Ian Mckellen



Also Known As
Ian Murray Mckellen, Sir Ian Mckellen
Birth Place
Lancashire, England, GB
May 25, 1939


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 ...

Family & Companions

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


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..


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. In between, McKellen continued his stage work and starred in stand-alone films such as Bill Condon's study of aging "Mr. Holmes" (2015).

Born in Burnley, Lancashire, England on May 25, 1939, McKellen was raised in Wigan and Bolton by his father, Denis, a civil engineer and his mother, Margery, a homemaker and amateur actress. Since his parents were avid theatergoers, McKellen was exposed to the stage at a very young age. When he was three, he attended his first, a production of "Peter Pan," and by the time he was six, McKellen made his stage debut alongside his mother in a church production depicting American Quakers being attacked by Native Americans. By the time he was 12, McKellen was attending the theatre on his own. It was around this time that his mother died of breast cancer. Though she never saw him perform as a professional, she did encourage McKellen to pursue acting as a career. After discovering Shakespeare through his older sister, Jean, he was hooked and began to act in school plays, including a turn as Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" at age 13.

McKellen attended both the Wigan Grammar School for Boys and Bolton School, where at the latter, he performed in several school productions, including "Henry V," at the Bolton Grand. During the summer months, McKellen and his fellow theatre enthusiasts took chaperoned camping trips to Stratford-upon-Avon, where they attended plays by day and discussed their opinions in the light of a campfire by night. After graduating, McKellen went to St. Catherine's College, University of Cambridge, where he majored in English literature, became president of the prestigious Marlowe Society, and earned a reputation for being a genius actor at a time when the university was a cauldron for exceptional British dramatic talent. While at Cambridge, he performed in almost two dozen undergraduate productions, working with such future luminaries as John Barton, Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi. In 1961, he made his professional stage debut in "A Man for All Seasons" for the Belgrade Theatre Company. McKellen stayed employed as an actor from that point on.

Like several of his contemporaries, McKellen trained in the now defunct repertory theater system - in his case in Coventry, Ipswitch and Nottingham - where he mastered some of the theatre's most prestigious roles, including Iago, Macbeth and Richard II, before making his London stage debut in "A Scent of Flowers" (1964). Joining the Royal National Theatre in 1965, McKellen supported then-husband-and-wife Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith in "Much Ado About Nothing," then appeared that same year in a production of Arthur Wing Pinero's "Trelawny of the 'Wells" (1965). McKellen had his first breakout lead in the Russian play "The Promise" (1967), starring opposite Judi Dench in London and then Eileen Atkins on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre. McKellen recreated the part for his first leading role in the little-seen feature version in 1969. That same year, he had a role in the British-made epic, "Alfred the Great" (1969), then played a television broadcaster who fathers a child out of wedlock with a graduate student (Sandy Dennis), who then has the child without his knowledge in "A Touch of Love" (1969). Though he had made the crossover to film, it would be over a decade until he made another.

In the ensuing years since his onscreen debut, McKellen amassed numerous awards and accolades for playing Shakespearean roles, including a memorable performance as "Macbeth" (1976-77) in Stratford-upon-Avon and in London. But he earned international acclaim for playing parts in the works of two contemporary playwrights. First, he essayed the role of Max, a gay man who pretends to be Jewish when he is shipped to a concentration camp, in Martin Sherman's groundbreaking "Bent" (1979). The following year, McKellen was dynamic in the role of Salieri, the jealous rival of Mozart (Tim Curry), in Peter Shaffer's fine "Amadeus" (1980). Recreating Salieri on Broadway solidified his stature and earned both a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award for Lead Actor in a play. Although he continued to appear on stage throughout the world - including appearances in two well-received solo shows, "Acting Shakespeare" and "A Knight Out" - McKellen found himself with film and television opportunities. He was tapped to play author D.H. Lawrence in the highly literate, but slightly stodgy biopic "Priest of Love" (1981). Most notably, he deftly portrayed a mentally challenged man in "Walter" (Channel 4, 1982), earning him more awards and acclaim.

