|Two knights on bikes: Stewart (left) and McKellen|
A year ago he reluctantly took his publicist's advice and turned to Twitter to spread the word as best he could.
Since then he has become something of a social media sensation: his jokey comments, “selfies” and offbeat picture stunts which have included donning a lobster costume, putting his head and arms through a set of stocks and having his photograph taken in Times Square with Elmo of the Muppets have gained him nearly a million followers, many of whom never knew him from the seven years he spent as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next
“It’s massively entertaining and pleasing,” he tells me when we meet in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York to talk about the X-Men sequel Days of Future Past in which he returns as Professor Charles Xavier, a role he first undertook 14 years ago.
“For a long time I resisted all forms of social media and I was deeply suspicious of every aspect of it but then I was confronted with the potential power of a tweet in terms of what could be achieved and as a source for good fun and humour.
“People have an impression of who Patrick Stewart is based on the characters that I play, most particularly Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier, and I know him to be very different. So it has enabled me to make some adjustments to those impressions and it’s been wonderful
Indeed, contrary to the grim and serious characters he usually portrays on the stage, in movies and on television, Patrick Stewart, who was knighted in 2010 for his services to drama, is cheery and affable, happy to open up about his life and tell jokes against himself.
The 73-year-old actor married his third wife, Sunny Ozell, 35, on the banks of Lake Tahoe in September in a ceremony performed by his fellow knight and X-Men co-star Ian McKellen. “Ian went public with this in a rather scandalous way because he was on the Jonathan Ross
Show and when he was asked what he was doing next, he said, ‘Oh, I’m
marrying Patrick Stewart.’” Stewart roared with laughter. “Hold the front page!”
|Stewart's wedding with McKellen officiating|
filming X-Men for nearly five weeks then we came to New York to begin rehearsing Harold Pinter’s play No Man’s Land; then we went to Berkeley, California for two more weeks rehearsal then we performed it there for six weeks; I got married and we came back to New York and
began rehearsing Waiting for Godot and we played that on Broadway for almost six months.”
He paused for breath. “I saw Ian McKellen almost every day for that
whole year and luckily I like him a great deal.” The humourous
highspots of their time in New York together were faithfully
catalogued on both men’s Twitter accounts.
“My wife came up with the idea of GoGo and DeeDee do NYC, which was
the hashtag for photographs taken of Ian and myself at iconic
locations in New York. We wanted to find some way, not of promoting
the Broadway project but of letting people know we were here and doing
something. If that meant reminding people that it was Magneto and
Professor Xavier and Gandalf and Jean-Luc Godard who were there, then
that was fine, too. We didn’t care why people came to see our plays,
we just wanted them to come.”
Patrick Stewart is clearly enjoying life to the full, although
things could have turned out very differently if he had followed his
instincts and rejected a1987 offer to move to Los Angeles to appear in
Star Trek: The Next Generation. He agreed to take on the role of the
commander officer of the USS Enterprise only when his agent convinced
him the show would probably not succeed and he would be able to return
to England after the first season. At the time he had been working
regularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company and taking small movie
and television roles. When he was cast in Star Trek the Los Angeles
Times described him as “an unknown British Shakespearean actor.”
Contrary to his agent’s prediction, the series lasted for seven
seasons, spawned four feature films and made Patrick Stewart a wealthy
man. “It was huge,” he says now, looking back. “Being cast as Jean-Luc
Picard was the most significant thing that ever happened to me because
there wasn’t an area of my life that it didn’t touch, mostly for the
He took to the California lifestyle almost immediately and, like
many Hollywood actors went into analysis, jogged along the beach,
practiced meditation and cut down on his drinking. He still adheres to
the health regimen he learned then and credits moisturising regularly
with keeping him looking fit and healthy.
He and his wife will be leaving their Brooklyn, New York home at the
end of the summer for him to return to California where he will begin
filming a new TV comedy series, Blunt Talk, in which he will play a
British investigative journalist who hosts a TV show. “He’s very good
at his job but unfortunately he has a rather chaotic private life and
that’s the premise of the story,” he says.
The series has been created by Seth MacFarlane, whom Stewart has
worked with many times before, voicing characters on MacFarlane’s
animated series Family Guy and American Dad and narrating the
live-action comedy film Ted.
He also provides the voices of two sheep in MacFarlane’s comedy film
One Million Ways to Die in the West.
But first Stewart has promotional duties to perform for the 150
million pounds-plus X-Men: Days of Future Past in which the characters
from the original trilogy join forces with their younger selves from
X-Men: First Class to prevent an alternate future in which mutants are
confined to internment camps. In the current adventure Stewart’s
Xavier has a wheelchair that hovers above ground and he finally gets
to fly the X-Jet. His younger self, emotionally hurt and physically
damaged, is played by James McAvoy, who is helped by Hugh Jackman’s
time-travelling Wolverine to get his shattered life back together.
The gruelling schedule of premieres, interviews and public
appearances for X-Men: Days of Future Past sees Patrick Stewart
travelling from New York to London to Sao Paulo to Washington DC and
back to New York in seven days. “Frankly I’m dreading it and this
would be a good time to have the mutant superpower of teleportation,”
he says with a smile.
The film's director, Bryan Singer, has been forced to pull out of
the marketing push because of a recently filed lawsuit in which he has
been accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 25 years ago. The
studio, 20th Century Fox has said in a statement it is a "personal
matter" for Singer.
Just before we talk Patrick Stewart has sent his first tweet of the
day to Fox, congratulating studio executives on their decision to move
his accommodation in London from the Sultan of Brunei-owned Dorchester
to another hotel.
“I don’t tweet multiple times a day like some people, but when
something seems appropriate ---either because of its comic aspect or
because it is a reaction to events that are happening in the world---I
enjoy having that creative platform,” he says.