Doing for bald men what no amount of Minoxodil ever could, Patrick Stewart won international fame for his portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the popular TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Before earning immortality for his ability to handle a phaser convincingly, Stewart was known as a stage actor of great talent in his native Britain, where he had been performing since he was a teenager.
Born in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England on July 13, 1940, Stewart was performing in various drama groups by the age of twelve. After leaving school at fifteen, he went to work as a junior reporter for a local newspaper. He quit the job after being told by the paper's editor that he was spending too much time at the theatre and not enough on the newspaper and worked for a year as a furniture salesman to pay for drama school. He was accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1957, and two years later made his professional stage debut in a production of Treasure Island.
Stewart went on to enjoy a prolific and acclaimed stage career, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966 and remaining with it for the next twenty-seven years. He also began to work on the big and small screens, and in the early 1980s started popping up in a number of popular films like Excalibur (1981) and Dune (1984). In 1987, he was chosen to play Picard on Next Generation. Certain that he would be fired from the series, Stewart reportedly refused to unpack his bags for six weeks. Although more than one snarky observer spent the first year of the series making idiot jokes about Stewart's bald pate, the actor--and the show--proved to be a hit. Stewart stayed with Next Generation for seven seasons, and then reprised his role for a string of successful Star Trek films: 1994's Star Trek Generations, 1996's Star Trek: First Contact, 1998's Star Trek: Insurrection and 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis.
In addition to his work with the Next Generation series and films, Stewart also continued to work on the stage and in various films. In 1995, he had a hilarious turn as a flamboyant, acid-tongued interior decorator in Jeffrey, while in 1997 he tried his hand at intrigue with a part in The Conspiracy Theory. The following year, he appeared on the small screen, giving a terrific portrayal of the obsessive Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. Though a new Star Trek film every few years may not have been quite enough to keep the legions of sci-fi addicts satisfied, Stewart scored brownie points among fans by taking an impressive turn as Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United (2003), and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). On the stage, Stewart enjoyed acclaim for a number of productions, particularly a one-man production of A Christmas Carol, which he performed in numerous theatrical venues around the world, winning numerous awards for his portrayal. He also earned extensive praise for his portrayal of Prospero in the Broadway production of The Tempest in 1996.
Interestingly, Stewart, though appreciative of his star status, has repeatedly bristled at the notion that his lack of hair is "sexy," à la Yul Brynner. In regards to his reluctant sex symbol status, he has stated that he would much rather be judged on the basis of his acting ability rather than his appearance. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi