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Also Known As: Ian Murray Mckellen, Sir Ian Mckellen Died:
Born: May 25, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Lancashire, England, GB Profession: actor, director, screenwriter, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Long considered to be one of the greatest British stage actors of all time, Sir Ian McKellen initially had surprising difficulty translating his immense talents to film and television. After spending his youth absorbing the theatre as a spectator and later performer, he emerged from the prestigious University of Cambridge as a celebrated actor, performing all the major Shakespeare roles while making an auspicious professional debut in "A Man for All Seasons" (1961). He spent the ensuing decades amassing an impressive résumé and accumulating awards, but had very little to show on the screen, save for several British made-for-television movies and a few under-performing films. Deciding to make his own luck, McKellen produced and starred in a 1930s-set adaptation of "Richard III" (1995), in which he delivered a sterling performance that led to an Oscar-nominated turn in "Gods and Monsters" (1998). Hollywood was finally forced to stand up and take notice. Though it took until he reached his sixties, McKellen began appearing in huge blockbusters, including all three installments of "The Lord of the Rings" (2001-03), "X-Men" (2000, 2003, 2006) and "The Hobbit" (2012-14) franchises, with the former earning...

Long considered to be one of the greatest British stage actors of all time, Sir Ian McKellen initially had surprising difficulty translating his immense talents to film and television. After spending his youth absorbing the theatre as a spectator and later performer, he emerged from the prestigious University of Cambridge as a celebrated actor, performing all the major Shakespeare roles while making an auspicious professional debut in "A Man for All Seasons" (1961). He spent the ensuing decades amassing an impressive résumé and accumulating awards, but had very little to show on the screen, save for several British made-for-television movies and a few under-performing films. Deciding to make his own luck, McKellen produced and starred in a 1930s-set adaptation of "Richard III" (1995), in which he delivered a sterling performance that led to an Oscar-nominated turn in "Gods and Monsters" (1998). Hollywood was finally forced to stand up and take notice. Though it took until he reached his sixties, McKellen began appearing in huge blockbusters, including all three installments of "The Lord of the Rings" (2001-03), "X-Men" (2000, 2003, 2006) and "The Hobbit" (2012-14) franchises, with the former earning him his second Academy Award nomination and confirming him as one of the greatest British talents of his generation.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:


CAST: (feature film)

