Over the years, Patrick Stewart has headlined a slew of projects, including the recently cancelled Starz comedy Blunt Talk. He's taken on classic roles, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and King Claudius in Hamlet. However, there are two franchises that he is most known for: Star Trek and later X-Men. However, it was after starring as Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and its subsequent movies and games that Patrick Stewart realized it might actually be difficult to continue his movie career. In fact, he ended up signing up for theater so that people would start being able to identify him for other sorts of roles. He said, in a sense, that he was damned by his own success noting,
That really hurt. And soon after that I left Hollywood. And then the Royal Shakespeare Company came to my rescue and offered me two roles, Prospero in The Tempest and Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, and that season turned the whole tide around. Almost overnight I suddenly found myself a leading actor in the company.
One wouldn't necessarily guess that leading roles in theater would lead to other film roles for the actor. However, Patrick Stewart has said that it was the Royal Shakespeare Company that was responsible for totally turning his career around after it was oversaturated by the Star Trek character. He also told The Frame that he took meetings where people would compare him to Jean Luc Picard, and while people still identify him with the Star Trek: The Next Generation character, he's been able to get past that over time and still have a healthy love and respect for the character.
Regardless, keeping that in mind, it's easy to see why he was later reluctant to take on a role in the X-Men franchise. He said:
I was reluctant because the Star Trek movies were over and I was already beginning to experience a negative aspect of them. Close identification, partly through the television series, with one character can discourage directors or producers from wanting to employ you in other means, because the identification's so strong.
Patrick Stewart had already dealt with that whole ordeal with Star Trek and although there was no guarantee at the time that X-Men would pan out into a multi-movie deal, he probably had an inkling that playing a popular comic book character could put him back into Star Trek territory, which echoes other comments Patrick Stewart has made over the years. Although Patrick Stewart will probably never truly be able to leave these characters behind, at least he has a more impressive body of work because of them, including this year's Logan, which has done well both critically and at the box office.