[I found the following lengthy interview on file in the NYC Lincoln Center library. It provides an in-depth view of Patrick Stewart's acting career. ]
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PATRICK STEWART

UNIVERSAL NEWS Press Release on DUNE - Aug 1984

Patrick Stewart, the warrior-poet GURNEY HALLECK in "Dune," says "the dominant figure in my early teens, as for every classical English actor I've ever met, was an English master. You scrape the surface of any classical English actor and you'll find an English master who loved theatre." Though that which Stewart call his "addiction" to theatre began in his early teens, it was eventually the dubious fortune of being fired from a 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 has two older brothers, one "17 or 18 years older, the other five years older." His family, he says, "were working class. We lived in one of those curious areas where the small communities are built around steep valleys and rivers. In the river bottom there are the mills, weaving mills. Higher up the slopes, you get pits, coal mines. And then at the top of the hills you have sheep. So it's industrial and rural at the same time. We had pit machinery to play with as kids and also the high hills to go and wander." Mirfield, "indeed all West riding," Stewart describes as an area where "theatrical performance was not unusual. You were not considered a freak if you stood up and did things. People performed for their neighbors and friends; there was a sort of pride taken in such skills. So my community, which had a population of perhaps 12,000, had 11 fully operating dramatic societies. It had brass bands, glee clubs, choirs, operatic groups, you name it. And that's what I did, extensively, from the age of about 12."

It was at 12 that what Stewart calls "all this nonsense" formally began. "One day I was called out of my formroom to the headmaster's office. 'Trouble,' I thought, and the whispers went round -- 'What's Stewart been doing?' Well, there was my headmaster in the office, together with my English teacher and a stranger. The stranger was Gerald Tyler -- the County Drama Advisor -- and he was going around the schools publicizing an eight-day drama course: Acting, directing, putting on plays. He asked, 'Do you have anyone here who would be interested?' And they'd sent for me! There were boys three years older than I, boys who'd done much more 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 very influential in my life -- a retired actress named Ruth Wynn Owen and a drama teacher named Rafael Shelly. And from 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 local paper. I was very privileged to get the job because I didn't have the education for it, but strings had been pulled. I stayed there for two years. And at the same time I was increasingly in demand in the local am-drama -- the amateur dramas -- so that I was finally working for about five or six groups simultaneously. Which meant that I was rehearsing most nights of the week. What I *wasn't* doing was being a journalist. You can imagine the conflicts that arose!" Finally, Stewart says, "The editor called me to his office and gave me an ultimatum. I should either become a journalist, an authentic journalist and do that and nothing else, or I should become a full-time actor. He was a man whose parents had been in the theatre and had had a very hard time and he was very bitter. Every time a theatre closed down, and there were a lot in those days, he never missed an opportunity to come to my desk and shove a newspaper in front of me and say, "There you are, there's another ode to the death of the theatre!" Stewart returned to his typewriter, sat there for five minutes considering the ultimatum and went back to his editor's desk. "I said, 'I'll take your offer. I'm leaving now.' And I packed up my typewriter and left." He shakes his head. "I was walking out on a privileged job, the kind a person with my education just didn't get. But my editor had used the actor thing as a kind of threat, so that's what I decided I would do! My parents were, considering, very calm about this."

At this point, Stewart decided to consult his mentors: drama advisor Gerald Tyler, Ruth Wynn Owen and Rafael Shelly. "They all recommended one school: The Bristol Old Vic. So that was the one I wrote to." Stewart was audtioned and accepted. "But I had no money. My family had no money. So I had to apply for a grant, had to interview again and again. Finally, I won what was called a County Major Scholarship, which was usually only given to people with grade marks at A level. But somehow, despite that, I got this marvelously generous grant."

Up to the age of 18 Stewart had spoken the dialect of his native Yorkshire. "It was something of a struggle to lose it. That was one of the things I worked on in drama school. They taught what they call RP -- received pronunciation -- which is only an accepted series of sounds, a standardized English. It's neither the sound I made when I was a child, or that anyone else would have made who was a working-class child from any part of the British Isles, nor is it the curious sound made by the aristocracy, because what they speak isn't standardized Enlgish either, it's something just as odd and weird sounding as a working class dialect. The Royal Family are constantly mocked for some of the sounds they make. Englishmen hear my Yorkshire sound, even now, particularly if I'm lazy or tired. For a time I lived a sort of double life, speaking with a standard English accept professionally and dropping back to dialect with my family and friends."

