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Ian McKellen told Patrick Stewart to turn down Star Trek and stay in theatre

Stewart recalled moment in his new memoir ‘Making It So’

Tom Murray
Tuesday 03 October 2023 20:11 BST
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Patrick Stewart has revealed that Ian McKellen warned him against taking his most famous role in Star Trek.

In his new memoir, Making It So, Stewart, 83, discusses his decades-long friendship with McKellen, 84 – who even officiated his marriage to Sunny Ozell, 44, in 2013.

The two British actors became friends in the 1970s when they worked in the Royal Shakespeare Company together.

Stewart recalls informing McKellen in 1987 that he had been cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“When I told him I was going to sign the contract, he almost bodily prevented me from doing so,” Stewart wrote. “‘No!’ he wrote. ‘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!’”

“There are few people, particularly with regard to acting, whose counsel I trust more than Ian’s,” Stewart continued. “But this time I had to tell him that I felt theatre 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.”

Stewart ended up playing Jean-Luc Picard for seven seasons of The Next Generation, before reprising the role in four feature films. In 2020, he returned to the role for the CBS/Amazon series Star Trek: Picard.

Sir Ian McKellen (left) and Sir Patrick Stewart

“In the years since, we have become dear pals and X-Men colleagues, and Ian has acknowledged that he was wrong and I was right,” Stewart wrote. “More than once, in fact – primarily because I like making him say those words.”

The two actors shared the big screen as X-Men stars Magneto (the supervillain played by McKellen) and Professor X (Stewart) across five films from 2000’s X-Men to 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender starred as younger versions of the two characters in X-Men: First Class (2011), Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), and Dark Phoenix (2019).

Elsewhere in his memoir, Stewart recalled working with a young Tom Hardy in the 2002 film, Star Trek: Nemesis, describing him as “odd” and “solitary”.

“Tom wouldn’t engage with any of us on a social level,” Stewart said. “Never said, ‘Good morning,’ never said, ‘Goodnight,’ and spent the hours he wasn’t needed on set in his trailer with his girlfriend.”

The X-Men actor admitted that he didn’t ever expect to hear of Hardy again. “It gives me nothing but pleasure that Tom has proven me so wrong,” he added.

Making It So: A Memoir is out now.

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