It's hard to believe the venerable Patrick Stewart who brings so much life and energy into his roles on the stage, television and film turned 80 years old. The seasoned trained thespian studied at the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre companies. Stewart's co-stars from Star Trek, X-Men, and others across Hollywood shared personal messages via The Guardian. His dearest friend, actor Ian McKellen shares a relationship spanning four decades dating back to their early theater days. "I like to surprise chat show hosts by telling them: 'I married Patrick Stewart' – which I did," he said. "I married him to Sunny [Ozell] (in 2013), his mischievous, utterly reliable wife. What he confesses on chat shows is his delight and certainty that he has gone far. Far from his native Yorkshire and at times miserable home life, far from the young actor who combed his thinning hair over the crown, until one night two friends scissored it off and a noble skull was revealed."
McKellen initially warned Stewart about the risk working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he proudly admits being wrong. "Far, too, from his earlier success as a classical actor with the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre companies," he said. "He's long forgiven me my advice not to risk a solid career on the British stage by falling for an uncertain future in Star Trek. How he got that job is a prime example of how luck can be a lady, and it will be a riveting chapter in the memoir he must write. He has so much to tell. Not just the glamour and the hard work but his politics and his open-hearted commitment to his charity work." The two developed a more profound bond when they filmed opposite each other as rivals Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) in Fox's X-Men films. "Eighty is, of course, a milestone, but he has had so many remarkable achievements in his careering journey from Huddersfield, to Stratford, the West End, Hollywood, to Broadway and beyond, I'm sure there will be no silly talk about retirement."
"Working with Patrick is one of the great joys in life," Star Trek: Picard co-star Alison Pill (who plays Dr. Agnes Jurati) said. "Not only is he kind and funny, but he read a Brecht poem without a whiff of pomposity. Literally. He read Questions from a Worker Who Reads one day, and while sitting at someone's knee listening to poetry seems to be something of another age, it simply feels right when the knee at which you sit is Patrick Stewart's."
Isa Briones, who played multiple roles on Star Trek: Picard, remarked on how approachable Stewart was on set and how much he infused empathy on set. "The first word that comes to mind when I think about Patrick is 'respect,'" she said. "Going into meeting' PStew,' I already had the natural respect you have for a legendary actor of his caliber, but it quickly evolved into the respect you have for an old friend. That was due to how obvious his respect for me was. He opened up to me about how he was a very timid young actor and, when he made his first film, there was an actor who made sure he felt supported and respected. Patrick wanted to be like that. He made sure I felt we were equals, simply there to create. Patrick worries that people think him to be "intimidating," which he never intends to be. So he told us that from now on, whenever we feel it necessary, we should yell out 'INTIMIDATION' to keep him in check. Let's just say we all cannot wait to get back to work and annoy the hell out of him with that." Not to be left out, Star Trek tweeted the good admiral Jean-Luc Picard their birthday wishes as well.
Happy 80th Birthday @SirPatStew!
Check out this video from his birthday celebration on the set of #StarTrekPicard last year and reply with your favorite Picard GIF to help him celebrate! #StarTrekFamily pic.twitter.com/2ejosR27ub
— Star Trek on CBS All Access (@startrekcbs) July 13, 2020
David Tennant co-starred with Stewart in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production of "Hamlet." "I saw him playing Claudius in a TV version of Hamlet when I was at school," he said. "Years later, Patrick and I had two goes at Hamlet together – we did it on stage for the RSC and then reassembled for television. He is everything you'd imagine: generous, a real actors' actor, loves being in a troupe of players and everything about the life of the theatre. It was his lifetime ambition to play Claudius and the Ghost, as he'd been at the RSC when Brewster Mason did both roles in one production." The Doctor Who actor credits Stewart's continued dedication. "Patrick was thrilled to be back where he'd started, at the RSC, after this extraordinary Hollywood life and international success," Tennant continued. "He'd been released back into the wild almost, enjoying all these parts he had unfinished business with. We all await his King Lear. Patrick still almost looks the same as in that Hamlet I saw at school. He's fit as a fiddle and so strapping! How many 80-year-olds are the lead in their own science fiction series? There's nothing of the 'old man' about him. He's very virile – I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying that!"
