The Real King of the Nerds: Battle of the Sirs (Stewart vs. McKellen)
by Angela Dahl (@AngelaDahling)
In the marriage announcement heard round the galaxy last week, Sir Patrick Stewart will be wed to Sunny Ozell with longtime friend and colleague Sir Ian McKellen officiating the ceremony. I know they’re not actually their characters, but I think we all like to imagine this conversation happened over a game of chess, with McKellen puffing on a pipe and offering to wear his white Gandalf robe to the ceremony (or the grey one so as not to upstage the bride).
Both of these British actors had their beginnings on the stage and came to prominence later in their careers as major sci-fi icons. Patrick Stewart is most known for his roles as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professor X in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men trilogy, respectively. Ian McKellan is known for his roles as Gandalf in the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and Magneto in the X-Men trilogy. There is a natural competition that comes with being old friends with someone, like the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, which begs the question: who is the superior sir?
Both Stewart and McKellen were involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company fairly early in their careers: Stewart from 1966-1982, and McKellen throughout the ’70s and ’80s. It’s pretty much safe to say that between the two of them they have played every major Shakespearean character either onstage or on television. According to the information available online, they’ve both performed in Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and The Tempest. Patrick Stewart has played least three different kings, including King Richard in Robin Hood: Men in Tights (it’s good to be the king), and Ian McKellen was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of King Lear. Stewart has put on a one-man play of A Christmas Carol performing as all 40+ characters multiple times over the years, including as a benefit for the 9/11 victims’ families. Ian McKellen has performed at the London Paralympics and is an active campaigner for LGBT rights. He also lent his voice to the Doctor Who Christmas special last year as “The Great Intelligence.” Stewart voiced Bambi’s father in Bambi II and the epilogue and prologue for The Nightmare Before Christmas (Stewart was also supposed to be the voice of Jafar in Aladdin but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts). In 2009, Stewart and McKellen finally performed onstage together as Vladimir and Estragon, the two lead roles in Waiting for Godot.
As far as awards, both have been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes. Head to head, McKellen has been nominated for five Emmy awards, and Stewart has been nominated for four. Stewart has been nominated for two Golden Globes, while McKellen has been nominated for three. Stewart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has won awards for his voice work in video games, but McKellen has been nominated for two Academy Awards. Patrick Stewart teaches master drama classes periodically at the University of Huddersfield as a Professsor of Performing Arts. Ian McKellen has an honorary Doctor of Arts and a Doctor of Letters degree.
Both have been awarded by the Order of the British Empire, which is why they are sirs. McKellen’s title is “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” Patrick Stewart is “Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,” so his rank is technically below McKellen’s. Then again, Stewart’s also the Captain of the Starship Enterprise-D, and you know how difficult it is to rise in the Starfleet ranks. Speaking of Starfleet, these comparisons are giving me a headache like the ones Picard had when the Ferengi were trying to exact revenge on him, so it’s up you, ladies and gentlemen.
Which sir is the real king of the nerds?