that will either move our civilization forward a few tiny steps,
or else… begin to march us steadily backward.”
~Sir Patrick Stewart
Patrick Hewes Stewart (1940- ) was born on July 13, 1940 in Mirfield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom to Alfred, a career soldier, and Gladys, an industrial weaving worker. Patrick’s stage experience began early because Mirfield had a rich culture for such a small town of only 12,000 people. At the age of twelve, Patrick enrolled in an eight-day drama course where his love of the stage took off due to his meeting many influential professionals. Thereafter, Patrick’s participation in local dramas rose. At 15, he quit school to work as an employer who resented his dedication to the local theater. His employer gave him an ultimatum between acting and journalism. Patrick chose acting and his determination to succeed was solidified.
Patrick found work as a furniture salesman in order to save money for classes. At 17, he enrolled in the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He spent two years there both practicing acting and losing his accent. Patrick refers to this time of his life as living a “double life” because he spoke in his native Yorkshire accent with family and friends and with Received Pronunciation professionally. Mr. Stewart’s iconic baldness came to him as a teenager. An instructor warned him that his baldness would make him a young character rather than a juvenile lead but Patrick was able to convince directors that he could use a toupee and land roles as both lead and character actors. His professional stage debut came in August 1959 at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln and he played Morgan in Treasure Island. In 1966, Patrick became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and was an Associate Artist until 1984. January 1967 marked his television debut on Coronation Street as a Fire Officer. He continued to make small appearances on television shows and in movies.
In 1987, Patrick agreed to move to Hollywood due to Robert H. Justman, the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Justman was planning a revival of the original series and Patrick had no knowledge of the series nor its iconic place held in American television. He reluctantly signed the standard six-year contract but was sure that he would fail and return to his London stage career shortly. As Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Patrick felt unprepared for the long production hours of television and had difficulty working with his less-disciplined castmates. Much of the success of the show is credited to Mr. Stewart due to his professionalism and dedication to acting. He better understood the cultural differences between the stage and the television and still remains very close with his fellow Star Trek actors.
Patrick was so typecast as Picard that he was unable to find other Hollywood roles easily. Fortunately, the X-Men film series is an exception. With his portrayal of Charles Xavier, Mr. Stewart was able to infiltrate the superhero film genre. He has played Professor Charles Xavier in 2000’s X-Men, 2003’s X-2, 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Stewart and his first wife, Sheila Falconer were married in 1966 and have two children together, Daniel Stewart and Sophie Alexandra. Patrick and Sheila divorced in 1990. In 1997, he became engaged to Wendy Neuss, one of the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation and they married in August, 2000. Three years later, Wendy and Patrick divorced.
After The Next Generation began, Patrick found that he missed acting on the stage. Although he remained associated with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the lengthy filming for the show prevented him from participating in most other works. He instead began writing one-man shows that he performed in California universities and acting schools. Stewart found that one—a version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in which he portrayed all 40-plus characters—was ideal for him because of its limited performing schedule. In 1991, Stewart performed it on Broadway, receiving a nomination for that year’s Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show. He staged encore performances in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and again for the benefit of survivors and victims’ families in the 11 September attacks, and a 23-day run in London’s West End in December 2005.
Patrick Stewart’s Shakespeare roles during this period included Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Othello with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. in a race-bending performance, in a “photo negative” production of a white Othello with an otherwise all-black cast. Mr. Stewart had wanted to play the title role since the age of 14, so he and director Jude Kelly inverted the play so Othello became a comment on a white man entering a black society. He has also held Shakespeare inspired roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and a King Lear inspired movie called King of Texas.
In 2009, Patrick appeared alongside Ian McKellen as the lead duo of Vladimir and Estragon, in Waiting for Godot. Mr. Stewart had previously only appeared once with Sir McKellen on stage, but the pair had developed a close friendship while waiting around on set filming the X-Men films.
In June of 2010, Patrick was awarded knighthood by Queen Elizabeth, II. His official title is now, Sir Patrick Hewes Stewart, OBE. On receiving his Knighthood: “This is an honour that embraces those actors, directors, and creative teams who have in these recent years helped fill my life with inspiration, companionship and sheer fun.”
“Having spent so much of my life with Shakespeare’s world,
passions and ideas in my head and in my mouth,
he feels like a friend -someone who just went out of the room
to get another bottle of wine.”
~Sir Patrick Stewart
Information gathered using: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Stewart, http://www.patrickstewart.org/psn/biography.asp & http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001772/
Thanks to my brother for inspiring this post! I’ve had a lot of fun watching Star Trek with you!