Patrick Stewart Talks Broadway, New Roles, and More
By StarTrek.com Staff - March 06, 2014
Patrick Stewart has been everywhere for the past year or so, especially online, via Twitter, in large part to promote No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot, the two shows that he, Ian McKellen, Shuler Hensley and Billy Crudup have been performing in repertory at Broadway’s Cort Theatre since November, 2013. Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The final curtain will fall on March 30, after which Stewart and his new bride, Sunny Ozell, will almost immediately head back to Stewart’s native England. Stewart will return to the States soon enough, of course. He’s adopted Brooklyn, New York, as his new home, plus he has several films to promote, among them X-Men: Days of Future Past, Match, Hunting Elephants and the animated tale, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.
However, there’s still time to see No Man’s Land and/or Waiting for Godot, the former written by Harold Pinter and the latter by Samuel Beckett, and both directed by Sean Mathias. And it’s for precisely that reason – that a full three weeks remain before Stewart and company take their final bows and he wants people, including Star Trek: The Next Generation fans, to check out the shows before it’s too late – that Stewart granted StarTrek.com an extensive interview. The iconic actor spoke in detail about Star Trek and Captain Jean-Luc Picard during an interview we did with him a couple of years ago, so, instead, this half-hour conversation – for which Stewart was energetic and excited and sounded genuinely pleased to do -- focuses on No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot, touching as well on Days of Future Past, Match and Hunting Elephants, his Twitter “bromance” with McKellen and also his all-around good fortune.
No Man’s Land casts Stewart as Hirst, an elderly, wealthy and hard-drinking poet who invites into his home Spooner (McKellen), himself an aged alcoholic who purports to know Hirst. The two men talk, swapping stories, jokes and barbs, but their evening – or is it morning already? – veers in unexpected directions with the arrival of Hirst’s secretary, Foster (Crudup), and manservant, Briggs (Hensley), who may be lovers and who definitely exude menace toward Spooner. Waiting for Godot, of course, is the far more familiar show, particularly to Broadway audiences. Stewart and McKellen star as Vladimir and Estragon, respectively, two men who wait (and wait and wait) for Godot and talk (and talk and talk) while doing so. In the second production, Hensley and Crudup play, respectively, the tyrant Pozzo and his slave, Lucky.
Below is part two of our conversation.
You’ve surely met many Star Trek fans who attend the shows and greet you at the stage door after each performance. What does it mean to you that your fans follow you from project to project?
STEWART: It means the world to both of us. Ian and I, we have so many things in common, and one of them is our good fortune at being able to have careers, successful careers, in classical theater and popular theater, and also in the world of big, blockbuster studio franchises. We have two each, and we share one of them. We share the X-Men movies, and then there’s The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and, of course, the Star Trek world as well. We have and are using those connections to let people know that for a number of weeks on Broadway, yes, they can see Magneto and Captain Picard and Gandalf and Professor Xavier together. Now, we don’t tell them that’s actually who they’re going to see, but rather the actors who portray them. If people buy tickets to come to the Cort Theatre because they want to see the actors who are Captain Picard and Gandalf, that’s fine by us. We don’t care why people come. We just want to get their bums in the seats and we can take care of the rest. We know that we can and it’s proved to us again and again when, after the show, and it happens every night, people say, “I’d never seen Broadway show before. This is my first.” Or, “I have never seen a play before.” Or, “I had never heard of Beckett or Pinter and I had such a great time I can’t wait to do it again.” So, apart from helping out our two productions, we think, in a modest way, we are creating the next generation of theater audiences.
Beyond the plays, you’ve have a few movies due out soon. One of them is, as you mentioned, X-Men: Days of Future Past. How did you enjoy slipping back into character as Professor X?
STEWART: Every aspect and experience of X-Men has been so much fun. I’ve always loved working with companies, with permanent groups of actors. That’s what we had on Star Trek. There was the crew, the team, and it’s been the same on X-Men, except that in the past couple of years the X-Men team has been expanded somewhat with the inclusion of a group of wonderful and brilliant young actors – Fassbender and McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. This has been just terrific. Although it appeared that I was killed off at the end of the third movie, The Last Stand, a window, a fantasy-movie window, was left open for me to come back, and here I am, back. I was absolutely thrilled when it was confirmed that, yes, there’s going to be another X-Men movie, and yes, you will be in it and so will Ian. We were both of us delighted. We share the same part of the film.
