Patrick Stewart turns 80: Here are 8 reasons to love him

Make it so: It's time to celebrate Star Trek's iconic Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
4 min read

Patrick Stewart turned 80 on July 13, and he's an interstellar treasure.


Happy 80th birthday, Sir Patrick Stewart. The English actor, who hit the big 8-0 on Monday, can look back on a life of impressive work. It includes decades with the Royal Shakespeare Company, voice acting in everything from Family Guy II to The Emoji Movie, video game and commercial work, the role of Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise, and more. He even appears in an iconic meme, with his famous facepalm producing everything from cookies to its own meme generator. But to many, he'll always be Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the inspiring and courageous captain of the 24th-century starship, the USS Enterprise.

As he turns 80, Stewart's not retiring anytime soon. He brought back the beloved character of Picard in Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access. (ViacomCBS is CNET's parent company.) Our review notes that as Picard, Stewart remains "vital and dynamic when he's standing up for the good in humanity." 

And being 80 doesn't mean he shies away from new technology. His Sir Pat Stew Twitter account is a must-follow. Check out his birthday gift from Stewart's pal Ian McKellen, who delivers a reading of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 81, a wistful and sweet meditation about being remembered even after one is gone from this world.

It's tough not to fangirl or fanboy about Stewart, but to mark his 80th year, here are eight reasons to love him.

1. That Stewart-McKellen friendship

Fans don't get to see a lot of celebrity friendships play out, but McKellen and Stewart's very public relationship is a treasure for the ages. The two Brits met in the 1970s, Us magazine reports, but really got close after co-starring as rivals in the 2000 X-Men movie. Since then, they've continued to work and play together, with McKellen even serving as the officiant for Stewart's 2013 wedding.

2. He's sharing sonnets online

Ian McKellen's birthday sonnet to Stewart wasn't out of the blue. Stewart has been reading a Shakespearean sonnet every day since March on his social media accounts. Whether you flunked out of English, are a literature professor, or like most of us, are somewhere in between, listening to his rich readings are two-minute daily breaks worth taking.

3. He had the classiest ice-bucket challenge ever

Remember in 2014, when people were dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to promote donations to ALS charities? Stewart, then 74, wisely chose to skip the bucket-dumping, instead silently writing out a check (presumably his ALS donation). Only then did he pull an ice bucket into view -- not to dump it, but to fix himself a drink and raise a toast. Cheers, sir.

4. He can play everyone from poop to Prospero

Stewart's portrayed Macbeth and Mark Antony, among other Shakespearean roles. But he's not too snooty to laugh at himself. Yes, that's his refined voice coming out of the mouth of the poop emoji in 2017's The Emoji Movie. It's kind of a cheap joke in casting -- get one of the classiest actors out there to voice a swirly piece of poo -- but it's still hard not to laugh when he leads his poopy son in a chant of, "We're Number Two!"

5. He's been honest about childhood abuse

The actor wasn't born into a life of ease. He's spoken honestly about his abusive father, and how he would wait in fear for him to come home from the pub, inserting his child's body in between his dad's fists and his mother's face. Stewart was able to escape into acting, but hasn't forgotten those who aren't as lucky. He's continued to promote awareness of domestic violence and help for its victims, of all ages.

6. He honors his teachers

In 2010, Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. And amid this lifetime honor, he didn't forget to credit Cecil Dormand, the English teacher who first pushed him toward acting, saying he owed "literally everything" to the man. "Although many people in my life have had great influence on me, without this man none of it would have happened," the BBC quoted Stewart as saying. It's something Picard would have done.

7. He made bald beautiful again

Stewart began losing his hair at 19, and reportedly tried hats, combovers and toupees to hide his baldness. Hollywood's strict beauty standards don't often include hair loss, so it's no surprise that Stewart worried he wouldn't be cast as Picard unless he wore a wig over his bald pate. But Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry himself told the actor to ditch the wig, and in 1992, a TV Guide poll named Stewart the sexiest man on television.

8. Best. Captain. Ever.

Kirk, Janeway, Sisko, Brooks -- they all have their followers. For a night out on the town, you might have the most fun with ol' James Tiberius as your drinking buddy. But if you're ever in real Star Trek space trouble and the aliens are advancing, or the shields are wavering, it's Jean-Luc you want on the bridge.

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