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Forget Gandalf and Dumbledore: Patrick Stewart on why he makes the best big-screen wizard

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Thanks to the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, virtually every reputable British actor has wielded a wizard’s wand at some point in the past two decades. Everyone that is … except Patrick Stewart. And don’t think that the stage-and-screen icon isn’t aware that particular role is missing from his résumé. “For a number of years, I felt a little disgruntled that the wizard roles weren’t coming my way,” Stewart tells Yahoo Entertainment. (Watch our video interview above.)

Instead, he had to watch from the sidelines as acting buddies like Michael Gambon waltzed through the hallways of Hogwarts as Harry’s biggest champion, Albus Dumbledore. Adding insult to injury, Stewart’s former X-Men nemesis, Ian McKellen, saved Middle-earth not just once, but twice in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies as smoke-blowing magic man Gandalf. “Nobody ever came to me to say, ‘You know, how would you like to play a wizard?'” Stewart says in mock disgruntlement.

Leave it to Joe Cornish to finally ask that elusive question. When the writer-director started work on his modernKing Arthur adventure The Kid Who Would Be King, he appealed to Stewart to play the most famous wizard of all-time: Merlin. But Stewart is not the only Merlin in the movie; Sir Patrick shares the role with Angus Imrie, who plays the teenage version of Arthur’s magical mentor.

Patrick Stewart and Louis Ashbourne Serkis in a scene from <em>The Kid Who Would Be King.</em> (Photo: Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox via AP)
Patrick Stewart and Louis Ashbourne Serkis in a scene from The Kid Who Would Be King. (Photo: Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox via AP)

It’s Imrie’s Merlin that initially locates the 21st century incarnations of the medieval king (played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis) and his Knights of the Round Table. But Stewart occasionally switches places with his co-star to provide the voice of adult authority … kind of. “I was inclined to say that if he’s really old, maybe he’s getting a little dotty, a little wacky,” he says. “We put some of that in the movie.”

Asked whether he believes he’s now won his great wizard war against McKellen and Gambon, Stewart jokingly suggests those two have definitely “slipped into second place.” In fact, he wants some kind of official acknowledgment of his victory. “I think there should be an Academy Award slot for wizards.” Accio Oscar!

The Kid Who Would Be King opens in theaters today. Look for showtimes and tickets on Fandango.

Watch the trailer:

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