4.
7.
 Displaced (2007)
8.
9.
 Stardust (2007)
10.
 Saint of 9/11 (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Acted in school plays at Bolton
:
Spent summers at camp at Stratford-Upon-Avon as a teen; attended Shakespearean productions in evenings
1961:
Professional stage debut, a production of "A Man for All Seasons" at the Nottingham Playhouse
1962:
Spent a season as member of the Ipswich Repertory company
:
Made Shakesperean debut in "Coriolanus"
1964:
London stage debut, "A Scent of Flowers"
1964:
Made TV acting debut on episode of the British series "Kipling"
1965:
Appeared as Claudio in Franco Zeffirelli's staging of "Much Ado About Nothing"
1965:
Co-starred with Lynn Redgrave in the British TV production of "Sunday Out of Season"
1966:
Made American TV debut in serialized version of "David Copperfield"; played title character
1966:
Cast in first film role in "The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling"; film never completed
1967:
Originated role of Leonidik in the London production of "The Promise" opposite Judi Dench; made NYC debut in same role opposite Eileen Atkins
1968:
Made feature debut reprising his stage role in film version of "The Promise" (released only in the U.K.)
1969:
Played first onscreen homosexual in "A Touch of Love/Thank You All Very Much"
1969:
Stage directorial debut, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" at Liverpool Playhouse
1970:
Starred in the one-person TV production "Keats," based on the life of the Romantic poet John Keats
1970:
First played "Hamlet" in BBC production
1972:
Founded and served as a director with Actors' Company
1974:
Returned to the NYC stage as Edgar in "King Lear"; performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music
1976:
First stage collaboration with college chum Trevor Nunn, "Romeo and Juliet"
1976:
Had stage triumph as "Macbeth" opposite Judi Dench; reprised role opposite Dench in 1979 TV production
1977:
Wrote the one-person show "Acting Shakespeare," which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival
1979:
Portrayed Max, a gay man who pretends to be Jewish when captured by the Nazis, in "Bent" at the Royal Court Theatre in London
1980:
Toured sporadically throughout U.S. and Europe in "Acting Shakespeare"
1980:
Won a Tony Award playing Salieri in the Broadway production of "Amadeus"
1980:
Portrayed novelist D. H. Lawrence in the film biopic "Priest of Love"
1982:
"Acting Shakespeare" filmed for TV broadcast
1982:
Earned acclaim playing a mentally challenged man in British TV movie "Walter," directed by Stephen Frears
1982:
Undertook the role of the villain Chauvelin in the CBS TV-movie "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
1983:
Appeared under much makeup as an elderly doctor in "The Keep"
1983:
Reprised "Acting Shakespeare" on Broadway; received Tony nomination
1984:
Returned to Broadway in for the short-lived production of "Wild Honey"
1986:
Portrayed a British diplomat in one scene of the screen adaptation of David Hare's "Plenty"
1989:
Starred as John Profumo in Michael Caton-Jones' "Scandal"
1990:
Played the title role in "Richard III"; directed by Richard Eyre at the National Theater; also served as associate producer
1991:
Embarked on world tour alternating as "Richard III" and Kent in "King Lear"
1991:
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts
1993:
Had small role in the PBS miniseries "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City"
1993:
Landed cameo role as 'Death' in "The Last Action Hero"
1993:
Played AIDS activist Bill Kraus in "And the Band Played On" (HBO); earned Emmy nomination
1995:
Cast as a servant to Robert Downey Jr.'s Robert Merival in "Restoration"
1995:
Wrote screenplay, executive produced, and starred in "Richard III"; directed by Richard Loncraine; moved setting to 1930s Europe
1996:
Portrayed Czar Nicholas II of Russia in the HBO film "Rasputin"; garnered second Emmy nomination
1997:
Had an extended cameo as Uncle Freddie in the film version of "Bent"
1998:
Played Kurt Dussander, a former concentration camp officer, in Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil"
1998:
Portrayed James Whale, the British expatriate film director of "Frankenstein" (1931) and "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), in "Gods and Monsters"; earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination
1998:
Starred in the Los Angeles stage production of "An Enemy of the People"
2000:
Re-teamed with Bryan Singer for the big-screen version of the Marvel comic's "X-Men"; played the villain Magneto
2001:
Portrayed the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy; all were filmed back-to-back: "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001); "The Two Towers" (2002), and "The Return of the King" (2003)
2001:
Returned to Broadway opposite Helen Mirren in "The Dance of Death"
2003:
Once again played Magneto in "X2"
2005:
Co-starred with Natasha Richardson in the psychological thriller "Asylum"
2006:
Portrayed Holy Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing, in Ron Howard's film adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code"
2006:
Reprised the role of Magneto for "X-Men: The Last Stand"
2006:
Received an Emmy nomination for appearing as himself on an episode of HBO series "Extras"
2007:
Returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company for the productions of "King Lear" and "The Seagull"; both directed by Trevor Nunn
2009:
Appeared in a revival of "Waiting for Godot" at London's Haymarket Theatre; starred opposite Patrick Stewart
2009:
Production of "King Lear" broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 and shown on PBS in America; earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Television movie
2009:
Starred as the charismatic, delicately despotic boss Two in the six-hour AMC miniseries "The Prisoner"; earned Emmy (2010) nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
2012:
Returned to Middle Earth as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and directed by Peter Jackson
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Bolton School: -
University of Cambridge: Cambridge , England - 1961

Notes

There is an official website devoted to Ian McKellen located at www.mckellen.com.

"McKellen's is not the face of a leading man; instead, there's a naturally supercilious sculpting of features, eyebrows poised in irony." --Lawrence O'Toole in New York Times Magazine, April 5, 1992..

Received honorary degrees (DLitt) from University of Nottingham in 1989 and from University of Aberdeen in 1993.

As a benefit for the Stonewall Group, McKellen directed the 1995 Equity Show at the Royal Albert Hall starring Elton John and the cast of "Absolutely Fabulous".

