Patrick Stewart talks with Michele Manelis about his return to Star Trek
Was it easy to slip back into your role as Jean-Luc Picard?
Well, this was not the first time I've been asked about doing Picard again. And I'd always passed because I was proud of all the work that we did in '87 to '94. I had moved on and I felt I had nothing more to say as Captain Picard. And then I met with all of these wonderful people in order to tell them why I wasn't going to accept their offer - and I did that at length. I left, saying, "Thank you very much but, no." But then we arranged a second meeting because they had incorporated my comments into their pitch. Well, it went so well that I felt myself being pulled without any resistance back into the role.
A lot has changed in the world since you were Picard.
Yes, it was 18 years since I was last Picard, in the film, Nemesis. In those years our world has changed, particularly, the United States and the UK. We are now days away from what I think to be a very, very tragic event, which is Brexit. I think it's going to be calamitous and I'm ashamed to even talk to Europeans.
You'll be turning 80 this year, how will you celebrate?
Well, I am pretty certain a lot of my year will be taken up with Star Trek: Picard. That feels perfectly appropriate to me and I'm happy to be doing that. There will be a party which my wife has been in the process of organising now for some time. The first party will be here in Los Angeles, because this has become very much the centre of a certain side of my life and then there will be one in London, too. That's where my good friend Ian McKellen is at the moment and he's got to come to my 80th birthday party, as I went to his.
Speaking of your enduring friendship with McKellen, what's it like when you meet up?
Well, I was with Ian recently. He gives quite famous New Year's Eve parties. I'll tell you frankly what we do when we meet, because we don't see one another often enough, I kiss him on the mouth. I hold him and embrace him and we stay like that for quite a while because it feels like I'm coming home. And then we'll sit down and just catch up. He is a brilliant and delightful person. Sensitive, warm, funny and unlike me, highly educated. He always tells me that I have too big a hang-up about my lack of education, because I left school when I was 15. Most of my friends who were at school with me ended up working in the coal mines or weaving sheds or steel companies so they also left school. We were a working-class community. But Ian, of course, went to Cambridge.
Sounds like you look up to him a lot?
Yes. He got his knighthood when he was much younger than me. And he is also a Companion of Honour. There are only a very few of them and you have to wait for one to die before you can create another one. In so far as being a knight of the theatre, Ian is my role model. I follow him in how to be.
Another iconic role you're known for is of course Professor X in the X:Men franchise. Would you be open to reprising that role?
Here's the problem, if we had not made Logan, then yes, I would probably be ready to get into that wheelchair one more time and be Charles Xavier. But Logan changed all that. I have great memories of making Logan. There was Hugh [Jackman] driving, a nasty, s***ty old limo around El Paso in order to make some money to keep Charles Xavier in medication. I was with Hugh every moment, every day and we spent a lot of time in that horrible old truck. The cameras were on all the car doors so we couldn't open them, the air conditioning didn't work, and it was Louisiana in summer which was very uncomfortable. But we had so much fun. We played all kinds of silly word games, like I Spy [he laughs].
Sounds like you got close to Jackman?
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I'll give you a tiny anecdote. The first time that he and I saw Logan in public was at the Berlin film festival. Shortly after the death of Xavier in the film, Wolverine/Logan is getting deeper and deeper and deeper into being vulnerable. So, I was getting very emotional watching the film but kept a hold of myself because we were sitting in the middle of a cinema. And then I saw Hugh, who was on my left, and I thought, "Dammit, the bugger's crying. Okay then. Let it out, Patrick!" So, we both sat there snivelling. And then Hugh took my hand and we held hands for the last seven or eight minutes of the film. There were so many things we were upset about. We were moved by the story but we were saying goodbye to our characters as well. So, it was not just the deaths of those two men in the franchise but also it was goodbye to our part in them as well.
You were saying that life nowadays has changed a lot. What is life like for Sir Patrick Stewart these days?
Well, the most significant aspect of my life certainly in the last 10 years was that I met my wife. And I am happier than I've ever been and prouder than I've ever been. She's not an actress, she's a singer and her second album is due out next month. Sunny [Ozell] has had a huge impact on my life.
Star Trek screens January 24 on Amazon Prime