7 Great (Mostly) Forgotten Roles of Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart has long been in the business, beginning his career on television in the 1960s before breaking into mainstream with his much beloved performance as Jean-Luc Picard on the hit series and film franchise, Star Trek: The Next Generation. From there, he gained further fame as the head of the X-Men movie juggernaut as Professor Charles Xavier. Known for his distinctive voice and classically-trained thespian skills, he is a fan favorite who continues to innovate and earn worldwide acclaim. While Star Trek and X-Men have secured his legacy, he’s made his mark in many other amazing performances. Here are 7 Great (Mostly) Forgotten Roles of Patrick Stewart. If you haven’t seen these movies then . . . make it so.

Dr. Armstrong

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart (LIfeforce, 1985)
FILM: Lifeforce (1985)     DIRECTOR: Tobe Hooper

Horror master Tobe Hooper followed up his genre-defining (Steven Spielberg produced) Poltergeist three years later with this intriguing bit of sci-fi horror about space vampires who are found in a comet’s tale and brought to Earth by astronauts. They are shape-shifters who don’t drain the blood of their victims but rather, as the title betrays, their lifeforce. The alien leader, in the form of a beautiful young woman (Mathilda May), escapes the science research facility and eventually hides in the body of Dr. Armstrong (Stewart), the manager of a mental hospital where the alien seems to be trapped. Stewart has a small role and plays a mostly sedated character but looking back at it from now, we can see his great screen presence already in the works. A flawed film, with some aged special effects, it’s still a good time.

King Richard

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart, Richard Lewis (Robin Hood: Men in Tights, 1993)
FILM: Robin Hood – Men in Tights (1993)     DIRECTOR: Mel Brooks

A parody film of the classic Robin Hood tale, this Mel Brooks comedy may have missed the bullseye (archery joke!) in terms of what the director has done previously, but there are some very funny moments to be found in this early 90s gem. Cary Elwes plays the titular hero, but the movie is packed with a talented (English) cast, the gag being that Hollywood far too often Americanizes the iconic story. Filled with pratfalls and modern pop cultural references, Stewart shows up late in the show as the returning King Richard, back from the Crusades, finding his brother John (Richard Lewis) run amok. By this point, Stewart had become a near household name as Captain Picard, and when he suddenly shows up on screen, sounding all British and regal in his shining armor, it gives the film a whole new layer of cool. And now we know why they call toilets Johns!

Adventure

Patrick Stewart
Adventure (The Pagemaster, 1994)
FILM: The Pagemaster (1994)    DIRECTOR: Pixote Hunt

Macaulay Culkin was the ‘it’ kid of the early 90s and after runs at Home Alone and a few other hits and misses, he starred in this peculiar mix of live-action and animation as a little boy afraid of everything. During a thunderstorm, he escapes into the local library and meets a kindly librarian before slipping and knocking himself unconscious. He awakes to find he is in a world of illustrations come to life with himself now an animated boy. Books now walk and talk and he meets three: Horror (Frank Welker), a fearful hunchback, Fantasy (Whoopi Goldberg), a wise-cracking but lovable fairytale book, and Adventure (Stewart), a pirate-looking book with a bold, go-get-’em attitude. The three take the boy all through the land of books to find the exit, along the way, helping him to overcome his fears. Stewart’s energetic and charismatic vocal work is a highlight of the movie and he delivers some of the best lines. He ain’t a-feared of nuthin’.

Mace Sowell

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart (Safe House, 1997)
FILM: Safe House (1998)   DIRECTOR: Eric Steven Stahl

So technically not a theatrical release, this film was made for a TV cable movie channel but that doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Stewart plays an ex-CIA agent who fears for his life from the very man he used to work for. To protect himself, he lives exclusively in a fortress home where he remains in what he thinks is a safe house. But there are other issues. He is in the early stages of Alzheimer disease so no one believes him. He elects to have a live-in caretaker (after another option doesn’t suit him) named Andi (Kimberly Williams), who is young but feisty and while the two are in conflict at the start, become dependent on each other as the story unfolds. Stewart is really good here in a film that should have gotten more attention. He’s funny, charismatic, touching, and fun to watch. Plus, Twinkies with chopsticks!

Dr. Jonas

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart (Conspiracy Theory, 1997)
FILM: Conspiracy Theory (1997)     DIRECTOR: Richard Donner

The director of Superman brings us this Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts action thriller about a taxi driver in New York City with a long list of conspiracy theories who tries to get a government lawyer to help him uncover the truth. While many of his ideas might seem like crackpot thoughts, one strikes a little too close to reality and gets into some seriously hot water. Stewart plays Dr. Jonas, a CIA psychiatrist who may or may not be what he seems, though is not above torture in trying to break down his victims. Another interesting film, Stewart is cast in a big shadow as the two leads are the real draw, making it easy to forget he is in the movie. He is actually very strong in the role, playing a bad guy with great conviction. A rare role for Stewart (one he would do again with the excellent Green Room), this performance truly gives the antagonist the fearsome weight needed and is surprisingly good as a bad guy.

Gurney Halleck

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart (Dune, 1984)
FILM: Dune (1984)     DIRECTOR: David Lynch

Say what you will or repeat what you’ve heard, Dune is not totally the train wreck its come to be thought of. Director Lynch paces it a bit slowly but there are some amazing visuals and while it’s extremely dense and takes far too long to get going, it’s still a worthy film-watching experience. With a huge ensemble cast, and a number of familiar faces, Stewart was an unknown at the time playing Gurney Halleck, an elder tutor and mentor for the film’s hero, Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), who teaches him combat awareness and manhood trials, amazed at his proteges prowess. The two would come together again, much later as war breaks out and Halleck becomes a smuggler, joining forces to keep control of the Spice trade. A small role and one easily lost in the huge production, Stewart shines as usual, bringing some authenticity to the role. Plus he plays a mean baliset. That’s not a typo.

Leondegrance

Patrick Stewart
Excalibur, 1981
FILM: Excalibur (1981)    DIRECTOR: John Boorman

The story of King Arthur told in an epic sword and sorcery fashion, this well-made, dark and gritty film is still the best ever made about the iconic sword in the stone. Another huge ensemble cast with many of the finest English actors of the time on set, Stewart makes a great impression as a knight who earns the right to try and draw the fabled sword but fails, then takes up arms on the side of the boy king who does, turning against his former knights in a war to support Arthur. A brutal, beautifully filmed story, Excalibur is a must-see and Stewart, though in a small role, is crucial. A classic.

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