Famed for his booming voice and authoritative screen presence, Patrick Stewart is one of England’s most respected actors. After cutting his teeth as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart found stardom through his role as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Meanwhile, his portrayal of Charles Xavier in the X-Men film franchise garnered him further geek-culture credentials. And although he may have laid Professor X to rest in 2017’s Logan, Stewart remains as beloved as ever. These 20 facts, moreover, help explain the longevity of his career.
20. He lost his hair at an incredibly young age
While baldness can be a curse for most men, Stewart’s smooth head is one of the star’s most lovable features. As he revealed to TV Guide in 1992, the actor actually lost his hair at the tender age of 19. And it was a development that caused him considerable dread. “I believed that no woman would ever be interested in me again,” he revealed.
19. His father suffered emotional trauma during World War II
Born in 1940, Stewart spent his early years in the shadow of World War II. Indeed, his veteran father Alfred returned from the war a broken man. Years later, the actor discovered that Alfred was actually suffering from PTSD – a revelation that led him to support the charity Combat Stress.
18. He grew up in an abusive household
Due to the shellshock he’d suffered during the war, Stewart’s father took out his frustrations on those he loved. And throughout his childhood, he witnessed Alfred physically lashing out at Stewart’s mother, Gladys. Shaken by this experience, Stewart would campaign against domestic violence in adulthood, most notably through the organization Refuge.
17. He took his most embarrassing role to fix a leaky window
Every star has at least one embarrassing role they’re ashamed of, and Patrick Stewart is no exception. In 1985 the actor played a Russian general in Wild Geese II, and his motives were purely monetary. Indeed, he only took the role to fix a leaking window at his home. The part was simply the first one he was offered.
16. His best friend officiated his wedding
There are few bromances stronger than the one shared by Patrick Stewart and X-Men co-star Ian McKellen. After meeting in the 1970s, the pair have been inseparable and not even marriage could break them apart. To wit, McKellen actually officiated Stewart’s wedding to Sunny Ozell in 2013. We bet the best man was fuming.
15. His best friend also told him not to take his most memorable role
That’s not to say that McKellen has always given his friend good advice, however. When Stewart was offered the part of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard in 1987, McKellen warned his pal that such roles were beneath his stature. “I am glad you didn’t take [my advice],” McKellen recently admitted on The Graham Norton Show.
14. He only agreed to Star Trek because he thought it was going to be a flop
Unbeknownst to McKellen, Stewart had ulterior motives for playing Picard. Surprisingly, the star was convinced TNG would flop and saw the series as a means to make a quick buck. “My commitment was based on the fact that it was going to be a failure and then I could come back and go on doing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” he explained to BBC News in 2012.
13. He didn’t fancy his TNG chances
And while Stewart thought that TNG wouldn’t last more than one series, the star was equally convinced that he himself wouldn’t last more than one episode. Indeed, his reservations were so great that the actor didn’t unpack his luggage for weeks.
12. His first press cutting didn’t even mention him by name
Although he’s now a Hollywood star, Stewart was still an obscure theater actor when he began Star Trek. In fact, upon his casting the Los Angeles Times announced him simply as “an unknown British Shakespearean actor.” How times have changed, eh?
11. He hated fun and games on the Star Trek set
Thanks to his professionalism and dedication, Stewart turned TNG into a hit. But his RSC roots made him a stern figure on the set. “Sir Patrick took the role very seriously,” co-star Jonathan Frakes admitted in the 2014 Star Trek documentary Chaos on the Bridge. “If we fooled around… and if he was not in the mood, he’d let us have it.”
10. He was almost part of The Nightmare Before Christmas
As Stewart’s status in Hollywood grew, so did the offers of work. Following Star Trek’s success, he even accepted the narrator’s role in 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sadly, Stewart was later cut and replaced by actor Edward Ivory, although his contributions were eventually included on the film’s commercial soundtrack.
9. He was unavailable for one of the worst films of all time
Batman and Robin is rightly considered one of the worst movies ever made, and its cast have undoubtedly scratched the role from their resumes. Weirdly enough, early reports tipped Stewart to play Mr Freeze in the 1997 film, a part that ultimately went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently, scheduling conflicts stopped the casting going forward. We bet Stewart just used that as an excuse.
8. He was skeptical about playing Professor X
Today, audiences might be most familiar with Stewart through his role as X-Men’s psychic Professor X. But – as with Star Trek – the actor had his doubts about the part. In fact, he originally passed on the role. And it was only after director Bryan Singer explained the film’s human rights subtext that Stewart said yes.
7. He’s an unlikely fan of a certain animated series
Besides his work in film and theater, Stewart also has a recurring stint voicing American Dad’s Avery Bullock. And this isn’t the only animated show he’s taken a shine to. During a 2004 interview with ContactMusic, the refined actor revealed an unlikely love of giggling morons Beavis and Butt-Head. “It’s borderline addiction,” he confessed.
6. He’s not as smart as his roles would have you believe
On account of playing geniuses like Charles Xavier, Stewart has subsequently gained a reputation as a great thinker. Nonetheless, the modest star has admitted he doesn’t always live up to his image. “I’m still trying to work out how to operate the air conditioning unit on my car,” he admitted to the Halifax Courier in 2006.
5. He rues never being offered a part in one of cinema’s biggest franchises
At one point, it seemed that every esteemed British actor had made an appearance in the Harry Potter series. However, Patrick Stewart was strangely absent from the franchise. What’s more, the producers didn’t even bother to get in touch, according to the actor himself. “Not one phone call,” the star complained on The Colbert Report in 2014.
4. He declined to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge
A short while ago, social media was flooded with videos of stars dowsing themselves with freezing water to aid ALS research. Though many celebrities participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, Stewart declined to get involved. Instead, the actor took a more dignified approach, releasing a 2014 YouTube video showing him writing a check for charity and taking an ice-cold drink. Classy!
3. He has dreams of being a concert pianist
Despite garnering huge acclaim for his acting, Patrick Stewart still has ambitions beyond the screen. In fact, while speaking to American Theatre in 2008, he confessed to having “fantasies of becoming a concert pianist.” He even named virtuoso Emanuel Ax as the one person he’d consider switching places with.
2. He’s not just licensed to drive the USS Enterprise
In addition to his musical interests, Stewart also harbors a great love for motor racing. And his involvement in the sport doesn’t just extend to spectating. Throughout his career, the star has competed in charity races and even earned an MSA competition license in 2012 to race at Silverstone.
1. He waited until his 70s to try pizza
While Stewart may have refined tastes in theater, film and music, the star is unadventurous when it comes to food. For example, he somehow held off eating pizza until he was 72. “I look on this as maybe being the high point of my career, if not my life,” he told BBC Radio 4 in 2013.