut. Following a period with Manchester's Library Theatre, he became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966. Stewart received the 1979 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Antony and Cleopatra on the West End. He made his Broadway debut as Snout in Peter Brook's legendary production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He remained with the Royal Shakespeare Company until 1982.

In the early 1980s, he moved to the Royal National Theatre. In 1967, he had made his television debut in Coronation Street as a fire officer. Over the years, Stewart took roles in many major TV series without ever becoming a household name. He appeared as Vladimir Lenin in Fall of Eagles (1974); Sejanus in I, Claudius (Herbert Wise, 1976); Karla in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (John Irvin, 1979) and Smiley's People (Simon Langton, 1982); and Claudius in a BBC adaptation of Hamlet (Rodney Bennett, 1980) with Derek Jacobi and Claire Bloom.

He even took the romantic male lead in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (Rodney Bennett, 1975) wearing a hairpiece. He also co-starred with Peter Eyre and Glenda Jackson in Hedda (Trevor Nunn, 1975), a film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. He took the lead, playing psychiatric consultant Dr Edward Roebuck in BBC's Maybury (1981). Stewart played minor roles in such films as Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981), Dune (David Lynch, 1984) and British science fiction horror film Lifeforce (Tobe Hooper, 1985).

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991)
American postcard by Classico San Francisco, no. 105-148. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991).

Unexpected stardom and wealth

In 1987, Patrick Stewart agreed to work in Hollywood on a revival of an old science-fiction television show. Reportedly, Stewart knew nothing about the original show, Star Trek, or its iconic status in American culture. He was reluctant to sign the standard contract of six years but accepted the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994).

Stewart unexpectedly became a star and wealthy. From 1994 to 2002, he also portrayed Picard in the films Star Trek Generations (David Carson, 1994), Star Trek: First Contact (Jonathan Frakes, 1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (Jonathan Frakes, 1998) and Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird, 2002); and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's pilot episode Emissary (David Carson, 1993). This success typecast Stewart as Picard and obtaining other roles became difficult. He also found returning to the stage difficult because of his long departure.

In the late 1990s he accepted a key role in the big-budget X-Men film series, as Professor Charles Xavier, founder and mentor of the superhero team, a role similar in many ways to Picard. He was initially reluctant to sign on to another movie franchise, but his interest in working with director Bryan Singer persuaded him. Stewart played the role in seven feature films: X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000), X2 (Bryan Singer, 2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (Brett Ratner, 2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009) starring Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine (James Mangold, 2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer, 2014) and Logan (James Mangold, 2017) and voiced the role in several video.

Stewart's other film and television roles include the flamboyantly gay Sterling in Jeffrey (Christopher Ashley, 1995) and King Henry II in The Lion in Winter (Andrey Konchalovskiy, 2003), for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance and an Emmy Award nomination for executive-producing the film.

Stewart portrayed Captain Ahab in the TV film Moby Dick (Franc Roddam, 1998), receiving an Emmy Award nomination and Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance. He also starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in a television film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (David Jones, 1999), for which he received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.

Patrick Stewart in X-Men (2000)
American postcard by Memory Card, no. 668,. Photo: Patrick Stewart as Professor X in X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000).

Domestic violence

In late 2003, during the final season of the TV series Frasier, Patrick Stewart appeared on the show as a gay Seattle socialite and opera director, who mistakes Frasier for a potential lover. In 2005, he was cast as Professor Ian Hood in an ITV thriller 4-episode series Eleventh Hour (2006), created by Stephen Gallagher.

He played Captain Nemo in a two-part adaptation of The Mysterious Island (Russell Mulcahy, 2005) opposite Kyle MacLachlan. Stewart also appeared as a nudity-obsessed caricature of himself in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's television series Extras (2005).

In 2006, Stewart made a short video against domestic violence for Amnesty International, in which he recollected his father's physical attacks on his mother and the effect it had on him as a child. He did voice roles such as CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock in the animation series American Dad! (2005-2017) and was the narrator in Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012).

Stewart remained performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2008 he played King Claudius in Hamlet on the West End and won a second Olivier Award. He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2000 Queen's Millennium Honours list for his services to acting and the cinema. In 2010, Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to drama.

Stewart and his first wife, Sheila Falconer, divorced in 1990 after 24 years of marriage. They have two children, son Daniel and daughter Sophia. Daniel is a television actor, and has appeared alongside his father in the made-for-television film Death Train (David Jackson, 1993) starring Pierce Brosnan, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Inner Light (1992).

In 1997, Stewart became engaged to Wendy Neuss, one of the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They married in August 2000, and divorced three years later. Four months before his divorce from Neuss, Stewart played opposite actress Lisa Dillon in a production of The Master Builder, and the two were romantically involved until 2007.

In 2008, Patrick Stewart began dating Sunny Ozell, a singer and songwriter based in New York, whom Stewart met while performing in Macbeth at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They married in 2013 with Sir Ian McKellen performing the wedding ceremony.

Recently Patrick Stewart played an ageing Juilliard dance professor with a colourful past in the film Match (Stephen Belber, 2015) with Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard, and stars as Walter Blunt, a British journalist, intent on conquering American nightly cable news and his mostly misguided decision-making in the TV series Blunt Talk (2015-2016).

Trailer for Match (2015). Source: Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films (YouTube).

Trailer for the second series of Blunt Talk (2016). Source: JoBlo TV Show Trailers (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

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