The film is divided up in a rather unusual and exciting way. We were in the same section of the film. We were the first ones on the set. We started filming first day of April (2013) and we filmed for a month. And by the end of April, all of the Xavier-Magneto sequences were done. Then a new group of actors arrived in Montreal and began work on the other section of the film. It’s been a terrific experience. I was actually back up there in Montreal a couple of weeks ago to reshoot a little section early on in the film where they wanted to put in some new material. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I haven’t seen the film. I’ve seen little moments of it here and there, but my feeling is that we’re going to have an extraordinary piece of filmmaking there.
You've got two plays running now, and also one big movie and two indie features coming out. You're a newlywed. You sound healthy. Can we assume that you don't have very many complaints about life at the moment?
STEWART: (Laughs appreciatively). My life is good. I am enjoying where I am right now. I am so happy to be married to Sunny. We were married in September by Sir Ian, as you’re well aware, and 36 hours after we were married, I was in New York in a rehearsal room. I promised Sunny that the moment that this run ended we would take off. And, indeed, on Monday morning, the 31st of March, we will be on a flight heading to Europe. And we’re looking forward to it very much. Then there’s all the promotion coming up for X-Men. And, also, a very satisfying moment coming up in the future is going to be the showing of the movie I made just over a year ago here in Brooklyn, which is called Match. It’s based on a play by Stephen Belber, which was on Broadway with Frank Langella in the leading role. Stephen has adapted it for the screen and directed it himself.
Since you’ve brought it up, please tell us more about Match…
STEWART: It’s essentially a three-character movie, and I was so blessed in being joined by two actors whose work I knew a little, but I didn’t know them at all: Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino. Both are brilliant actors and extraordinary in this movie. It’s a whopping, great role for me, with a great range of emotion and mood and atmosphere. A lot of it is funny, but it’s a powerful and emotional tale with a couple of big surprises toward the end. It has not yet been seen by an audience. It will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, and that will be its world premiere. Of course, it’s our hope that distributors will find it. This film was made very modestly. It was made for less than half a million dollars, which is nothing. I mean, that would be the cost of craft service for a week on X-Men. It’s remarkable what has been achieved with so little and so quickly. We took over an apartment in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, went to the same apartment building every day, and it was a little bit like home for us. It was a marvelous experience. So I’m very excited about that.
Also, I have drifting around another little project because 18 months ago I was in Israel. I was invited by a very brilliant guy called Reshef Levi to be in a film that he was making, that he had written and was directing. That’s called Hunting Elephants, and I was joined with two of Israel’s most brilliant actors, Sasson Gabai and Moni Moshonov, and I had the most amazing time. The film is in Hebrew, but my character doesn’t understand a word of Hebrew, which is one of the sources of a lot of comedy in the film. It’s about these three old guys, one of them an Englishman, living in a care home who, with a young, slightly troubled teenager, decide to go and rob the main headquarters of the Jerusalem Bank. They’re challenged in this because one of them can only get about on a walking frame, but they have a plan to perform this bank robbery. It is, in a sense, a heist movie, and the outcome of this bank robbery attempt is just marvelous.
I’ve never seen the movie with an audience. It has been screened at the Palm Springs Film Festival, but I couldn’t be there. It was a huge smash hit in Israel. It’s one of the most successful films made in Israel for Israeli audiences as there has ever been. I didn’t know this, but all over the United States there are Jewish film festivals, and our film has been cropping up at those. So I’m hoping that sometime in the spring I’ll be heading up to Rochester, New York, which has a very important Jewish film festival, to see a screening of it there. I guess it will be screened with subtitles. I’m very much looking forward to seeing that because, for me, it’s a comedy role, and I have been trying to embrace more and more comedy recently.
Thank you so much for your time…
STEWART: And thank you for agreeing to talk to me. I’m really grateful. It’s great that (StarTrek.com) would do this, help us to give this No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot project a little push as we go into our final weeks. I am so grateful.
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