William Shatner, who reprised his role as Captain James Kirk for one final time in a live-action setting in Star Trek: Generations (1994) recalled the scenes they had on horseback together. "He's a love, and he is an intellectual in an athlete's body," he said." We had a long horse scene to do together once, and I recommended him wearing women's silk stockings to avoid chafing, and he nodded his head as a thank you. When he came out of his dressing room, he was wearing the lace stockings outside of his costume. 'No, no, Patrick, underneath your costume!' We laughed as we ordinarily did. I didn't know he was so old."
Actor Billy Crudup (Watchmen) performed with Stewart and McKellan on a number of stage productions at the Cort Theatre in New York in 2013. "In high school, I would watch videos of the RSC's workshops, featuring Patrick as well as Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins: all filled with vim and vigour and happiness, all extremely fastidious and having in-depth arguments about iambic pentameter," he said." In acting school, I became addicted to Star Trek. When you put somebody with that kind of capacity in an arena like a sci-fi drama, they become the cornerstone." When Crudup was cast alongside Stewart and McKellan, he found himself a bit starstruck. "By the time I had the chance to work with him, it seemed impossible to me that he was a real human being," he continued. "But in 2013, I joined a touring production of No Man's Land and Waiting for Godot with Patrick, Ian and Shuler Hensley. They pursued day after day such incredibly challenging pieces of material without any give. That Pat in his 70s still had that level of rabid curiosity was the most wonderful news to me; I feel exhausted, and I'm barely 50. He and Ian were both thriving in what anyone else would consider the end of their career; instead, it felt like it was the middle. They continue to have the appetite to pursue the kind of material that makes them relevant."
Crudup recalled the time when Stewart went above and beyond for his castmate. "One day in tech, I was having a particularly miserable time: I had just lost a loved one and was grappling with other painful things," he said. "I was doing the best that I could, and my best was just terrible. At the end of the rehearsal, Patrick came up as I was packing my belongings and put his hand on my shoulder and said: 'Billy, oh Billy. When you hurt, I hurt. If you need anything, I'm here.' I just burst into tears. I have found his kind of love and big-heartedness uncommon in the industry."
Kelsey Grammer, who appeared with Stewart on Star Trek: The Next Generation, later on, his own TV sitcom Frasier, and Stewart's second mega-franchise X3: The Last Stand (2006) complimented on the British actor's virility. "I'm so pleased Patrick is turning 80 and still looks about 35," he said." I can't say he's changed at all since I first met him on Star Trek; we've also done an X-Men film together, and he guest-starred on Frasier. I do see a little of myself in Patrick and vice versa. We both like to turn a phrase. I think we both share a devotion to trying to play new characters, to staying connected to the thing which got us here in the first place, which is our imagination." Grammer contrasts their turns on stage in Macbeth. "We were both Macbeth a year apart – he was lauded for his performance; I was attacked for mine," he said. "And yes, we are both very comfortable with an element of camp in our heterosexuality. He led when we danced together on Frasier, and he was a lovely dancer. In my house, we still quote his line in that show where he picks up his phone in Frasier's apartment and says: 'Placiiiiidoooo!' And David Hyde Pierce [Niles] and I gasp: "Placido Domingo?!" That voice of his is pretty extraordinary.
Grammer describes Stewart's attributes in the most Frasier Crane-way possible. "He's effervescent, always polite and – like most actors I know – very bright," he said. "In some ways, he does seem quintessentially English. A little phlegmatic, perhaps, a bit removed; that language and accosting profile. Yet he's got great warmth and charm, which is not, of course, foreign to Englishmen and women. But Patrick can project a traditional stiff upper lip Brit while underneath being a very receptive and self-effacing and accessible guy, with a kind of American openness. I've never heard a word spoken against him."
You can check out other birthday wishes from those in Stewart's life from Harriet Walker, Golda Rosheuvel, Brian Blessed, Janet Suzman, and Rupert Goold if you go to The Guardian.