Few actors are as highly respected as Patrick Stewart, who recently reprised his most famous role as Jean-Luc Picard in the CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard, and he’s also known for being extremely affable to his fellow actors. As part of Variety‘s Actors on Actors issue, he spoke with actor Henry Cavill about behavior that he doesn’t like by producers during auditions and shares a humorous story about why he is not a fan of stage fights.
It’s hard to think of an actor of the caliber of Stewart as having a bad audition, but he admits it has happened — and scoffs at bad behavior by producers during auditions. He remembers, “I’ve had some bad audition experiences in my career — directors who took telephone calls while I was actually doing my audition. I started sitting in on auditions when we were filming Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was shocked by how brusque and offhand my fellow producers and directors were with actors. And I would always make a point of getting up from behind the table, shaking hands with them, asking how they were. Until my fellow producer said to me, ‘Will you stop doing that? You’re not allowed to make friends with these people!’”
Another aspect of acting in which Stewart has changed his approach is action scenes. While Stewart has done his fair share of action scenes in his Star Trek and X-Men roles, he admits that he has not been a fan of stage fights since a 1972 production of Coriolanus that he appeared in. He recalls that his acting partner’s unpredictable behavior was the straw that broke the camel’s back:
“I used to love doing stage fights, and then one day I didn’t. I worked with an actor in a production of Coriolanus. I was playing Tullus Aufidius. There is a tradition in stage productions: When there are fights, you always put a substitute sword down. And the rule is, the sword breaks, you step apart. And the actor whose sword was broken would go to the nearest side of the stage, pick up the sword, come back and we will begin again.
This particular night, this actor, his sword broke, he looked at the hilt in his hand and then he threw it at me. I ducked and it hit a member of the audience, and there was this howl — I mean the person was actually hurt. It was no fun. From that moment on, stage fighting became less and less attractive to me, because I was always afraid I would one day not duck fast enough, and I would get impaled.”