Stewart and McKellen arrived at Harold Pinter's No Man's Land from different directions.
"I was dazzled by it," Stewart said. "I saw the original production on a Monday night, and I went back twice more that week even though I could hardly afford it."
That 1975 London evening, Stewart said, "delighted, amused and fascinated" him, including the "marvelous performances" of Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. "And I do recall at some point leaving the theatre and saying to myself, 'One day; one day I want to do this play.'"
Through the years, "the love for the play and the passion to do it never left me," said Stewart, 73, on the phone from London.
McKellen, however — on the phone from New Zealand, where he is finishing up work on the second Hobbit film — said that although he had always enjoyed No Man's Land onstage, including the original, "it never really appealed to me as an actor." It was, the 74-year-old actor said, partly because of the long-term effect on him of that first viewing. "I can, in learning [the role of] Spooner now, remember intonations or imagined intonations, ways of speaking the text in Gielgud's voice, and I want to play the part in my own way. Those were the sorts of things that were bothering me."
So, he said, "when the subject was brought up, I was a bit indifferent. I wouldn't say negative, but I thought perhaps there were other things I would rather to do."
Nonetheless, Stewart and McKellen have both made it to classic Pinterland. The two renowned actors are onstage this month at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, and are due on Broadway in October at the Cort Theatre. In Berkeley, Aug. 3-31, No Man's Land will be on its own; in New York, it will be paired in repertory with Waiting for Godot, a Stewart-McKellen smash hit in London in 2009. The United States cast for both plays includes two American Tony winners, Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley; Sean Mathias, London's Godot director, helms both plays.
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