Top 5 Literary Roles Played By Sir Patrick Stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart at the 62nd Primetime Emmy...The blogosphere loves top lists, this is a well known fact of blogging.

I too love top lists, it seems to be human nature that we instantly lock onto the “Top X Somethings” and click the link.

A blog I follow has just posted up The Top 5 Characters I’d Like to Punch in The Face; listing a good selection of aggravating characters that the author would happily deck if she were to meet them on the street.

This is no mean feat, I have struggled to come up with even one literary character that I would honest-to-goodness lay out cold given half the chance.

(Actually, that one is simple, no struggle at all – Micah Samon from Harry Harrison’s Deathworld 2 – but that’s a another story).

What I found most enjoyable about the post was a footnote to entry #2, Claudius from Hamlet.

But not if he’s being played by Patrick Stewart.

(Actually, I found the caption to the associated picture more enjoyable BUT that’s not the point. )

Sir Patrick usually plays good guys, heroes and the like – Claudius is a rare example of Stewart playing an absolute bastard. He must be good at it though, he has played the role twice on screen: once in 1980 and again, alongside David Tenant in 2009 – 29 years later!

It got me to thinking that Sir Patrick Stewart really is a genuinely likeable actor but how many of his film roles are based on literary characters?

Sir Patrick Stewart grew up in Mirfield, which is very close to (considered by many to actually be a part of) my home town of Huddersfield.  A well known thespian, Sir Patrick is currently Chancellor of Huddersfield University (the University I went to – I’m so proud) and is also some kind of science fiction God!

So here I offer, as some kind of cheap compensation for being too nice to easily list characters I’d like to punch, the top 5 literary roles played by Patrick Stewart.

5. Captain Ahab in Moby Dick

Moby Dick is one of my all time least favourite novels.  If I had the chance I’d be more likely to lay out Herman Melville than any fictional character.

That being said, Patrick Stewart plays an exceptional Ahab in the 1998 TV Mini-Series based upon Melville’s classic.

Although his more well known character, Jean-Luc Picard, in the Star Trek movie, First Contact, is accused of showing Ahab-esque characteristics; I like to think that  this is just because Sir Patrick is such an good actor – he brought the same strength of presence to both roles.

Sir Patrick is a natural born leader, or at least he plays leadership roles well.

He gives a sound demonstration of Captain Ahab’s obsession but then I guess that’s the whole point when it comes to Ahab.

4. Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men

Alright, alright! Some would say comic books aren’t exactly literary works but I disagree, I believe they have literary merits but I’m not about to argue the point here.

As a Marvel fan, I think I would have enjoyed the X-Men movies regardless of Sir Patrick’s involvement – however, throwing in one of my best loved actors ensured that I could happily overlook any other marvel-fanboy criticism of the movies.

From his teens, Sir Patrick was built to play Professor X; in fact it is almost as if Stan Lee had seen one of Sir Patrick’s early local performances and decided to base the comic book character upon Sir Patrick (albeit a crippled Sir Patrick).

3. Sir Simon de Canterville in The Canterville Ghost

It has been a long time since I last saw this beauty; a surprise treat one Christmas whilst flicking through the channels in the late nineties.

Sir Patrick shows an incredible capacity for humour in this loose 1996 TV adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Canterville Ghost.

I think I was initially hooked by the rare appearance of Neve Campbell (playing a teenage girl at the age of 23) but Sir Patrick’s surprise appearance had me locked in to the end.

2. Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol

Cover of "A Christmas Carol"

If ever I have lived through an honest to goodness, jaw dropping, “Oh Emm Gee” moment it was when I first saw Patrick Stewart’s Christmas Carol.

This remains by far my favourite adaptation of Dickens’ seasonal fable.

The scene towards the end where Scrooge genuinely chokes out laughter, cough by cough, moves me every time I see it.

My Mother once mentioned that Sir Patrick had performed a one-man-show version of A Christmas Carol on stage – I wish I had been bale to see that.

The closest I have been to seeing Sir Patrick on stage was the pre-recorded congratulation message played at my partner’s recent graduation ceremony.

1. Gurney Halleck in Dune

Gurney Halleck

Dune is one of my all time favourite films and also one of the most difficult novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

In my early teens, I watched Dune almost religiously; even now I can watch Dune and take something new away from the viewing.

Many of the star-studded cast in this classic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction masterpiece are well chosen, Sir Patrick Stewart amongst them.

Sure there are flaws in David Lynch’s adaption; liberties were taken and I can see why some would say that the later TV mini-series were better but I believe they lacked one thing – Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck.

So there you have it – the top 5 literary roles played by Sir Patrick Stewart – and with only one concession to the world of comic books, so no need to reference the voice acting in the 2007 TMNT movie.

It looks like Sir Patrick is listed to narrate a Sinbad movie this year, so there could be another childhood favourite being added to the list – although “The Narrator” isn’t really a character in the Sinbad tales…

I suppose I could see it has Sir Patrick Stewart playing my inner-voice, voicing the words inside me as I read them.

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6 thoughts on “Top 5 Literary Roles Played By Sir Patrick Stewart

  1. I wholly agree on number 1.

    While Sir Patrick is by no means the ugly misshapen lump as the novel describes Gurney, he has both the bawdy humour and steely seriousness that brings the character to life.

  2. The fully authorized and cannon ‘Prelude to Dune’ books are very interesting in the background they give both Gurney and Duncan. It actually makes Idaho’s almost meaninglessness death extremely tragic. The many gholas that follow just underline this – even when they THINK they are rebelling against the Atreides they are actually doing his bidding. There is even the possibility of a Halleck ghola still to come after the events of ‘Sandworms of Dune’.

    They also underline how pretty much everything that happened to the Atredes, Harkonan or Corinno houses was down completely to the bene tleilax or gesserit machiavellian schemes.

    In many ways I would say the three prelude books are superior to any of the originaly sequels after ‘god emperor’.

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