Like several of his contemporaries, McKellen had a knack for disappearing behind gobs of makeup to become virtually unrecognizable in order to inhabit a role, as he did playing a rapidly aging doctor in the offbeat supernatural thriller, "The Keep" (1983). He was then seen by American audiences in the made-for-television adaptation of the French Revolution-era adventure, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (CBS, 1982), playing the ruthless Paul Chauvelin, undaunted suitor to the married Marguerite Blakeney (Jane Seymour) and determined government official who will stop at nothing in trying to uncover the secret identity of an Englishman (Anthony Andrews) who rescues doomed Frenchman from the guillotine. Back on the stage, he reprised his one-man show, "Acting Shakespeare," on Broadway, for which he received a Tony nomination. Though he continued to land the occasional film and television role, including a supporting part in the British television adaptation of David Hare's "Plenty" (1985) starring Meryl Streep, McKellen was still finding it difficult to make himself a known onscreen commodity. He did, however, have several triumphs in the theatre, including award-winning turns in "Wild Honey" (1984), "Coriolanus" (1985) and "Othello" (1989).

In 1988, McKellen took a brave personal step when he was being interviewed on BBC radio by conservative host Peregrine Worsthorne, who was a big supporter of Section 28, a pending law that prohibited local authorities from promoting "homosexual causes." Tired of hearing Worsthorne refer to gays as "them," McKellen replied, "I am one of them." While his admission made headlines in the United Kingdom and spawned much talk that he would be typecast in future parts, McKellen confounded his critics by undertaking the role of John Profumo, a politician brought down by a notorious heterosexual sex scandal in the 1960s in the feature, "Scandal" (1989). Fully embodying a manly character, the actor demonstrated that his own sexual orientation was immaterial to his abilities as a performer. Then in 1991, after a turn as "Richard III" (1990) at the National Theatre, McKellen was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for outstanding services in the performing arts. In an ironic twist, he was on the same honors list as radio host Peregrine Worsthorne. Meanwhile, "Richard III" departed England and went on a world tour, including a leg in the United States in 1992 that included a stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Soon after his coming out on BBC radio, McKellen began to become more active in gay-related causes, forming the gay rights lobby group, Stonewall, with former actor-turned-politician Michael Cashman. After recreating the role of Max in a one-night only staging of "Bent" that later led to a revival, he played the role of AIDS activist Bill Kraus in the acclaimed HBO movie "And the Band Played On" (1993), then devised his one-man show "A Knight Out" (1994), which he performed as a benefit for the Gay Games. He subsequently took the show on the road in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brussels and Los Angeles. Even though he had a hugely successful and respected stage career, McKellen longed for work on screen. Taking matters into his own hands, he produced and starred in a contemporary adaptation of "Richard III" (1995), which transposed the charismatic but ruthless monarch from Elizabethan times to a London in the 1930s that has been turned into a fascist state. Though the film failed to find much of an audience in theaters, McKellen's performance was hailed by critics and, more importantly, captured the attention of Hollywood.

Following a well-received supporting performance as Russian Czar Nicholas II in the historical drama "Rasputin" (HBO, 1996), McKellen accepted the supporting role of Freddie, who attempts to help Max escape from the Nazis, in the feature version of "Bent" (1997). As he approached his sixties, McKellen had suddenly become an unlikely movie star with two outstanding performances. In the under-performing thriller, "Apt Pupil" (1998), Bryan Singer's adaptation of a Stephen King novella, McKellen offered a chilling depiction of evil in the guise of a former Nazi identified by a local schoolboy (Brad Renfro) who exhorts him to impart his knowledge. But his undeniable triumph was his portrayal of an aged James Whale, the expatriate British film director best-known for the horror films "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Invisible Man" (1933), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), in Bill Condon's superlative "Gods and Monsters" (1998). McKellen found numerous parallels between their lives; both hailed from the same area of England, both started on stage as actors, and both were homosexual, which informed his deeply moving characterization, which was amplified by an equally compelling performance by co-star Brendan Fraser, helping him nab numerous critics awards and his first Oscar nomination.

Right on the heels of these acclaimed film roles, McKellen returned to his greatest love - the stage - first in Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" (1998) at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, then portrayed self-absorbed actor Garry Essendine in Noel Coward's popular comedy, "Present Laughter" (1998), which was staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, England. But McKellen's absence from the silver screen did not last long. He reunited with Singer to play Patrick Stewart's evil rival Magneto in "X-Men" (2000), the hotly anticipated summer feature based on the adventures of the Marvel Comic superheroes. That same year, he signed on to play the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's equally anticipated "Lord of the Rings," starting with an Oscar-nominated performance in the opening installment, "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001). After decades of barely any film roles, McKellen found himself in some of the biggest blockbusters ever produced in roles equally beloved. He followed with reprisals of Gandalf in "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003), which earned him more rave reviews and the adulation of J.R.R. Tolkien fans, then made another subset of fans equally happy for returning as the villainous Magneto for the comic book sequel "X2" (2003) - which most fans felt was superior to its predecessor - and the final outing, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), a disappointing offering from new director Brett Ratner.

