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The Last Word: Sir Patrick Stewart

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

A classically trained thespian, member of the Order of the British Empire, and star of two massive sci-fi franchises, Sir Patrick Stewart is a man who needs no introduction. Having spent a few months in Montreal, the Mirfield, England native made sure to get a taste of the city’s favorite pursuit: Canadiens hockey. We sat down with the 74-year-old bon vivant during intermission at a game to discuss everything from his career on the stage to his recently-discovered hockey allegiance.

You’re actually the second Starfleet captain to appear in these pages. We asked William Shatner this question earlier, but settle something for us off the bat: who would win in a fight, Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?

SIR PATRICK STEWART: Okay, it’s a good question and it’s been asked many times. The answer is that the fight would never happen. Picard would not allow it to happen; he would negotiate his way out of the fight. That said, Captain Kirk did knock him down once.

William said Kirk would win.

PS: (laughs) Of course he did!

You’re the president of the Huddersfield Town Academy, right? How big a soccer fan are you?

PS: President is an honorary title – last year, I visited the Academy and I watched the kids training and playing and I know the director of the Academy, Mark Lillis. I was taken to watch his soccer team when I was seven years old by my uncle and we stood on the terraces and watched them play. They have been my club through thick and thin for 60 years. Now, to be invited as I was a few years ago to have a position within the club gives me so much pleasure.

Have they won often over the years, or have you been a long-suffering fan?

PS: Largely, it has been long-suffering. (laughs)

How’s your eye for on-ice talent? Care to offer a scouting report on the Habs from what you’ve seen so far?

PS: This is my first game. I’ve watched on television, but the experience is so different. There is nothing like stepping into a stadium. I’m an actor, so this is basically like theater. Being a huge soccer fan and having watched 60 years of soccer, essentially, the tactics and process are the same, except conducted at much greater speed and with different skills. Even having watched only one period at this point, I am absolutely thrilled by what I’m seeing.

Habs fans are renowned for their passion. Which franchise has the most intense fan base: Star Trek or X-Men?

PS: They’re a very different kind of fan base. For years, X-Men had a purely comic book fan base. It’s a very specific, very exclusive fan base. Whereas when we came out in 1987 to do Next Generation, we were inheriting the fan base from the original series. But they only did three years of that series and there was a lot of unease about it. Fans thought we were going to remake what they did, but when people saw that we were taking everything the original series had done and moving it forward and showing the same respect for the show – with Gene Roddenberry producing – it made all the difference. I think the great strength was the ensemble feel our cast had.

Is the cast still tight?

PS: Absolutely. I love those guys, without exception. I adore them, I cannot get enough of them. We meet whenever we can all over the world and I would say that they are my best friends.

You were here for Montreal Comiccon 2014. What do you like most about the city?

PS: I was here before at that convention in October 2012 and it was the first time I’d ever been to Montreal. That first time, I saw nothing of Montreal, but I learned that eating Mexican food in Montreal may not be the best idea. It was unfortunate. But then I was given a personal, exclusive tour of Montreal by William Shatner, who is a local boy. That was fun, but we saw very little that first trip. Now I’ve been here for a week and I’m living in the Old Port and I love it. I’ve found a nice little restaurant I go to for breakfast every morning and it’s like being back in Paris. It’s European, but with a difference. You’re certainly in North America, but I’m still struggling but very excited by the idea of French-speaking North America. I have “street French”, but that’s all. I’ve lived on and off in North America for the last 20 or 30 years, and to find myself tuning my ear to French again is delightful.

Do you find the crowd at Comiccon events changes depending on the venue or are the fans pretty consistent no matter where you go?

PS: They are fairly consistent, partly because people come to these events from all over the world. I was in Winnipeg earlier last year, and people had come from all over Canada to attend the event. Obviously for me, it’s always a treat to be in Canada as an Englishman. I’m still an English citizen. I grew up with the whole idea of the Commonwealth and it means a lot to me. Sometimes I’ll get emotional when they sing the anthems.

We hear congratulations are in order! Word has it you’re about to tie the knot and asked your fellow countryman and castmate, Sir Ian McKellan, to officiate your upcoming wedding. Was part of that decision based on how nervous you were about how wild a bachelor party planned by Sir Ian would get if he was your Best Man instead?

PS: Yes, he let the cat out of the bag. Well, he’s not my Best Man, but I have a Best Man who will certainly match Sir Ian in fun, but I can’t name him – you would know who he is. Our careers and lives have been so similar, although I didn’t meet Ian until I was in my late 20s or early 30s. I’ve known him since I was a fan. His career took off in the English theatre long before mine did. He was a star when he was a student at Cambridge. I was working in the provinces, so I’d known of him. We had actually only worked together once before we came to do X-Men. Now we have a big Broadway production ahead of us that we’re doing together. We will spend almost all of the next year together one way or another.

As Professor Charles Xavier, you have quite a few mutant pupils to work with. Professors aren’t supposed to play favorites, but who’s the teacher’s pet among your crop of X-Men?

PS: Well it’s been a long history for us and I’ve had a lot of pupils and a lot of staff. In a sense, Logan – Wolverine – is a pupil, because I have been attempting to transform the nature of Wolverine from this man of rage and fury into someone more perfect. Also, because of the actress who plays her, Ellen Page, I really like Kitty Pryde. I’m thrilled Ellen is making this movie. And of course, Shawn Ashmore is one of my pupils – he doesn’t look like one of my pupils, but he is. Especially coming back after such a long time, everybody is kind of grown up. I think Ellen was 13 when we did the last movie.

The ability to read, control and influence human minds is a pretty amazing talent, but if you could have one of the other X-Men’s powers, which one would you choose?

PS: I need to correct you. Xavier doesn’t control people’s minds, he can simply access them. He cannot make people do things. He can enter their minds and know what they’re thinking. I’m not sure it’s the power I would wish to have. I think, as I do a lot of travelling, it would be teleporting. I could be in L.A. or London at the snap of the fingers.

You’re well-known for your roles in front of the camera, but you’ve done a ton of voice work for animated productions like Family Guy, American Dad, Gnomeo & Juliet, and more. Do you get just as big a kick out of that as full-on acting?

PS: I do. I love doing narration. I love doing voiceovers for commercials. It’s been really fun for me to be involved with Seth MacFarlane in American Dad.

You’ve played just about every Shakespearean part imaginable during your stage career. What do your old, fellow classically trained buddies think of you lending your voice to shows like American Dad and Family Guy?

PS: They are green with envy! (laughs)

Catch Stewart in his latest role as Walter Blunt, in the Starz Network sitcom, Blunt Talk, or follow the man himself in real time on Twitter, @SirPatStew.

This article, written by Shauna Denis, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 29 No. 4.

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