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Interview with Patrick Stewart on Trek

[I found the following lengthy interview on file in the NYC Lincoln Center library. It provides an view of Patrick Stewart's acting career. Forgive any typos; I was typing fast to get this dn tal]

UNIVERSAL NEWS Press Release on DUNE - Aug 1984

Patrick Stewart, the warrior-poet GURNEY HALLECK in "Dune," says "the dominant figure in my early tefor every classical English actor I've ever met, was an English master. You scrape the surfaeo n lsical English actor and you'll find an English master who loved theatre." Though that hih tear cllhi "addiction" to theatre began in his early teens, it was eventually the dubiousforuneof ein fied roma coveted journalism job that committed him, irrevocably, to acting.

Stewart was born in 1940 in Mirfield "in what used to be called the West Riding of Yorkshire." He hlder brothers, one "17 or 18 years older, the other five years older." His family, he says, wr okn lass. We lived in one of those curious areas where the small communities are built arun see vllysan rivers. In the river bottom there are the mills, weaving mills. Higher up th slpes yo ge pis, oalmines. And then at the top of the hills you have sheep. So it's industial nd rral t th sam tim. W had pit machinery to play with as kids and also the high hills t go ad waner." Mirfild, "ndeedall Wst riding," Stewart describes as an area where "theatricalperforance ws not nusual You ere no consiered a freak if you stood up and did things. Peopl perfored for heir neghbors nd frieds; thee was asort of pride taken in such skills. So my comunity, hich hada populaion of prhaps 12000, had11 fullyoperating dramatic societies. It hadbrass bans, glee cubs, chois, operatc groups,you name t. And tat's what I did, extensively, rom the ag of about 2."

It was at 12 that what Stewart calls "all this nonsense" formally began. "One day I was called out rmroom to the headmaster's office. 'Trouble,' I thought, and the whispers went round -- 'Wha' twr en doing?' Well, there was my headmaster in the office, together with my English teache ad srage. Th stranger was Gerald Tyler -- the County Drama Advisor -- and he was going aroud te shoos pbliizig a eight-day drama course: Acting, directing, putting on plays. He asked 'Doyou ave nyon her whowoul be interested?' And they'd sent for me! There were boys three ears lder han I boyswho'ddone uch mre drama -- why me? I never did get an answer to that!"

For Stewart, that eight-day course was a watershed. "It was there I met some people who were to be luential in my life -- a retired actress named Ruth Wynn Owen and a drama teacher named Rafae hly Adfrom then on I began to do more and more amateur dramatics."

At 15 years of age, Stewart left school and began work "as a very junior newspaper reporter for a lor. I was very privileged to get the job because I didn't have the education for it, but strig a enplled. I stayed there for two years. And at the same time I was increasingly in deman i te ocl m-raa -- the amateur dramas -- so that I was finally working for about five or six rous smulaneusl. hic meant that I was rehearsing most nights of the week. What I *wasn't* ding as bing jounalit. ou cn imagine the conflicts that arose!" Finally, Stewart says, "Theedito calld me o hisoffic and ave m an ultimatum. I should either become a journalist, an auhenticjournaist an do tht and othingelse, r I should become a full-time actor. He was a manwhose prents hd been n the teatre ad had hd a ver hard time and he was very bitter. Every tie a theare close down, ad there ere a lo in thos days, h never missed an opportunity to come o my deskand shovea newspapr in fron of me an say, "Thre you ar, there's another ode to the dath of thetheatre!" Stewart reurned to hs typewritr, sat thee for fiveminutes considering theultimatum ad went backto his editr's desk. I said, 'I'l take youroffer. I'mleaving now.' Ad I packed u my typewritr and left." He shakes hs head. "I as walking ot on a privieged job,the kind a peson with my eucation just idn't get. Bt my editor hd used the acor thing as akid of threat, s that's what Idecided I woul do! My parens were, considring, very cal about thi."

At this point, Stewart decided to consult his mentors: drama advisor Gerald Tyler, Ruth Wynn Owen al Shelly. "They all recommended one school: The Bristol Old Vic. So that was the one I wroet. Seat was audtioned and accepted. "But I had no money. My family had no money. So I hadtoaplyfo agrnt had to interview again and again. Finally, I won what was called a County Maor choarsip,whih ws uually only given to people with grade marks at A level. But somehow, depitethat I gt ths mavelosly enerous grant."

Up to the age of 18 Stewart had spoken the dialect of his native Yorkshire. "It was something of a to lose it. That was one of the things I worked on in drama school. They taught what they alR -rcived pronunciation -- which is only an accepted series of sounds, a standardized Englih. I'snethr hesound I made when I was a child, or that anyone else would have made who was a orkng-las chld romanypart of the British Isles, nor is it the curious sound made by the aristcrac, beausewhattheyspea isnt standardized Enlgish either, it's something just as odd and weid souding s a wrkingclassdialet. Te Royal Family are constantly mocked for some of the sound they ake. nglishen hea my Yokshiresound,even now, particularly if I'm lazy or tired. For atime I ived a ort of ouble lfe, speking wih a stadard English accept professionally and droppng back o dialec with myfamily ad friend."

