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Ian McKellen (1939)

Ian Murray McKellen

Type :  


Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. He is known to many for roles such as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, and as Magneto in the X-Men films.

In 1988, McKellen announced publicly that he was gay. He became a founding member of Stonewall, one of the United Kingdom's most influential LGBT rights groups, of which he remains a prominent spokesman. McKellen was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts.


 early life
McKellen was born in Burnley, Lancashire, England, though he spent most of his early life in Wigan. Born shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the experience had some lasting impact on him. In response to an interview question when an interviewer remarked that he seemed quite calm in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, he said: "Well, darling, you forget — I slept under a steel plate until I was four years old."

McKellen's father, Denis Murray McKellen, a civil engineer, was a lay preacher, and both of his grandfathers were preachers. At the time of Ian's birth, his parents already had a five-year-old daughter, Jean. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. "My upbringing was of low nonconformist Christians who felt that you led the Christian life in part by behaving in a Christian manner to everybody you met." When he was 12, his mother, Margery Lois (née Sutcliffe), died; his father died when he was 24. Of his coming out of the closet to his stepmother, Gladys McKellen, who was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, he said, "Not only was she not fazed, but as a member of a society which declared its indifference to people's sexuality years back, I think she was just glad for my sake that I wasn't lying anymore."

McKellen attended Bolton School , of which he is still a supporter, attending regularly to talk to pupils. McKellen's acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron. An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan's Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with music by Mendelssohn and with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen.

He won a scholarship to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, when he was eighteen, where he developed an attraction to Derek Jacobi. He has characterised it as "a passion that was undeclared and unrequited".

While at Cambridge McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, appearing in Henry IV alongside Trevor Nunn and Jacobi , Cymbeline and Doctor Faustus. His first professional appearance was in 1961 at the Nottingham Playhouse, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons, although an audio recording of the Marlowe Society's Cymbeline had gone on commercial sale as part of the Argo Shakespeare series. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers, regarded as a "notable success". In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to rôles at the Chichester Festival. In the 1970s and 1980s McKellen became a well-known figure in British theatre, performing frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, where he played several leading Shakespearean roles, including the titular part in Macbeth (which he had first assayed for Trevor Nunn in a "gripping...out of the ordinary" production, with Judi Dench, at Stratford in 1976), and Iago in Othello, in award-winning productions directed by Nunn. Both of these productions were adapted into television films, also directed by Nunn.

In 2007 he returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company, in productions of King Lear and The Seagull, both directed by Trevor Nunn. In 2009 he appeared in a very popular revival of Waiting for Godot at London's Haymarket Theatre, directed by Sean Mathias and playing opposite Patrick Stewart.

McKellen is also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK.

  Popular success
McKellen had taken film roles throughout his career — beginning in 1969 with his role of George Matthews in A Touch of Love, but it was not until the 1990s that he became more widely recognised in this medium, through several roles in blockbuster Hollywood films.

In 1993, McKellen had a supporting role as a South African tycoon in the critically acclaimed Six Degrees of Separation, in which he starred with Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, and Will Smith. In the same year, he appeared in minor roles in the television miniseries Tales of the City and the film Last Action Hero, in which he played Death. The same year, McKellen appeared in the television film And the Band Played On, about the discovery of the AIDS virus, for which McKellen won a CableACE Award for Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries and was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.

In 1995, he played the title role in the critical hit Richard III, which transported the setting into an alternative 1930s wherein England is ruled by Fascists. McKellen co-produced and co-wrote the film, adapting the play for the screen based on a stage production of Shakespeare's play directed by Richard Eyre for the Royal National Theatre, in which McKellen had appeared. In McKellen's role as executive producer he returned his £50,000 fee in order to complete the filming of the final battle. In his review of the film, Hal Hinson of The Washington Post, called McKellen's performance a "lethally flamboyant incarnation" and said his "florid mastery ... dominates everything". His performance in the title role garnered best actor nominations for the BAFTA Award and Golden Globe, and won the European Film Award for Best Actor. His screenplay was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

His breakthrough role among mainstream American audiences came with the modestly acclaimed Apt Pupil, based on a story by Stephen King. McKellen portrayed an old Nazi officer, living under a false name in the U.S., who was befriended by a curious teenager who threatened to expose him unless he told his story in detail. His casting was based partly on his performance in Cold Comfort Farm, seen by Apt Pupil director Bryan Singer, despite the BBC's refusal to release it in cinemas. He was subsequently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, wherein he played James Whale, the director of Show Boat and Frankenstein.

He reteamed with Bryan Singer to play the comic book character Magneto in X-Men and its sequels X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand. It was while filming X-Men that he was cast as the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings . McKellen received honors from the Screen Actors Guild for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his work in The Fellowship of the Ring and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same role. He also voiced Gandalf in the video game adaptions of the film trilogy as well as in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. On January 10, 2011 it was officially confirmed that Mckellen would reprise the role of Gandalf in the film adaptation of The Hobbit.

