Today is the birthday of Patrick Stewart, better known to many as Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the U.S.S Enterprise 1701-D and E. Within the world of Star Trek, and outside in the 20th and 21st century, Stewart has never failed to make his mark, be it on screens both big and small, in the world of social media, social justice and beyond.
To celebrate the big 7-8, here are six times Patrick – sorry, SIR Patrick – made it so.
Sexiest Man On TV 1992
It may be hard for newer fans to grasp, but when Star Trek: The Next Generation was hot, it was red hot. The biggest show on syndicated television in the late 80’s and early 90’s, conventions were like rock concerts and the cast of TNG were treated like the rock stars that they are. With the show nearing the end of its televised run, one of the most unexpected moments of Sir Patrick's career happened – he won Sexiest Man on TV 1992. To this day he can still hardly believe it, and speaking to the BBC he remembered how he felt when he had won: “It was gobstopping. Not only that, but I was put on the cover of TV Guide with Cindy Crawford. She won for the women. It seems to be absurd, and still does.”
Bromance With Sir Ian
Thank goodness someone came up with the word "bromance," as the relationship between Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick simply couldn’t be described any better. Friends and peers since the 1970’s, their friendship blossomed while playing bitter rivals Charles Xavier and Magneto in the first X-Men adventure in 2000. With their home towns being relatively close by – Stewart in Mirfield, West Yorkshire and McKellen in Burnley, Lancashire 50 miles away – and being of a similar age, anyone following them on social media would think they’re the reincarnation of Laurel and Hardy. McKellen officiated at Stewart's wedding in 2015, they perform on stage together regularly, most notably in Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land, and just hit Google to check out the best series of photographs from their crazy day out in New York, where they clearly had a ball building hype for their Waiting for Godot/No Man's Land stint on Broadway.
Arise Sir Patrick
While we’ve long known that he’s worth his weight in gold pressed latinum, in the UK the most-visible public acknowledgment is for a performer to become a Dame or receive a knighthood. 2010 saw Patrick Stewart OBE become Sir Patrick Stewart as he was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. At the time, Stewart described it as "an unlooked-for honour," but is one that he wears with great pride.
Honored not only for his work on the big screen as Professor X and Captain Picard, but also for his many years of stage work, he was conscious of the esteemed company he had joined. "The knights of the theatre represented to me not only the pinnacle of the profession but the esteem in which the profession was held. To find myself, to my astonishment, in that company is the grandest thing that has professionally happened to me."
A long-time dog lover, 2017 saw Patrick and wife Sunny fostered a pit bull named Ginger into their Los Angeles home. Keen to see Ginger relocate to their home in the UK, they hit a wall in the form of the UK’s breed-specific regulations, which mean pit bulls and similar breeds are banned in Britain. Determined to see Ginger adopted into a safe forever home, the Stewarts visited Ginger whenever they were in the United States and assisted in the search for her new owner, a search that had a very happy ending. And, yes, the Stewarts still make time to reunite with Ginger.
Becoming Professor X
There are few actors who can claim to have successfully inhabited not one but two pop-culture icons in their acting careers, and Stewart is among them. Not only did his time on TNG propel Picard into the zeitgeist, but 2000’s X-Men saw him take on the role of Professor Charles Xavier, a role that may have appeared on the surface to be made for him – stern, bald authoritarian teacher with an extraordinary team of underlings – but also one that came with an understandable fear of being typecast. Not that Stewart had anything to worry about, as he made Professor X every bit his own just as he had the good captain across the original trilogy of X-Men films, the Wolverine spin-offs, X-Men: Days of Future Past and, finally, the smash hit Logan, for which many fans felt he deserved an Oscar nomination.
Carrying The Olympic torch… And Then Losing It
It would be an honor for anyone to carry the Olympic torch, and that’s exactly what Sir Patrick did in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics in London, as he ran the torch through Croydon in South London to St. Andrew’s School as part of its journey around the UK – Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and England – to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Speaking a few years later in a Reddit AMA, Sir Patrick remembered the moment: .“Unbelievably exciting. Unbelievable because I never expected it would happen to me and as an ex-athlete and huge fan of the Olympic Games, it was one of the best days of my life. And, I ended the day taking home the torch, but I seem to have mislaid it. If anyone knows where it is, please let the @SirPatStew team know.”
Happy birthday, Sir Patrick.
Mark Newbold has been an avid Trek fan since the 1970's, when TOS was shown on UK TV, but it was the original cast movie series and TNG era that sealed the deal. Mark is a writer for Star Trek The Official Magazine, is editor-in-Chief of Star Trek: The Neutral Zone and was a stage host at Destination Star Trek Germany in 2018. At heart, he's a Niner. Follow him on Twitter.