The distinguished actor takes a break from playing the telepathic leader of the X-Men to return to the stage in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (opening this month at the Cort Theatre) alongside longtime pal Sir Ian McKellen. Here, the actor answers our burning questions.
When was the first time you saw Waiting for Godot?
I first saw it at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in 1958 when I was a student. An unknown, 23-year-old Peter O’Toole played Vladimir. I promised myself that one day I would act in that play.
What’s been your favorite role to date?
Hirst in No Man’s Land, and Macbeth.
What’s your favorite Broadway show of all time?
Steven Sondheim’s Assassins.
Which five iconic figures would be at your dream dinner party?
William Shakespeare (natch), William Burbage, Secretary Thomas Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VIII.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Mixing mortar by hand for a champion bricklayer when I was a student.
What signifies NYC to you?
My wife. She is showing me a NYC I never knew.
What always surprises you about New Yorkers?
When are you at your happiest?
Moments before I make a stage entrance.
If you could fix one thing about America, what would it be and why?
Political contributions. It’s no way to determine who is responsible for the government of the country. There must be caps on giving and on spending. It was always possible to buy political preferment, but today in the U.S., it’s standard.
Do you have a favorite president?
Well, I have only met three—and been waved at by one—so it would have to be President Clinton.
What advice do you have for the Republican Party?
The Republican Party? They would never listen to me.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Who would play you in your film biopic?
At different stages in my life: my grandson, Sebastian; Ellen Page; my son, Daniel; Daniel Day-Lewis; and Sir Ian McKellen.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
‘You will never achieve success by insuring against failure,’ spoken by the principal of my theater school, Duncan Ross. It took me 30 years to begin to understand what he meant.
Do you prefer phone calls or texts?
I’m a texter. Too much phone is really bad for the voice.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
What are you most proud of?
Standing upright and speaking full sentences.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
Read? Vladimir Putin’s op-ed piece in The New York Times in September—hysterical.
What does no one know about Patrick Stewart?
He is not always what he seems...
Which profession would you never try?
Politics. I like to sleep at night.