Patrick Stewart Biography (1940-)

, , , and . Born Patrick Hewes Stewart on July 13, 1940, in Mirfield, England. Widely known for his work on the popular science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a versatile performer, equally at home playing comic book characters and legendary Shakespearean parts. He comes from a modest beginning. “I grew up…in a house that had one room downstairs and one room upstairs. My brother and I shared a double bed in my parents’ bedroom,” he explained to Entertainment Weekly.

Stewart developed a love of theater during his school years. Stewart’s first career, however, was in journalism. Leaving school at 15, he went to work for a newspaper. He left after two years to become an actor.

While studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Stewart landed his significant stage role in Treasure Island in 1959. He worked on productions for several English repertory theater companies during the early 1960s, including the Manchester Library Theatre and Old Vic Theatre Company. With the Old Vic Company, Stewart had a chance to travel extensively, performing in different cities in Australia, New Zealand, and South America.

In 1966, Stewart joined the prestigious Royal Shakespearean Company (RSC). Other members of the company included Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren. He toured the United States with the company several times over the next few years, performing such plays as As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and King Lear. Back in England, Stewart played the title role in King John in 1970. He made his Broadway debut the following year in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

Stewart began his film career in 1975 with small roles in the drama Hedda starring Glenda Jackson and the thriller Hennessy with Rod Steiger and Lee Remick. Stewart also achieved some critical acclaim on the 1976 British miniseries I, Claudius, which featured Derek Jacobi as the flawed emperor of ancient Rome.

In 1979, Stewart won the Laurence Olivier Award for Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role for RSC’s production of Antony and Cleopatra. He was also nominated in the best actor category for his work as Shylock in the RSC’s production of The Merchant of Venice. That same year, Stewart appeared in the spy thriller miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy starring Alec Guinness. He also appeared in the 1982 sequel Smiley’s People.

Stewart continued to juggle his stage, film, and television career throughout the early and mid-1980s. He appeared in the British television series Maybury as well as the Arthurian saga Excalibur on the big screen. One of his favorite stage roles from that time was George, from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. The 1987 production earned him great critical acclaim and the part left a lasting impression on the seasoned actor. “It simply became for me among the three or four most important theatrical experiences of my career,” Stewart told American Theatre magazine.

After the play’s four-week run ended, Stewart started a new career adventure, signing onto the American syndicated science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show was a spin-off of the popular television and film franchise Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry, which followed the missions and lives of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Set 78 years after the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation explored the adventures of a new crew aboard the Enterprise. The cast of the original series, which included William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, were much beloved by the show’s devoted following. Stewart and the rest of the new cast faced a daunting challenge to win over the old fans as well as attract new ones to their series.

Whatever concerns there may have been over the public response to Star Trek: The Next Generation were quickly dispelled. The show swiftly developed into one of the most successful syndicated series of the time, eventually attracting 20 million viewers an episode. Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He described his character as “part social worker, part ambassador.” With his distinctive deep voice, regal demeanor, and bald head, Stewart projected an authoritative air and imbued his character with a cerebral, thoughtful manner. He also found himself as an unlikely sex symbol.

While some derided Star Trek as scientific fiction fluff, Stewart was a strong supporter of the show’s underlying themes and ideas. “I believe in the character—and in the Star Trek philosophy. I believe in the essential goodness of the human spirit. I believe in having respect for that which you don’t understand,” he told Entertainment Weekly. Stewart also worked behind the scenes on the series, directing several episodes.

When the series was not in production, Stewart tackled other projects. He adapted the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol into a one-man show, which premiered on Broadway in 1991. For his work, he won the 1992 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance/One Person Show. Stewart also showed his more humorous side with a role in the 1993 Robin Hood spoof Men in Tights.

Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its television run in 1994. That same year, Stewart portrayed Picard on the big screen in Star Trek: Generations. He then devoted his time to stage and film work. He played Prospero in The Tempest at the 1995 New York Shakespearean Festival. In 1997, Stewart took on another legendary Shakespearean character Othello in a Washington, D.C. production. On the small screen, he played Captain Arab in the 1998 television adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The role brought him his first Emmy Award nomination.

Over the years, Stewart has lent his gravitas-filled voice to a number of animated and documentary projects. He voiced a recurring character on the animated sitcom American Dad! in 2009. Stewart can also be heard on such feature films in The Prince of Egypt (1998) and Chicken Little (2005), among others. A natural choice for a documentary, he has served as the narrator for the 1992 science television series Space Age and the 1995 look at Native American history 500 Nations. Stewart has also made numerous audio recordings, and won a Grammy Award in 1995 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for his work on Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf.

Returning to his famous television role, Stewart appeared as Jean-Luc Picard in 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection, and 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis. He participated in a new film franchise around this time, playing Professor Charles Xavier in 2000’s X-Men, starring across from actor Ian McKellen. Based on the popular comic book series, X-Men explores an America divided between regular people and those with special powers. Xavier leads a group of mutants known as the X-Men, who work for peace. This science fiction adventure proved to be a huge summer smash, netting more than $157 million at the box office.

Also in 2000, Stewart made headlines for his appearance in Arthur Miller’s Ride Down Mt. Morgan on Broadway. He got himself into trouble when he complained to the audience after a performance that the producers had failed to live up their promises regarding promoting and advertising the play, and asked the audience to “tell your friends if you liked the show.” This stunt angered the producers and they filed charges with the Actors’ Equity union against Stewart. He was later ordered apologize.

In 2002, Stewart executive produced and starred in the television movie King of Texas, an imaginative retelling of the Shakespearean drama set in the old West. He also appeared in the latest X-Men film, X-Men United, that same year. In 2003, Stewart and Glenn Close took on the roles made famous by Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in the television version of The Lion in Winter. He also served as an executive producer on the project, which received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Made for Television Movie.

Stewart took on a famed literary character, Captain Nemo, in 2005 with the television miniseries Mysterious Island based on the book by Jules Verne. Taking on lighter fare, Stewart received another Emmy Award nomination in 2006 for his guest appearance on the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras.

An in-demand actor, Stewart starred in the BBC television series Eleventh Hour, about a physics professor who works for the government solving unusual problems, and in the latest installment of the X-Men series, X-Men: The Last Stand that same year.

More recently, Stewart has devoted a lot of his time to the theater. He starred on Broadway in 2008 as the title character in the Shakespearean drama Macbeth, which earned him rave reviews. The following year, Stewart reteamed with his X-Men co-star Ian McKellen for a revival of Samuel Beckett’s legendary play Waiting for Godot.

In 2009, Stewart was bestowed with one of his country’s highest honors when Queen Elizabeth II granted him knighthood for his contributions to acting.

Stewart has two grown children, Sophia and Daniel, from his first marriage to choreographer Sheila Falconer. He also was married to producer Wendy Neuss from 2000 to 2003.

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