'Master Builder' Seeds Sown During 'Nemesis'

By Caillan
June 10, 2003 - 11:12 AM

Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) is about to embark on a West End run of Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, a play which was brought to his attention on the set of Star Trek Nemesis.

Speaking with BBC Radio 2's Michael Parkinson on Sunday, Stewart recalled a conversation with screenwriter John Logan during a break in filming. "We're sitting side by side waiting, as you spent most of your life, and Logan said to me, 'Patrick, have you ever thought of doing a film version of The Master Builder?' And I told him, I'd never even thought about The Master Builder, not for decades, and he said 'Give it some thought'. I thought nothing about it."

That would have been it, had not Master Builder producer Douglas Weldon called Stewart about a week later and asked him if he would like to appear in a production of the play. "Two different people, on two different continents, talking about the same, relatively obscure, Ibsen play, spoke to me," the actor recalled in amazement. "So I went out and bought a copy. I didn't have a copy! I committed to it right away."

Stewart then approached John Logan, who was a playwright before joining the ranks of big-screen scribes, to help him bring Ibsen's play to the stage. "I went back to John Logan and said, 'Put the screenplay to one side, why don't you do a new stage adaptation?' Which is what we're doing."

The actor said The Master Builder is "stage two" in a plan to make a concerted return to the theatre, having appeared in two plays at the West Yorkshire Playhouse a few years back. "The decision to make the change happened a couple of years ago, when as far as film and television was concerned, I couldn't have been busier, that to be truly happy, I needed to rebalance my life, which meant doing more theatre. It's why I became an actor.

"I didn't become an actor to work in front of a camera. All that was a bonus that I stumbled over. It's being on a stage, in front of an audience, eight times a week, following that routine, and hopefully in a great piece of work as well, with a wonderful company."

Previews for The Master Builder begin at the Albery Theatre in the West End on June 12, with opening night on June 18. For full details, head over to the Patrick Stewart Network.

To listen to the complete interview with Stewart, in which he also talked about his time spent as a journalist and being a Yorkshireman, head over to BBC Radio 2.

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