In 1966, after two years with the Bristol Old Vic, Stewart joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as an associate artist. "The company is built around an associate list, a nucleus of actors, directors and designers from which the company will draw its talent for a season's work. It's not precisely a contractual commitment, but an informal one." However, he says, "initially, for some eight years, I worked for them and for no one else. I became addicted to the work and, of course, to Shakespeare, too, absolutely addicted. It was a drug for me, it satisfied all my needs as an actor." Those needs Stewart calls "the very best material to work on, under what I consider to be the best possible conditions, with a group of people who have a common understanding of, and caring for, that work. One of the glories of the RSC is that although one does a great deal of Shakespeare, the presentations range over the whole scale of dramatic literature, from the Greeks right through to the latest play by Harold Pinter." "The RSC," Stewart says, "changed my life. It began my serious education -- Shakespeare was a great believer in love. A believer in the power of love to restore man to his humanity. It's not possible to expose yourself to plays without asking questions. And that's what education is, it's learning to ask questions and to understand some of the answers. And I was lucky. I worked with some briliant people."

With the Royal Shakespeare, Stewart has played in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Antony and Cleopatra" and his many roles have included Shylock, Leontes, Titus Andronicus, Henry IV and King John. "And this year I opened the Barbican, the RSC's new London home. I spoke the first lines of the first-ever production since we left the Aldwych for the Barbican Arts Centre. It's the first theatre to be built in the City since the Globe, I think."

"Sometime" during the 17 years he has been with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart became an associate director of the Alliance for Creative Theatre Education, "an organization based at the University of California. And that means that I organize and administer educational tours by small groups of actors throughout colleges and universities in the United States. I also do a lot of independent teaching, too, it's a kind of relaxation for me." Americans, Stewart insists, "have an instinctive feel for Shakespeare. I think they've messed themselves up by feeling that it's too remote from them and they can't do it, only Enlgish actors can. One of the things I try to do in my teaching in the States is break down inhibitions and barriers about Shakespeare. Because they bring something which is not English, it's American, to it and it's terrific. Oh, absolutely!"

Approximately 10 years ago, Stewart recalls, "I suddently realized I'd been an actor for 14 years and had never been in front of a television camera. So I began to take periods away from the RSC to do television." Among his best known television series are "The Fall of Eagles" and "I, Claudius." Most recently, he has appeared in the specials "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and its sequel, "Smiley's People." "I've done perhaps 23 plays for the BBC by now about psychiatry. And I did a wonderful one for them called 'The Anatomist'." Stewart's movies, to date, are "Hennessy," "Excaliber," "LIttle Lord Fauntleroy," "The Life of Pope John Paul" and a German-Japanese co-production called "Races." "Dune" is his sixth film.

For Stewart, working on "Dune" has been "a joy, absolutely fascinating. As a performer, Shakespeare was my life, but as relaxation and hobby, movies were always my passion. I'm a difficult person to get into the theatre, as audience, but I could watch cinema all day. Nevertheless, I haven't made many films yet; I still don't fully understand the process as an actor." The long periods of inactivity, for instance, "I've found difficult to cope with, spending a whole day preparing for two takes of forty seconds each and then finding, as I did yesterday, that those eighty seconds left me more drained than anything I'd done in a long time." He shakes his head, recalling that day in the desert. "We were wearing those rubber still-suits and the temperature in the sun was somewhere between 120 and 130 and we were also coping with a thick black smoke effect. Coupled with that was the demand of the director that we do an intensely emotional scene -- totally exhausting, but extremely stimulating at the same time!"

Stewart finds director David Lynch "special" in his concentration. "You feel he's *really* watching and *really* listening. For a performer, that means so much." And for Stewart, Lynch is special in another way also. Stewart was cast in "Dune" because four years before Lyunch had seen him on stage and remembered. "We'd never met! But in 1979, he'd seen me do something for the RSC and had never forgotten. You know, sometimes you have the feeling, well, forget it, wave it good-bye, nobody saw it, nobody cares, my wife liked me and I've got my press cuttings, but . . ." Stewart smiles. "Then when someone like David actually *hasn't* forgotten, it's the most encouraging thing in the world. That's the kind of man who gives actors hope!"

 

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