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Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE (born 25 May 1939) is an English actor of stage and screen. He has received a Tony Award and two Academy 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 and as Magneto in the X-Men films.

In 1988, he came out and announced 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.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979, and knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for his outstanding work and contributions to theatre. In the 2008 New Year Honours he was made a Companion of Honour (CH) for services to drama and to equality.

Early years

McKellen was born in Burnleymarker, Lancashiremarker, England, though he spent most of his early life in Wiganmarker. 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 as well. 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. When he came out of the closet to his stepmother, Gladys McKellen, who was a member of the Religious Society of Friends: "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 any more."

McKellen attended Bolton Schoolmarker (boys division), 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 Manchester Opera Housemarker when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian Theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatresmarker, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of 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. (Jean continued to act, direct, and produce amateur theatre up to her recent death.)

He won a scholarship to St Catharine's College, Cambridgemarker, when he was eighteen, where he developed an attraction to Derek Jacobi. He has characterised it as "a passion that was undeclared and unrequited". He and his first serious partner, Brian Taylor, a history teacher from Boltonmarker, 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 Streetmarker, Limehousemarker. In 1978 he met his second partner, Sean Mathias, at the Edinburgh Festival. According to Mathias, the ten-year love affair was tempestuous, with conflicts over McKellen's success in acting versus Mathias' somewhat less-successful career.

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 early 1980s, McKellen lost his appetite for meat except for fish, and so mostly precludes it from his diet.

Theatre

While at Cambridge McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, appearing in Doctor Faustus and Henry IV (as Shallow) alongside Trevor Nunn and Jacobi. His first professional appearance was in 1961 at the Nottingham Playhousemarker, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West Endmarker appearance, in A Scent of Flowers, regarded as a "notable success". In 1965 he was a member of Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vicmarker, which led to rôles at the Chichester Festivalmarker. 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 Theatremarker, where he played several leading Shakespearean rôles, 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 TV films, also directed by Nunn.

In 2007 he returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company, in sell-out 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 Theatremarker, directed by Sean Mathias and playing opposite Patrick Stewart.

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 movies.

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 (based on the novel by his friend Armistead Maupin) and the film Last Action Hero, in which he played Death. The same year, McKellen appeared in the TV movie 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 400 years into the future in 1930s fascist England. 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 Theatremarker, 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 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 for 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 (Brad Renfro) 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 gay director of Show Boat (1936) 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 (consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King). 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. He will reprise the role for the upcoming prequel 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 Streetmarker, 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 (which was shot in a few days during the X2 shoot) , 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.

LGBT rights campaigning

While McKellen had made his sexuality known to his fellow actors early on in his stage career, it was not until 1988 that he came out to the general public, in a programme on BBC Radio 3. The context that prompted McKellen's decision — overriding concerns about a possible negative effect on his career — was that the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, simply known as "Section 28" was under consideration in the British Parliamentmarker. McKellen has stated that he was influenced in his decision by the advice and support of his friends, among them noted gay author Armistead Maupin.

In 2003, during an appearance on Have I Got News For You, McKellen claimed that when he visited Michael Howard, then Environment Secretary (responsible for local government), in 1988 to lobby against Section 28, Howard refused to change his position but did ask him to leave an autograph for his children. McKellen agreed, but wrote "Fuck off, I'm gay." McKellen also described Howard's junior ministers, the Conservatives David Wilshire and Dame Jill Knight, who were the architects of Section 28, as the 'ugly sisters' of a political pantomime.

Section 28, which proposed to prohibit local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" 'as a kind of pretended family relationship', was ambiguous and the actual impact of the amendment was uncertain. McKellen became active in fighting the proposed law, and declared himself gay on a BBC Radio programme where he debated the subject of Section 28 with the conservative journalist Peregrine Worsthorne. He has said of this period: "My own participating in that campaign was a focus for people [to] take comfort that if Ian McKellen was on board for this, perhaps it would be all right for other people to be as well, gay and straight". Section 28 was, however, enacted and remained on the statute books until 2003. In the intervening period, McKellen continued to fight for its repeal and criticised British Prime Minister Tony Blair for failing to concern himself with the issue.

McKellen has continued to be very active in LGBT rights efforts. In a statement on his website regarding his activism, the actor commented that:

McKellen is a co-founder of Stonewall, a LGB rights lobby group in the United Kingdom, named after the Stonewall riots. McKellen is also Patron of LGBT History Month, Pride London, GAY-GLOS and The Lesbian & Gay Foundation.