On 16 March 2002, he was the host on Saturday Night Live. In 2003, McKellen made a guest appearance as himself on the American cartoon show The Simpsons, in a special British-themed episode entitled "The Regina Monologues", along with Tony Blair and J. K. Rowling. In April and May 2005, he played the role of Mel Hutchwright in Granada Television's long running soap opera, Coronation Street, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. He is also known for his voicework, having narrated Richard Bell's film Eighteen, as a grandfather who leaves his World War II memoirs on audiocassette for his teenage grandson.

McKellen has appeared in limited release films, such as Emile , Neverwas and Asylum. He appeared as Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code. During a 17 May 2006 interview on The Today Show with the Da Vinci Code cast and director, Matt Lauer posed a question to the group about how they would have felt if the film had borne a prominent disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, as some religious groups wanted. McKellen responded, "I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying 'This is fiction.' I mean, walking on water? It takes... an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie — not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story." He continued, "And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing when they've seen it". McKellen appeared in the 2006 series of Ricky Gervais' comedy series Extras, where he played himself directing Gervais' character Andy Millman in a play about gay lovers. McKellen received a 2007 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor - Comedy Series nomination for his performance. He also appeared in the 2009 remake of the 1967 The Prisoner, where he played the character Number Two.

 personal life
McKellen and his first serious partner, Brian Taylor, a history teacher from Bolton, began their relationship in 1964. It lasted for eight years, ending in 1972. They lived in London, where McKellen continued to pursue his career as an actor. For over a decade, he has lived in a five-story Victorian conversion in Narrow Street, Limehouse. In 1978 he met his second partner, Sean Mathias, at the Edinburgh Festival. This relationship lasted until 1988. According to Mathias, the ten-year love affair was tempestuous, with conflicts over McKellen's success in acting versus Mathias' somewhat less-successful career. Mathias and McKellen remained friends, and Mathias directed McKellen in Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2009. The pair have entered into business partnership with Evgeny Lebedev purchasing the lease on The Grapes public house in Narrow Street, close to McKellen's home.

A friend of Ian Charleson and a great admirer of his work, McKellen contributed a chapter to the 1990 book, For Ian Charleson: A Tribute.

In the late 1980s, McKellen lost his appetite for meat except for fish, and so mostly excludes it from his diet.

  • Much Ado About Nothing, Royal National Theatre, Old Vic, London, 1965
  • Trelawny of the 'Wells', National Theatre, London & Chichester Festival, 1965
  • The Promise, West End; Broadway, 1967
  • Edward II , Edinburgh Festival & West End, 1969
  • Hamlet , UK/European Tour, 1971
  • 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, UK Tour, 1972
  • Dr Faustus , Royal Shakespeare Company, Edinburgh Festival & Aldwych Theatre , 1974
  • King John, RSC, 1975
  • Romeo and Juliet , RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon & London, 1976
  • The Winter's Tale, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1976
  • Macbeth , RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon & Young Vic , 1976–1977
  • The Alchemist, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon & London, 1977
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, RSC, Barbican Arts Centre , 1977
  • Three Sisters, RSC, UK Tour, 1978
  • Bent, Royal Court and Criterion, London, 1979
  • Amadeus , Broadway, 1980
  • Coriolanus , National Theatre, 1984
  • Wild Honey, National Theatre, 1984 (& Broadway, 1986)
  • The Cherry Orchard , National Theatre, 1985
  • The Duchess of Malfi, National Theatre, 1985
  • The Real Inspector Hound, National Theatre, London & Paris, 1985
  • Othello , RSC, London & Stratford-upon-Avon, 1989
  • Richard III , National Theatre, world tour, 1990 & US tour, 1992
  • Uncle Vanya , National Theatre, 1992
  • Peter Pan , National Theatre, 1997
  • An Enemy of the People, National Theatre, 1997 & Ahmanson Theatre , 1998
  • Present Laughter, West Yorkshire Playhouse , 1998
  • Dance of Death, at the Broadhurst Theatre in 2001. At the Lyric Theatre in 2003
  • Aladdin, Old Vic, 2004 & 2005
  • The Cut, Donmar Warehouse, 2006
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare, , Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2007; New Zealand, 2007; New York , 2007, Minneapolis, 2007, New London Theatre , 2007–8
  • The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, , Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2007; New York , 2007 Minneapolis, 2007, New London Theatre , 2007–8
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, , Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, 2009 and 2010; Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, 2010 and Fugard Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa, 2010
  • The Syndicate by Eduardo de Filippo, Chichester Festival, 2011

other work
A recording of McKellen's voice is heard before performances at the Royal Festival Hall, reminding patrons to ensure their mobile phones and watch alarms are switched off, and to keep coughing to a minimum.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Ian McKellen", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.