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Date of Birth: 13/07/1940
Biography: An English film, television and stage actor, who has had a distinguished career in theatre and television for around half a century. He is most widely known for his television and film roles, such as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and its successor films, Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film series, and as the voice of Avery Bullock in American Dad!.
Stewart was born in Mirfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. He is the son of Gladys (nee Barrowclough), a weaver and textile worker, and Alfred Stewart, a Regimental Sergeant Major in the British Army who served with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) and previously worked as a general labourer and as a postman.
In a 2008 interview, Stewart said: "My father was a very potent individual, a very powerful man who got what he wanted. It was said that when he strode on to the parade ground, birds stopped singing. It was many, many years before I realised how my father inserted himself into my work. I've grown a moustache for Macbeth. My father didn't have one, but when I looked in the mirror just before I went on stage I saw my father's face staring straight back at me."
Throughout childhood, Stewart endured poverty and disadvantage, an experience which influenced his later political and ideological beliefs. 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, and he has given his name to a scholarship at the University of Huddersfield, where he is Chancellor, to fund post-graduate study into domestic violence. His childhood experiences also led him to become the patron of Refuge, a UK charity for abused women.
Patrick Stewart, regarding his becoming bald as a teenager "I believed that no woman would ever be interested in me again. I prepared myself for the reality that a large part of my life was over."
Stewart attended Crowlees Church of England Junior and Infants School. He attributes his acting career to an English teacher named Cecil Dormand who "put a copy of Shakespeare in my hand and said, 'Now get up on your feet and perform'". In 1951, aged 11, he entered Mirfield Secondary Modern School, where he continued to study drama. At age 15, Stewart dropped out of school and increased his participation in local theatre. He acquired a job as a newspaper reporter and obituary writer, but after a year, his employer gave him an ultimatum to choose acting or journalism. He quit the job. His brother tells the story that Stewart would attend rehearsals during work time and then invent the stories he reported. Stewart also trained as a boxer.
While not wealthy, Stewart had a comfortable lifestyle as an actor; however, he found that despite a lengthy career, his reputation was not great enough to bring a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to West End theatre. Stewart thus in 1987 agreed to work in Hollywood, after Robert H. Justman, producer for a revival of a long-cancelled television show, saw him while attending a literary reading at UCLA. 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 did so as he believed that the new show would quickly fail and he would return to his London stage career after making some money.
When Stewart began his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94) the Los Angeles Times called him an unknown British Shakespearean actor. Stewart was unprepared for the long hours of television production, had difficulty in fitting in with his less-disciplined castmates, and his "spirits used to sink" when required to memorise and recite Treknobabble. He came to better understand the cultural differences between the stage and television, remains close friends with his fellow Star Trek actors, and his favourite technical line became "space-time continuum". Marina Sirtis credited Stewart with "at least 50%, if not more" of the show's success because others emulated his professionalism and dedication to acting.
Besides making him immediately wealthy due to the show's great success - Stewart calculated during one break during filming the show that he made more money during that break than from 10 weeks of Woolf in London - Stewart received a 1995 Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series". From 1994 to 2002, he also portrayed Picard in the movie spin-offs Star Trek Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), and Star Trek Nemesis (2002); and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's pilot episode "Emissary".
When asked in 2011 for the highlight of his career, he chose Star Trek: The Next Generation, "because it changed everything for me." He has also said he is very proud of his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, for its social message and educational impact on young viewers. On being questioned about the significance of his role compared to his distinguished Shakespearean career, Stewart has said that
The fact is all of those years in Royal Shakespeare Company - playing all those kings, emperors, princes and tragic heroes - were nothing but preparation for sitting in the captain's chair of the Enterprise.
The accolades Stewart has received include the readers of TV Guide in 1992 choosing him with Cindy Crawford, whom he had never heard of, as television's "most bodacious" man and woman. Stewart considered this an unusual distinction considering his age and baldness. In an interview with Michael Parkinson, he expressed gratitude for Gene Roddenberry's riposte to a reporter who said, "Surely they would have cured baldness by the 24th century," to which Roddenberry replied, "In the 24th century, they wouldn't care."
Stewart has said that he would never have joined The Next Generation had he known that it would air for seven years:
No, no. NO. And looking back now it still frightens me a little bit to think that so much of my life was totally devoted to Star Trek and almost nothing else.
Stewart became so typecast as Picard that he has found obtaining other Hollywood roles difficult. The main exception is the X-Men film series. The films' success has resulted in another lucrative regular genre role in a major superhero film series. Stewart's character, Charles Xavier, is very similar to Picard and himself; "a grand, deep-voiced, bald English guy". He has also since voiced the role in three video games, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II and X-Men: Next Dimension. Other film and television roles include the flamboyantly gay Sterling in the 1995 film Jeffrey and King Henry II in The Lion in Winter, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance and an Emmy Award nomination for executive-producing the film. He portrayed Captain Ahab in the 1998 made-for-television film version of Moby Dick, receiving Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for his performance.
After The Next Generation began Stewart soon found that he missed acting on the stage. Although he remained associated with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the lengthy filming for the show prevented Stewart 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, 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.
He also starred as Scrooge in a 1999 television film version, receiving a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for his performance. He was also the co-producer of the show, through the company he set up for the purpose: Camm Lane Productions, a reference to his birthplace in Camm Lane, Mirfield.
Shakespeare roles during this period included Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, on Broadway in 1995, a role he would reprise in Rupert Goold's 2006 production of The Tempest as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works Festival. In 1997, he took the role of Othello with the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.) in a race-bending performance, in a "photo negative" production of a white Othello with an otherwise all-black cast. 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.
His years in the United States had left Stewart a "gaping hole in his CV" for a Shakespearean actor, as he had missed the opportunity to play such notable roles as Hamlet, Romeo, and Richard III. He played Antony again opposite Harriet Walter's Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the Novello Theatre in London in 2007 to excellent reviewsWhen Stewart began playing Macbeth in the West End in 2007, some said that he was too old for the role; however, he and the show again received excellent reviews, with one critic calling Stewart "one of our finest Shakespearean actors".
Stewart and his first wife, Sheila Falconer, have two children: Daniel Freedom and Sophie Alexandra. Stewart and Falconer divorced in 1990.
In 1997, he became engaged to Wendy Neuss, one of the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and they married on 25 August 2000, divorcing three years later.
Four months prior to 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.
Having lived in Los Angeles for many years, Stewart moved back to the UK in 2004. In an interview with the BBC's Gavin Esler, he said this was because he was homesick and because he wanted to return to work in the theatre.
Stewart was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2001 New Year Honours list, after receiving which he said, "I'm very touched and very pleased with this and it was a delightful morning." Stewart was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to drama. He acknowledged the "unlooked-for honour" and paid tribute to his former English teacher who encouraged him to perform.
His politics are rooted in his belief in fairness and equality. He considers himself a socialist and is a member of the Labour Party. He stated, "My father was a very strong trade unionist and those fundamental issues of Labour were ingrained into me." He has been critical of the Iraq War and recent UK government legislation in the area of civil liberties, in particular, its plans to extend detention without charge to 42 days. He signed an open letter of objection to this proposal in March 2008. Stewart identifies himself as a feminist. Additionally, he has publicly advocated for the right to assisted suicide.
In an interview with American Theatre, Stewart was asked if he could be something other than an actor, what would he be. He stated "From time to time, I have fantasies of becoming a concert pianist. I've been lucky enough through the years to work very closely with the great Emanuel Ax. I've said to him that if I could switch places with anyone it would be with him."