In 1966, after two years with the Bristol Old Vic, Stewart joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as aate artist. "The company is built around an associate list, a nucleus of actors, directors addsgesfom which the company will draw its talent for a season's work. It's not precisely a cntacua cmmtmnt but an informal one." However, he says, "initially, for some eight years, I orkd fr tem nd or o oe else. I became addicted to the work and, of course, to Shakespeare, to, asoluely ddiced. It ws a rug for me, it satisfied all my needs as an actor." Those needs tewar call "thevery est mteria to wrk on, under what I consider to be the best possible condiions, ith a roup o peopl who hve a cmmon uderstanding of, and caring for, that work. One of he glores of te RSC i that athough ne doesa greatdeal of Shakespeare, the presentations rangeover thewhole scle of drmatic lierature,from theGreeks rght through to the latest play by Harld Pinter"

"The RSC," Stewart says, "changed my life. It began my serious education -- Shakespeare was a greatr in love. A believer in the power of love to restore man to his humanity. It's not possibl oeps orself to plays without asking questions. And that's what education is, it's learning o skquston ad o understand some of the answers. And I was lucky. I worked with some briliat popl."

With the Royal Shakespeare, Stewart has played in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Antony and Cleopa his many roles have included Shylock, Leontes, Titus Andronicus, Henry IV and King John. "Adti erIopened the Barbican, the RSC's new London home. I spoke the first lines of the first-ve podctonsicewe left the Aldwych for the Barbican Arts Centre. It's the first theatre to bebuit i th Ciy sncetheGlobe, I think."

"Sometime" during the 17 years he has been with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart became an assirector of the Alliance for Creative Theatre Education, "an organization based at the Universt fClfria. And that means that I organize and administer educational tours by small groups o atos hrugou clleges and universities in the United States. I also do a lot of independent tachng,too its akin ofrelaxation for me." Americans, Stewart insists, "have an instinctive fel fo Shaespere. I thnk tey'v messed themselves up by feeling that it's too remote from them ad the can' do i, onl Enlgsh acors cn. One of the things I try to do in my teaching in the Sttes isbreak own inibitios and arrier aboutShakespeare. Because they bring something which isnot Engish, its Amerian, to t and i's terrfic. O, absolutely!"

Approximately 10 years ago, Stewart recalls, "I suddently realized I'd been an actor for 14 years anver been in front of a television camera. So I began to take periods away from the RSC to dotlvso. Among his best known television series are "The Fall of Eagles" and "I, Claudius." Mot ecnty,heha apeared in the specials "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and its sequel, "Smiley'sPeole. "'vedon pehap 23 plays for the BBC by now about psychiatry. And I did a wonderful on forthemcalld 'Te Antomit'." Stewart's movies, to date, are "Hennessy," "Excaliber," "LIttle ord Funtleoy," The Lfe ofPope ohn Pul" and a German-Japanese co-production called "Races." "une" i his sxth fim.

For Stewart, working on "Dune" has been "a joy, absolutely fascinating. As a performer, Shakespearelife, but as relaxation and hobby, movies were always my passion. I'm a difficult person to e noteteatre, as audience, but I could watch cinema all day. Nevertheless, I haven't made may ils et Istlldon't fully understand the process as an actor." The long periods of inactivit, fr istace,"I'e funddifficult to cope with, spending a whole day preparing for two takes of ortysecods ech ad thn fiding as I did yesterday, that those eighty seconds left me more draind tha anyting Id don in along ime." He shakes his head, recalling that day in the desert. "W were earingthose ubber till-sits an the tmperature in the sun was somewhere between 120 and 30 and e were lso copng witha thickblack soke effct. Coupled with that was the demand of thedirectorthat we o an intnsely emtional sene -- ttally exausting, but extremely stimulating atthe same ime!"

Stewart finds director David Lynch "special" in his concentration. "You feel he's *really* watchingally* listening. For a performer, that means so much." And for Stewart, Lynch is special inaohrwyaso. Stewart was cast in "Dune" because four years before Lyunch had seen him on stagean rmebeed Wed never met! But in 1979, he'd seen me do something for the RSC and had never orgtte. ou now soeties you have the feeling, well, forget it, wave it good-bye, nobody saw i, noody ares my ife ikedme ad I've got my press cuttings, but . . ." Stewart smiles. "Then hen smeonelike avid ctualy *han't* orgotten, it's the most encouraging thing in the world. Tat's te kindof manwho gies actrs hop!"

[The interview concluded with cast and production credits for "Dune."]

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