Ian McKellen Once Advised Patrick Stewart Against 'Star Trek' Role: "He’s Long Forgiven Me"

Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen - European Premiere of Star Trek: Picard - Getty-H 2020
Dave Benett/WireImage
McKellen worried at the time that Stewart taking on the now-iconic role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard would adversely affect his great friend's stellar theater career in the U.K.

Ian McKellen has confessed that he once advised Patrick Stewart against taking the now-iconic role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as he worried what affect it would have on his great friend's stellar theater career in the U.K. 

Speaking to the Guardian this week as part of the newspaper's celebration of Stewart's 80th birthday, McKellen spoke about how his X-Men co-star's "success as a classical actor with the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre companies" influenced the advice he gave his friend. "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." 

McKellen added: "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."

Stewart's critically acclaimed portrayal of Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation was his breakthrough role on U.S. television, and he went to become a firm fan favorite. He played the character for seven seasons and reprised the role with great success in four spinoff movies. Stewart is currently playing Picard in the CBS All Access show Star Trek: Picard that debuted this year to rave reviews and already has an order for a second season. 

Along with the reflections from McKellen, the Guardian tribute includes contributions from the likes of William Shatner, David Tennant, Billy Crudup, Alison Pill and Brian Blessed.

Shatner, who worked with Stewart in the 1994 film Star Trek Generations, said, "He's a love and he is an intellectual in an athlete's body. 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."

Jul. 10, 4:40 p.m. A previous version of this story incorrectly said Star Trek: Picard had been renewed for two seasons. THR regrets the error.