Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Wisdom of Patrick Stewart

The London Observer regularly runs a first-person narrative "This much I know" by prominent personalities. I couldn't help but notice that this weekend's choice is Patrick Stewart - aka Captain Picard of the Enterprise:

Patrick Stewart
Actor, 64, London

Ben Mitchell
Sunday January 23, 2005

I have grown bored of answering questions about baldness and almost everything to do with Star Trek. Those are the ones that make me roll my eyes.

In time Beavis and Butt-head will become defined as a very, very significant part of American culture. It's brilliant. I've got all the tapes

Age has never really been an issue with me. I get a bus pass this year. I had a drink with Sir Ian McKellen on his 65th birthday last year. He waved his bus pass in my face and said, 'I am going to take advantage of this.' What's good enough for Sir Ian is good enough for me.

I haven't been falling-down drunk for decades. We could be looking at 30 years. Nothing makes me happier than a whole day spent on the Fells. I have a house in North Yorkshire, very remote. I come from a family of dedicated, serious long-distance hikers. That, for me, is bliss.

Vices is a strong term. Luxuries? How interesting that you correlate vices with luxury. Indulgences, shall we settle on that? I love very, very expensive bed linen. It makes a difference to every aspect of being in bed.

My girlfriend has never seen an entire episode of Star Trek so she hardly knows anything about it. The night before last we were flicking, looking for something to watch over dinner, and there was Star Trek: Nemesis. We watched it and it made me cry because it was our last movie. Crying at one of my own movies!

It's a funny thing about success, how much it filters through into all the areas of your life. It gives you confidence. Looking back now, I was handicapped by low self-image. Was that to do with losing my hair? A lot of it actually, yes it was. I always had an image of someone I wanted to be, which was not myself.

I was in a romance with Los Angeles for a long time. It died. It's very seductive lifestyle, but it wasn't why I became an actor. Here, on these dark, overcast grim mornings, I wake up with a smile every single day.

It's a source of some irritation that I've never done Desert Island Discs. I have my list of eight records in my wallet and I update it, waiting to be asked. Music came very late into my life. I worked in Liverpool in 1963 and didn't know who the Beatles were. When a guy called Sting told me he played the bass, I thought he meant the double bass. I knew nothing.

Women are a really good thing. I'm for them, I really am. If you have one in your life, be grateful.

In America it's not vulgar to talk about money. I was in denial for about two years when I went to LA. I bought a Honda. A Honda! Can you believe that? When I arrived on the set they were horrified.

Doing Star Trek was such a changing experience for me. I was a prick when I went over there. We had a meeting, the nine principal cast, about some discipline problems we'd been having on the set. One of the company said, 'What's the problem? Come on, we've got to have fun!' I said 'Fun? We're not here to have fun, we're here to work.' As the years went by the cast would love to quote this speech back at me.

You know the reason Michael Caine gave for leaving California for England? It was
time to come home when he was ordering sparkling water with every meal. There's somebody who's got his shit together.

I had a very enlightened English teacher who first introduced me to Shakespeare and gave me a part in a play when I was 12. One of the great delights of my senior years is that, a month ago, as chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, I presented him with an honorary degree.

I obsessively play Tetris. I like the old-fashioned Game Boy, but I left mine on a plane.

My father was a soldier. After he died, somebody who had served with him said to me, 'When your father walked on to the parade ground the birds in the trees stopped singing.' Was I close to him? No. Nobody was.

I fucked up too many times to be a good father. I have two great kids and the sense of loyalty they have is so strong, but I was completely wrapped up in my career during their early years.

I'm OK with technology. Not as good as the captain of the Enterprise ought to be. I truly no longer know where Captain Picard begins and Patrick Stewart leaves off.

Patrick Stewart appears in A Life In The Theatre at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, from 2 February

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