Sir Patrick Stewart honoured at Chivas Legends Dinner in Dubai

Star of stage and screen Patrick Stewart was honoured as a Chivas Legend at a VIP dinner on. More than 200 invitees packed out the ballroom at Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa to hear from the 74-year-old who spoke on chivalry, gender equality and other social causes he supports.

Patrick Stewart outside the Burj Khalifa. Courtesy Chivas Legends
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Patrick Stewart was honoured on Sunday, December 7 in the Burj Khalifa's Armani Hotel during the packed-out, invitation-only Chivas Legends Dinner. Previous legends include Colin Firth, David Frost, Ben Kingsley and Jeremy Irons, with Stewart commemorated for achievements including iconic performances as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film series and work in more than 60 Shakespearean productions. We caught up with the 74-year-old, who was on his second flying visit to the UAE, ahead of the evening's ­festivities.

What does the term “legend” mean to you?

A legend for me would probably be someone in a historical sense. I’ve been fascinated by history since I was a child, probably because a lot of what I experienced growing up wasn’t that pleasant, so to lose myself in a comic book or a novel about the past was magical for me. I have individuals who I think are legends, a lot of them sportsmen and those from the world of politics. But I particularly remember, in London many years ago, when Nelson Mandela stepped into my elevator. He said good morning and gave me a wonderful smile and I couldn’t say a word back. I was frozen by the shock and excitement. As I walked along Piccadilly afterwards, my legs could barely hold me up, truly. I was shaking from the encounter. So, perhaps in terms of meeting a legend, that was the greatest moment of my life.

What film, television and stage projects are coming up for you?

Last year I completed my work on X-Men: Days of Future Past with Sir Ian McKellen, a great friend and colleague. We then took a couple of weeks off and went to New York and began rehearsing two plays for Broadway. Since those plays finished I've appeared in three films and I'm about to go to Hollywood to start work on a brand-new television comedy show – which I've never done before.

Why choose to explore more comedic roles now?

I've had an urge to do more comedy for years, but I was so rarely offered parts. The most memorable figures I've played, from Charles Xavier of X-Men or Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek, are not exactly full of laughs. But in recent years, I've been able to show another face of Patrick Stewart, which I hope is amusing, self-mocking, irreverent and sometimes even a bit coarse.

Could you ever be tempted to reprise your role in Star Trek?

Well, it would have to be a very big temptation – and I’m not talking about money. I mean, it would have to be a new, exciting and unusual idea. I’m very proud of the seven years, the 178 episodes and four movies we made. I’m also proud that we’ve helped sustain the popularity of a franchise that’s still ongoing. So, if J J Abrams or Paramount were to come up with a really novel idea, then I think it might possibly be entertaining. But I can tell you now, it ain’t gonna happen.

You’re outspoken in your support of many social and political causes. If you were prime minister for a day, what would you tackle first?

Today, the first and most important issues are that of the United Kingdom minimum wage, employment for young people and improving the general standard of living for all. I would, of course, be concerned about security but I would also be very passionate about staying in Europe. A unified Europe gives us the best possible chance of a peaceful coexistence with our neighbours.

As you look back on a career that’s spanned more than five decades, do you have any regrets?

I once had the opportunity to meet the great Marlon Brando and I pulled out at the last minute. I’ve regretted it all my life. I was young and felt I didn’t have the guts to go through with an encounter with the man who had been my screen idol for most of my early years as an actor.