Sir Patrick Stewart was honored with a Special Tribute night on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival. This spring, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor earned some of the best reviews of his career as Professor Charles Xavier in “Logan,” reprising a role he originated in the first installment of the “x-Men” franchise which he has appeared in, off and on, for 17 years.
Although perhaps best known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Stewart has a wildly varied resume that includes comedy (“Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, “L.A. Story”) drama (“Match”), dark horror cinema (“Green Room”) and English drama (“I, Claudius”).
Stewart is a three-time Olivier Award winner and an Honorary Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2001.
During his remarks, Stewart shared that his entire life was changed by a teacher, Cecil Dormand, now 93, who placed “The Merchant of Venice” in front of him when he was a boy of 12. “Something happened,” said Stewart.
Of playing Captain Jean Luc-Picard in the “Star Trek” reboot, he told the crowd that, when he signed a 6-year contract, he was told, “Don’t worry. It will never happen” of the odds of the series lasting that long. But last it did, with the series going into its 7th season. Stewart said that he once said, “What I lack in my career is just more camera time. Well, I got it.” He also directed 6 of the episodes in the last 3 years.
In his younger years, Stewart confided, he was smitten with Hollywood stars like Doris Day, Tab Hunter and Debbie Reynolds. “I wanted so much to marry Doris Day. I don’t think she ever knew that.” For someone who never had a television set until he was 24, Stewart was more smitten with Hollywood than many.
Of the movies he admires, he mentioned by name “On the Waterfront” and the recently-watched “Shawshank Redemption.” He also spoke of his work in the cult favorite “Green Room” that featured work by the recently-deceased Anton Yelchin.
When Hugh Jackman announced that “Logan” would be his last outing in the role of Wolverine, the creature with claws and a violent nature, Jackman and Stewart had been working together for 15 years. They decided to really probe the characters and their inner lives, which is exactly why “Logan” is so much better than other Marvel comic offerings. It is, if you will, a return to the character-driven films of the seventies, rather than the “Let’s see how much stuff we can blow up” of the current crop of films.
The two old friends and co-stars watched the final X-Men entry at the Berlin Film Festival and, recounts Stewart, he felt tears running down his cheek and then noticed that Jackman, too, was crying. At that point, Jackman reached over and took Patrick Stewart’s hand and the two watched the end of the World Premiere with Daphne Keene’s 11-year-old girl taking over the role that Jackman originated and, the next morning, Stewart announced that he, too, was not going to be in the series any longer.
As he said, “There can never be a better way to say me, too. I announced it the next day, after the World Premiere. I was already killed once in this series. I was rather uncomfortably vaporized by Famke Janssen.” There are those who say Stewart might earn an Oscar nod for his performance in “Logan.”
As he mused on “the power of art to affect people’s lives,” he also talked about “A Christmas Carol,” his one-man show, and, as Cinema Chicago founder Michael Kutza presented him with his Lifetime Achievement award, he praised the Chicago-based Improvised Shakespeare Company and Rod Steiger, who was instrumental in helping him at the start of his career.
At the very end of the program, Stewart left for a private reception at a Gold Coast home saying, “Thank you so much. This is marvelous.’