by: Michael Shields
The World’s Greatest Friendship makes its Broadway debut…..
Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart (Yes, both knighted by Queen Elizabeth!) met in the 1970’s while working with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, but they didn’t take to each other right off the bat. They didn’t know at the time about the storied kinship in their future, and that they would one day become a living, breathing, smiling, and laughing model for all that is good about friendships. They weren’t aware that in a few decades they would sweep like a brisk moving wave across the Internet by simply being themselves, and for enjoying each other’s company. They were solely working actors, honing their craft, with a bright future ahead of them both.
Proving all true love isn’t sparked at first sight, Patrick found Ian to be a trite full of himself, a notion Ian humbly admits to be true. In fact, it wasn’t simply Sir Ian’s smug demeanor that could have destined these two aspiring actors to mere acquaintances. Normally those from Yorkshire, where Sir Patrick hails from, and those from Lancashire, Sir Ian’s place of birth, avoid chumming up due to a longstanding beef dating all the way back to the War of the Roses in the 15th Century. But these two had destiny guiding their path, and imaginary lines drawn upon a map didn’t stand a chance in foiling what was meant to be.
Although pitted as fierce rivals on screen in the X Men franchise, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart bonded while on the set of the trilogy. Before our very eyes these two veteran thespians rose in ranks to nerd royalty (We aren’t merely speaking of Professor X and Magneto here, we are also talking about Captain Picard and Gandalf the Grey!)1, whilst a devoted friendship was blossoming. It didn’t take long for The Internet, as a collective – always judging and watching – to catch on to the childlike antics of this duo. Pictures began surface of them frolicking about New York City as if it were a playground. Brothers in arms, personifying what it means to be truly young at heart, Sir McKellen and Sir Ian were photographed at Coney Island, in Times Square, cooking dinner for each other, and beyond, enjoying in all the richness life has to offer, together. Two stately legends (Ian McKellen is 74, and Patrick Stewart is 73), affirming that having a best friend to relish the splendors of the world feels so right at any age.
Epitomizing the intimacy shared by these two gods walking amongst us men, when Sir Patrick recently wed, marrying 35-year-old singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell, it was none other than Sir Ian who officiated the ceremony. Stewart spoke with fondness of his beloved friend’s oration during the ceremony on the scenic bank of Lake Tahoe, noting “His remarks were not only full of wisdom and humor and poetry but knowledge of the two of us.” One friend ushering another into the latest chapter of his life. Comradery, in all its might and glory.
On April 30th 2009 a production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” opened at the Haymarket Theater in London’s West Side. This play reunited the two brothers in arms for a triumphant exhibit of the skill they had honed in each other’s wake for a lifetime. As the curtain closed on this exultant run, McKellen was caught on film2 weeping in the wings, slumped on a set of stone stairs, heartbroken it was over. “Yes, I was heartbroken,’ said McKellen. “And then we were going to say goodbye to each other. You (Stewart) were going off to do other things and I just felt I would never be as happy again.” Luckily for him, and for us, that anguish was short-lived, and an encore of that mighty performance was to be.
In a rare, and possible unheard of move Sir Ian and Sir Patrick, two of the finer stage actors alive, have reunited in New York to perform together in not one, but two classic plays: The aforementioned “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett some nights, and Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” on others. The boys are, at last, back together, and making theatrical history, aptly juggling two demanding roles simultaneously.
While I have yet to have the pleasure to see Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land,” I have had the opportunity to take in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” during this run, and it is a triumph. It is an ideal platform to exhibit the talents and spirit of these two men3. “Waiting For Godot” is thought-provoking, endearing, and the funniest two acts of a Absurdism I have happened upon in the theater. Ultimately, what “Waiting For Godot” is about is how we choose to pass the time as we wait for our shared fate, and whom we choose to spend it with. Estragon (McKellen) and Vladimir (Patrick) preferred to wait for the end of days together, to meet as the new day dawned and idle the day away in each other’s company. There is nowhere else they would rather be, and with no one else. Friends for life, partners in crime, and the ying to the other’s yang, Estragon and Vladimir were devoted to each other, and well aware the toils of the day wouldn’t ache as bad within each other’s company. Just like Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart. Two men who are a reminder of how we should live our life to the absolute fullest, surrounded by those we hold most dear. That’s the secret, they figured it out! – Find that person, those people, you like to be around – the ones that make you feel most alive – and simply be around them. It might just be that easy. Just look at Ian & Pat….
- McKellen, it is worth noting, advised Stewart to not accept the role of Captain Picard. Thank all that is good Sir Patrick didn’t accept this atrocious piece of advice. [↩]
- The final performance was captured in a documentary called “Theatreland.” [↩]
- Not to mention the immeasurable skill set of Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley!! [↩]