There’s one particular scene during Patrick Stewart's new film Match, in which his character Tobi discusses the joys of going down on a woman. When I tell him the scene caught me off guard he lets out a long laugh and says, “Well, to quote Tobi from the film, of course it caught you off guard, because ‘most cunnilingus conversations do.’”
He continues, “I can’t recall having ever seen a movie where that was actually a topic of conversation. But it’s not obscene. It’s not offensive. In fact, I think it’s very witty and entertaining.”
Even as my inner 13-year-old giggles at the fact that I’m discussing the subject of oral sex with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I find myself nodding in agreement. The film’s unflinching honesty is one of the main reasons Stewart says he was attracted to the project, and the 74-year-old actor adds that this part gave him an opportunity to upend ageist attitudes surrounding sex.
“These problems only exist through young people, who feel that they invented sex and that it was created specifically for them and that it’s only them and the people of their generation who understand the pleasures and delights as well as the problems of being a sexual person,” he says. “Of course, those things just don’t go away at all. But there has always been this kind of offensive aspect to the idea that someone over 40, male or female, should be sexually active, and that’s absolutely absurd. Like my character in the film says, it’s one of the greatest gifts we have been given and it has to be celebrated.”
Stewart says he knew he wanted to play the part of bisexual Juilliard dance teacher Tobias “Tobi” Powell the moment he finished reading writer-director Stephen Belber’s screenplay for the film of his Tony Award–winning play.
“There are very few roles each year that come along which have this level of detail and complexity, as well as narrative development,” he says. “The depth of satisfaction in mining all that is so intense and is, for me, the primary attraction of this job that I do.”
That “job” has spanned more than five decades and encompassed roles ranging from Captain Ahab in Moby Dick and Claudius in Hamlet to modern fan favorites like Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men and his iconic role in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
However, Stewart says the story of this drama — which unfolds when Tobi is interviewed by graduate student Lisa (Carla Gugino) and her husband, Mike (Matthew Lillard), about the master dancer’s days as a performer and the painful decisions and sacrifices of his past — not only provides him a platform to speak on social issues but resonates with him on a personal level.
“As a young actor I was married in my 20s and had children pretty quickly, but I was so dedicated to making a career as an actor, which meant traveling and being away from home for long periods of time,” he says as his voice shifts into a more somber tone. “I had to make a choice often whether I would accept a role that might have been something like a two-year commitment where I would only be able to see my children one day a week or sacrificing that opportunity to focus on family.”
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