Why Sir Ian McKellen & Sir Patrick Stewart Are Such Good Friends...
By Sukh Singh, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International
What if there was someone in your industry who was as good as you - maybe a little better - had the same qualifications, the same aspirations and you both had similar opportunities come up?
How would you feel about them?
Would you see them as competition to be squashed out? Would you see them as limiting your success and feel less-than because you were intimidated by them?
Or would you respect and admire them? Wish them the best while you work on your own success, in the hope that maybe you could learn from one another?
While many of us might hope to choose the latter, isn't it often the case that competition and fear breeds throughout the workplace? This is where we can learn from legendary actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen. As they have risen through the ranks in the acting world, not only have both become legends in their own right on the big screen and on stage, but they have become very close friends over the years.
Gandalf and Captain Picard. Magneto and Professor Xavier. Now both men are performing together in London's West End, here's how both men recall the formation of their friendship...
Sir Ian McKellen:
"Well we haven’t worked together very much. We’ve only done 'Waiting for Godot'. Our careers have not really crossed. Our careers have run in parallel. We’ve played the same parts. If one of us is playing Macbeth, what’s the other one going to play? There are not that many plays in which two actors of similar age and standing ... these are two of them. We’re not that old friends, actually. We’ve known of each other and bumped into each other, and I was one of the people that Patrick asked for advice as to whether he should take up a long-term contract for Star Trek. I said, “Absolutely not!” That wasn’t hardly the mark of a friend. Then I didn’t sort of see him for 17 years. So our coming together is a relatively recent thing. But we fell into each other’s arms because of our similarities in our career, and because of our age and because we like the same sort of things. Despite the fact that he’s from Yorkshire and I’m from Lancashire! That’s the big difference between us. If Patrick does something other people think is a bit strange, I just say he’s Yorkshire!"
Sir Patrick Stewart:
"We became friends on X-Men. Ian loves talking about it. There are so many parallels in our careers and our lives. We’re both Northerners; He’s a Lancastrian and I’m a Yorkist, and he went to a great University but I left school when I was 15. But he was successful and became a star immediately. I saw him and I was amazed, overwhelmed by the quality of his work. I started our relationship as a fan. He wouldn’t know who I was back then. Then we came into the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) together. We didn’t know one another well but we were both pursuing the same sort of career, but Bryan Singer cast us in the first X-Men movie and we had adjoining luxury trailers. Of course, it was movie making so we spent more time sitting in our trailers than on the set. We got to know one another and that’s when the bond began, which was cemented by 22 weeks of touring in England and being in the West End doing 'Waiting for Godot'. And sharing a dressing room for 22 weeks!"
The Foundation of a Great Relationship: Mutual Respect
Sir Patrick Stewart didn't regard Sir Ian McKellen as a threat, as a danger or as someone to compete with. He was a fan of his! How fantastic is that? Imagine if more people genuinely, wholeheartedly supported each other and genuinely wished the best for each other (without that voice of resentment wishing we could do better!). These two actors show great respect for each other, and I'm sure there were times when they did resent each other or were jealous of each other, but their respect far outweighed that. One of the great truths of any relationship is the underlying respect. The respect for the other's skills, strengths, and acceptance of their flaws and fallibilities. The respect for another human being. They know that competing, comparing and criticising unfairly only leads to fewer opportunities and harder times for everyone involved.
For a glimpse into how their friendship has developed, here's a great interview where you can see the two men just having a great time together!