- Sir Patrick Stewart had the rare opportunity to watch Gone with the Wind alongside Vivien Leigh, its star.
- The two were friends, and had worked together in a touring theater company in London when Stewart was younger.
- Leigh was emotional during the screening, expressing sadness over the loss of her colleagues, and ultimately left the theater.
Conan O’Brien compared it to watching Citizen Kane with Orson Welles — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Throughout his life, Sir Patrick Stewart has achieved numerous milestones, especially in film and television. One of the most memorable took place behind the scenes, when he met and became friends with Scarlett O’Hara herself, actress Vivien Leigh. Incredibly, Stewart even had the chance to watch Gone with the Wind (1939) alongside Leigh and her boyfriend, John Merivale.
Long before being addressed as Sir Patrick Stewart, or stepping into the captain’s chair of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, a young Stewart found himself working with Leigh in a theatrical touring company based in London. When he was invited to watch Gone with the Wind with her, the then-20-year-old had to scrape together the money to buy a used dinner jacket for the occasion. Yet it didn’t hamper his excitement for watching one of the greatest films of all time with a true Hollywood legend. Stewart recounted the experience on O’Brien’s Team Coco podcast:
We’re sitting side by side. And I am so excited and thrilled and proud to be sitting alongside her.
Reminiscing about the screening, Stewart shared how he noticed Leigh softly wiping tears from her eyes during the film. Stewart recalled Leigh saying, “Patrick, I’ve going to have to leave. This is so upsetting, you see. So many of these lovely people I worked with are dead — and it’s upsetting me so much. So, thanks for sharing this. I hope you enjoy the night.” Leigh and Merivale then left the theater. Stewart reflected on how moved he was by Leigh’s sincere explanation, as she could have simply left without saying anything.
Beyond the screening, Stewart went on to discuss their friendship, and praised Leigh for her acting talent, which earned her two Academy Awards for Best Actress (Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire). Although he remembered her as a “nice person” with a “temper,” Stewart spent 15 months performing with the Hollywood icon at London’s Old Vic Theatre, and she even attended his 21st birthday party. Leigh gifted Stewart a gold handkerchief as a present, which he treasures to this day, having recently rediscovered it after many years.