"I'm an actor who is gay and a gay man who is an actor. You could put it either way. But in my life, and not therefore in my work which is a big part of my life, do I want to cut myself off from heterosexuality. It's a very fascinating phenomenon. It's the source of everything that's wrong with the world and probably the source of most that's gone right. So let's have a look at it. But am I to say I won't play Macbeth or I won't play King Lear or I won't play Prospero because they're basically straight characters? No. But I can bring to those characters, as I brought to Richard III, my awareness of the world as I see it. I look through gay eyes."

"I'm also ambitious when it comes to Shakespeare to be involved in a production of 'Twelfth Night' and other of the comedies in which the principal women's parts disguise themselves as men because, of course, they were originally played by male actors. There's a complication of sexuality in Shakespeare that hasn't yet been realized on stage very often. It will probably take a bunch of gay actors or a gay director to bring that out. But that's functioning just as the actor or the director that one is, without putting a label on it."

"For me to become a Derk Jarman, a 'queer artist' (that's the phrase isn't it?), exclusively dealing in queer material and getting it out to the world. Well who actually sees this queer material? I think I'm a better politician than Derek Jarman was. I link through into mainstream society and can slip past the door and take my stories in and get people to pay attention to them." --Ian McKellen quoted at a September 1998 press junket for "Gods and Monsters".

"Most kids become actors because they like showing off. I found it rather painful to show off. I've developed an aptitude for that. I've matured into it." --McKellen quoted by Douglas J Rowe of the Associated Press.

"Villains are often the best parts." --McKellen quoted in Time Out New York, October 29-November 5, 1998.

"Ian is someone all actors should feel proud of because he shows what integrity an actor can have. He's open about his sexuality, he's a great artist and he exudes love and joy." --Annette Bening, who appeared in the film "Richard III", quoted in USA Today, November 4, 1998.

"I need acting much less than I used to. I think that's connected with my public coming out ten years ago." --Ian McKellen quoted in Interview, November 1998.

"I think I get far more respect than I deserve in Hollwood, because of the 'Sir'. They think, 'Oh my God, who is this guy? Is he related to the Queen'"? --to Newsday, November 12, 1998.

"I have never before been carved in plastic by Japanese technology and sold in Hamley's and FAO Schwartz." --McKellen talking about his "X-Men" action figure on his website.

"I get angry with the pressures that are on [closeted gay actors]. I know what those pressures are and they are enormous. I moved into the Essex House [hotel] today, and usually when I check into a hotel, I pull the Gideon's Bible out to rip out the part of Leviticus that says people like me should be removed from the face of the earth. I'm happy to say they don't have that in the Essex House. They only have the New Testament. Even in the bedroom you get this [anti-gay] propaganda." --McKellen to Stephen Schaeffer at mrshowbiz.go.com in 1998.

"Six years ago, I was that dreadful thing, the veteran Shakespearean British actor. 'British' I could cope with. 'Shakespearean' is meant to be a compliment, but 'veteran'? The implication is I was only good enough to be in plays. That perception I hope has now changed." --McKellen to Stephen Schaefer at mrshowbiz.go.com in 1998.

Not everyone is an admirer of McKellen's work. In The Chicago Tribune (January 13, 2002), Richard Christiansen wrote: "The great ones -- John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Alec Guinness -- are all gone, and now we're left with Ian McKellen to serve as a prime example of English stage performance. Well, he's OK. He's capable of reining in his hamminess to present a respectable portrayal, but there are times when his elaborate rhetoric drowns the character in a sea of elocution. And he has yet to give the kind of towering performance that can define a great actor's career."

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Brian Taylor. Teacher. Taught history at Bolton School; together from c. 1964 to c. 1972.
companion:
Sean Mathias. Director. Together c. 1981 until c. 1990.
companion:
Nick Cuthell. Born c. 1977.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Denis Murray McKellen. Died in a car crash in 1964, a week after seeing McKellen in his West End debut.
mother:
Margery Lois McKellen. Died c. 1951.
sister:
Jean McKellen. Older; born c. 1934.

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