One of the most enduring friendships in show business is the one between British thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Stewart has now revealed plenty of gossip about his Star Trek years in his new memoir, Make It So.
Stewart, 83, is best known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987 to 1994. He reprised the role in movies and more recently in Star Trek: Picard.
Before this, Stewart had a successful career in the theatre. So much so that his pal, McKellen, 84, cautioned him from moving across to a major TV franchise such as Star Trek.
“When I told him I was going to sign the contract, he almost bodily prevented me from doing so,” writes Stewart.
“‘No!’ he said. ‘No, you must not do that. You must not. You have too much important theater work to do. You can’t throw that away to do TV. You can’t. No!’”
Fortunately, Stewart ignored McKellen’s advice.
“There are few people, particularly with regard to acting, whose counsel I trust more than Ian’s,” he says. “But this time I had to tell him that I felt theater would return to my life whenever I was ready for it, whereas an offer of the lead role in an American TV series might never come again.”
Who knows? Maybe Stewart’s success with Star Trek was in McKellen’s mind when he crossed over to Hollywood with the X-Men and Lord of the Rings movies?
Elsewhere in his book, Stewart revealed that when he first auditioned for Star Trek, executives asked him if he owned a hairpiece and, if so, if he could please bring it to the audition.
Unfortunately, he was about to board a plane for the US when he received the message. His wife subsequently had to send it over on the next available flight.
“I do not know if my hairpiece flew first class,” he continues. “But by Sunday, it had arrived, and I drove back to LAX to retrieve it. It was packed in my briefcase when I drove to the Paramount Studios lot on Monday morning.”
He duly wore it for the audition. The executives later asked to visit him in his dressing room. By this stage, he’d already removed the wig.
“Shit, here comes the bad news,” Stewart recalls thinking. “But all they did was thank me once more, wish me a good day, and take off.”
Stewart later learned that they’d just wanted to see what he looked like without the wig. He was offered the part and informed that producers were happy for him to play the role with his naturally bald scalp.