In the new indie film Match, which becomes available on VOD Jan. 15, Sir Patrick Stewart plays queer Julliard dance instructor Tobias, who meets with a couple, played by Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino, for an interview. However, the interview proves to be a ruse, and Tobias finds himself ambushed and forced to confront the possibility he fathered a child many decades back during a sexual free-for-all heyday.
Written and directed by Stephen Belber, who adapted his own play of the same name, Match is driven by Stewart's powerhouse performance, by turns flamboyant, angry, flirtatious, edgy, vulnerable, seductive and profound.
Sitting down in New York City for a one-on-one chatsvelte and charismatic, wearing a handsome lavender shirt and dark blue jacketthe knighted thespian best known as Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard, X-Men's Charles Xavier and BFF of frequent co-star Sir Ian McKellen, dished about the film, his past gay roles and whether he'll appear in the next X-Men movie.
Windy City Times: First of all, I must give you thanks on behalf of bald men everywhere for making baldness sexy. Your status as a bald sex symbol, for both gays and straights alike, helped rid the world of god-awful comboversand I'm not at all joking.
Patrick Stewart: You shouldn't thank me; I once had a combover. You should thank George Kushvaldy. He was in drama school with me but [was a] much older Hungarian, and we got on very well. I went to have lunch with him and his wife, and they both went into the kitchen, I thought, to make coffee. All of a sudden my arms were grabbed behind me and the chair I was in was turned around violently. I was like, "What the fuck's going on?" George had me in an iron grip and his wife appeared with a pair of scissors. I screamed, yelled, shouted, kicked and lashed out and he held me there and his wife cut off my combover. Then, he crouched in front of me and said, "Now, you be yourself! NO! MORE! HIDING!" No more hiding.
WCT: I understand that there is, in fact, a real-life Julliard instructor you took some inspiration from for your performance in Match.
Patrick Stewart: More than a little. Tobi's life is based on it. He's a teacher of classical dance at Julliard and I spent quite a lot of time with him talking in his apartment in Inwood. Most importantly, I was allowed into his classroom on three occasions just to sit in a corner. That was the foundation on which I began to build Tobi. Watching him work.
WCT: Was he also obsessed with party mix snacks?
Patrick Stewart: I think that idea came from his life, the party mix. Actually I like them. They're good!
WCT: Have you been offered many gay roles during your career? You famously played Sterling, a gay man whose boyfriend, played by Bryan Batt, is HIV-positive in the AIDS-era 1995 gay rom-com Jeffrey.
Patrick Stewart: Yeah. Jeffrey was the first. It was 1994 and we had just wrapped the seventh and final season of Star Trek and I said to my agent, "Find me a job. I don't care what it is but let it be as far removed from science fiction and outer space as possible!" And very shortly he rang me and said, "I've got itttttt! There's a movie they're making called Jeffrey…" I said, "I saw the play!"
I had seen Paul Rudnick's wonderful play here in New York and I met with the director. I think that was my first time playing an openly gay character and I enjoyed it immensely. Having led a life in the theater, I had been in the company of homosexual men and women from a teenager. It was familiar and completely normal. When we were prepping for the movie, the production designer said he wanted to have lots of photographs around Sterling's apartmentof them on holiday and with friends and so forthso how would [I] feel if [I] and Bryan and Steve Weber [who played Jeffrey] go off and walk around the West Village.
It was a Saturday afternoon during a hot summer, so without quite knowing exactly where he was with his camera we spent a couple of hours just hanging out and it was the loveliest experience. Liberating. And intimate. And fun. We went into bars, through the park.
WCT: Did you get recognized a lot?
Patrick Stewart: You know, it was the strangest thing, because I do get recognized a lot. That's why hats and keeping my mouth shut are most important. But not that afternoon. Maybe I scared people off.
WCT: Or they respected your privacy.
Patrick Stewart: They don't usually! Why that afternoon? Then I played someone who had a crush on Frasier in the series. It was the last season and tellingly titled "The Doctor is Out." I played an opera director who begins a relationship with Frasier.
WCT: Will we see you in the next X-Men film, which is titled Apocalypse and will come out in 2016?
Patrick Stewart: I have been told I will not be in it, but Ian is! I don't quite know how that will work. But there is another X-Men project I think I'm going to be part of. It's not over; I mean, Jean Grey vaporized me in the third film and I came back in the fourth. How much harm can you do with a vaporizing?
WCT: Since original Trek cast members Shatner and Nimoy are reportedly making cameos in the new film, do you think we should get a Picard cameo, too?
Patrick Stewart: It makes sense in the J.J. Abrams movies that there would be Kirk and Spock. I don't know how they would incorporate Picard. I think it's unlikely. I'm not saying I wouldn't."
WCT: Getting back to LGBT roles, how much of an effect did Jeffrey have on the roles you were offered afterwards, if any? That was back when actors were still nervous to take on gay parts for fear it could [harm] their careers.
Patrick Stewart: In cases it probably did. Not anymore. Last night I watched, for the second time, Love Is Strange. It is so fucking beautiful. Beautiful. I saw it alone in England, and sat there sobbing on my own in my house. And I knew my wife would love it, so last night I said, "Tonight's the night," and we both sat down. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina give such exquisite performances. I can't think of performances I have seen for a long time that are so beautiful in their delicacy and subtlety and truthfulness.
WCT: You and Ian McKellen are so close, and famously frolicked in a Twitter photo series last year, that UK newspaper The Guardian incorrectly identified you as gay, too! So, if you open your relationship with Ian, I think you should bring in Alfred Molina for a "throuple."
Patrick Stewart: You do? [Laughs] Alfred's too tall!