Patrick Stewart's new movie “Match” perfectly shows off his great appeal and versatility.
The 74-year-old is best known as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from the “Star Trek” mythos, and perhaps as Professor Xavier in the “X-Men” movies. But he also is highly regarded as a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In other words, he's a serious actor, but not above having a little fun, and that comes in handy in “Match.” Based on a three-person play by Stephen Belber (who wrote the screenplay), it’s about an aging ballet teacher, Tobi Powell (Stewart), who agrees to be interviewed for a history paper by a young couple Lisa and Mike (Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard), not knowing they have an ulterior motive.
Not a stranger to dance, Stewart has studied movement in the past and is currently working with a choreographer for a dance sequence he'll be performing in a new TV series. He also got to meet the person on whom his character is based.
“He was delightful company, as I hope my Tobi is,” says Stewart, who recently visited The City.
“I watched three classes, at Juilliard, just sitting quietly in the corner,” he continues. “I saw how much he loved his work, loved his students, was fully alive when he was in the studio. And it made sense, then, how he could quietly shut down when he leaves work and goes home.”
Stewart and director Belber agreed to begin the movie with a scene not in the play, in which Tobi is teaching, to help broaden the character.
The actor used all of his voice training to tackle Tobi's voluminous dialogue, searching for its greatest emotional impact. Still, he says his voice became “a little bit croaky. Tobi talks a lot.”
Tobi also knits, and Stewart had that covered, too: “I was lucky because as a child my mother taught me how to knit. So I'm comfortable with needles in my hand. But I'm not a knitter now,” he smiles, “I have other hobbies.” He even used the real Tobi’s actual hand-knitted sweaters in the film.
The real-life dance instructor also has a cameo in the movie, passing Stewart outside the Juilliard classroom.
Stewart is filled with admiration for his character’s inspiration, and the feeling seems to be mutual, as the real-life fellow attended a New York screening of “Match’ in Tribeca.
“He sat behind me,” Stewart says. “He kept hitting my shoulder saying, 'That's great! That's wonderful!' What it must have been like for him I can't imagine.”
IF YOU GO
Starring : Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino, Matthew Lillard
Written and directed by: Stephen Belber
Running time : 1 hour, 32 minutes