In 1994, at the closing ceremony of the Gay Games, he briefly took the stage to address the crowd, saying, "I'm Sir Ian McKellen, but you can call me Serena." (This nickname, originally given to him by Stephen Fry, had been circulating within the gay community since McKellen's knighthood was conferred.) In 2002, he attended the Academy Awards with his then-boyfriend, New Zealander Nick Cuthell - possibly a first for a major nominee since Nigel Hawthorne, the first openly gay performer to be nominated for an Academy Award, who attended the ceremonies with his partner, Trevor Bentham, in 1995.

In 2006, McKellen spoke at the pre-launch of the 2007 LGBT History Month in the UK, lending his support to the organisation and its founder, Sue Sanders. In 2007 McKellen became a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, an organisation that provides support to young, homeless and troubled LGBT people.

In 2006, McKellen became a Patron of Oxford Pride. At the time he said:

McKellen has taken his activism internationally, where it caused a major stir in Singaporemarker. Invited to do an interview on a morning show, he shocked the interviewer by asking if they could recommend him a gay bar. The program immediately ended. In December 2008, he was named in Out's annual Out 100 list.

Selected stage and screen credits

Stage



Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1968 David Copperfield David Copperfield (TV)
1969 The Promise Leonidik
Alfred the Great Roger
A Touch of Love George Matthews
1981 Priest of Love Lawrence
Pillar of Fire Narrator Documentary
1982 The Scarlet Pimpernel Paul Chauvelin
Walter Walter Royal Television Society Award for Best Performance
1983 The Keep Dr. Theodore Cuza
1985 Plenty Sir Andrew Charleson
Zina Arthur Kronfeld
1989 Scandal John Profumo
1993 Six Degrees of Separation Geoffrey Miller
The Ballad of Little Jo Percy Corcoran
Last Action Hero Death (uncredited cameo)
And the Band Played On Bill Kraus CableACE Award for Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
1994 To Die For Quilt Documentary Narrator (voice)
The Shadow Dr. Reinhardt Lane
I'll Do Anything John Earl McAlpine
1995 Restoration Will Gates
Richard III Richard III European Film Award for Best Actor
Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated — Chlotrudis Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama




Jack and Sarah William
1996 Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny Nicholas II Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film

1997 Swept from the Sea Dr. James Kennedy
Bent Uncle Freddie
1998 Apt Pupil Kurt Dussander Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor also for Gods and Monsters
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor also for Gods and Monsters

Gods and Monsters James Whale British Independent Film Award for Best Actor
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor also for Apt Pupil
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Chlotrudis Award for Best Actor
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor also for Apt Pupil
Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Male
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama















2000 X-Men Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto Nominated — Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Villain
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf the Grey Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actor
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominated — DVD Exclusive Awards for Best Audio Commentary Shared with Elijah Wood and Liv Tyler

Nominated — MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Shared with Christopher Lee







2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Gandalf the White Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actor
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


Tusker Tusker
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Gandalf the White Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actor
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast





Emile Emile Nominated — Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
The Simpsons Himself
X2 Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto Nominated — Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie Villain
2004 Eighteen Jason Anders
2005 Neverwas Gabriel Finch
Asylum Dr. Peter Cleave
The Magic Roundabout Zebedee (voice)
2006 Extras Ian McKellen Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
Flushed Away The Toad Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
X-Men: The Last Stand Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto Nominated — Irish Film & Television Award for Best International Actor

Nominated — Teen Choice Awards for Movies - Choice Sleazebag also for The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code Sir Leigh Teabing Nominated — Teen Choice Awards for Movies - Choice Sleazebag also for X-Men: The Last Stand
2007 Stardust Narrator (voice)
The Golden Compass Iorek Byrnison (voice)
2008 King Lear King Lear Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
2009 The Prisoner Number Two (TV)
2011 The Hobbit I Gandalf the Grey
2012 The Hobbit II Gandalf the Grey


Miscellaneous



Other awards



References

  1. "Ian McKellen." Host: James Lipton. Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 8 December 2002. No. 5, season 9.
  2. Ian McKellen, Alan Bates, Hugh Hudson, et al. For Ian Charleson: A Tribute. London: Constable and Company, 1990. pp. 125–130.
  3. "Correspondence with Ian McKellen—Vegetarianism." from Online Autobiography, accessed 4 February 2008.
  4. Empire, May 2006
  5. "Ian McKellen Unable to Suspend Disbelief While Reading the Bible." Us Weekly. 17 May 2006. Video clip available here.
  6. 10 things we didn't know this time last week. BBC News. 14 November 2003.
  7. "Ian McKellen Causes a Stir on Singaporean Television with Gay Comment." GayWired.com.
  8. "Ian McKellen." Out. December 2008. Accessed 28 April 2009
  9. Independent on Sunday Pink List 2007
  10. Ian McKellen receives Donostia Award


External links



Interviews, blogs and clips




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