In "Asylum" (2005), a period drama starring Natasha Richardson as a bored 1950s housewife who falls in love with an asylum patient (Marton Csokas) under the care of her husband (Hugh Bonneville), the hospital's forensic psychologist, McKellen played a cunning hospital administrator suspicious of the illicit love affair. Turning briefly to animation, he voiced Zebedee the Sorcerer in the U.K. version of "Doogal" (2006), based on a French television series aired on the BBC. McKellen then appeared in one of the more controversial and anticipated movies to come along in decades, "The Da Vinci Code" (2006), directed by Ron Howard from Dan Brown's mega-blockbuster book about a famed symbologist (Tom Hanks) called to the Louvre Museum, where a curator has been murdered and left behind a trail of mysterious clues that eventually lead to a secret society which guards a secret that could destroy the foundation of society.

Despite his two Oscar nominations, McKellen was not above spoofing himself. In 2006, McKellen turned in a wicked parody of himself on the critically acclaimed comedy series "Extras" (HBO, 2005-07). Playing on his real-life public persona as a prominent out-of-the-closet celebrity, McKellen served as a hysterically funny, utterly cringe-worthy foil for the show's homophobic lead character, Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais.) The guest-starring role earned McKellen his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. In 2007, he starred in an acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production of "King Lear," delivering a high-caliber performance as the titular monarch, then returned to animated features to voice the armored bear, Iorek Byrnison, in "The Golden Compass" (2007). McKellen once again returned triumphantly to the stage, playing Sorin in Anton Chekov's "The Seagull" (2007) at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, then reprised "King Lear" (2007) in New York, New Zealand and London, a role he filmed for the small screen in a December 2008 airing on PBS. For his television performance as Lear, he earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie in 2009. McKellen found himself in Emmy contention once again, this time for his starring turn on "The Prisoner" (AMC, 2009), a remake of the 1967 series about a man known simply as Two (McKellen), who wakes up on a mysterious island with no recollection of how he ended up there. Under constant surveillance, Two struggles to make sense of his new surroundings while trying escape. Though the miniseries received mixed reviews, McKellen was unanimously praised for his performance, earning an Emmy Award nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.

Other than contributing to various short film projects and starring in a touring production of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," McKellen was seen little on the big screen over the next three years, until his return as Gandalf the Grey in director Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012). The first in another trilogy of films based on Tolkien's beloved Middle-earth mythology, the prequel told the story of a young hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who leaves his hearth and home to embark on a dangerous quest to wrest a fortune in treasure away from a fearsome dragon. The impetus for Bilbo's unlikely trek comes from McKellen's wizard, who plays upon the hobbit's pride in an effort to recruit him for the dangerous mission. McKellen reprised the role in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013) and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014). During this period, he also returned as Magneto in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014). McKellen's next screen role came in Bill Condon's "Mr. Holmes" (2015), the story of the great detective Sherlock Holmes' battle against old age and dementia. McKellen also appeared in Condon's next film, "Beauty and the Beast" (2017) as Cogsworth.



Cast (Feature Film)

Cats (2019)
The Good Liar (2019)
All Is True (2018)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Animal Crackers (2016)
Mr. Holmes (2015)
The Dresser (2015)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Miss In Her Teens (2014)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Gandalf the Grey
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Neverwas (2007)
Displaced (2007)
Stardust (2007)
The Golden Compass (2007)
Flushed Away (2006)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Doogal (2006)
Saint of 9/11 (2006)
Asylum (2005)
Emile (2005)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Gandalf [the Grey, later known as Gandalf the White]
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Book That Wrote Itself (2001)
X-Men (2000)
Cirque du Soleil Journey of Man (2000)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Apt Pupil (1998)
Kurt Dussander
A Bit of Scarlet (1997)
Swept From the Sea (1997)
Dr James Kennedy
Bent (1997)
Uncle Freddie
Jack and Sarah (1996)
Richard III (1995)
Richard Iii
Restoration (1995)
Will Gates
Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
Amos Starkadder
I'll Do Anything (1994)
John Earle Mcalpine
Heaven's a Drag (1994)
The Shadow (1994)
Thin Ice (1994)
Six Degrees Of Separation (1993)
Last Action Hero (1993)
And the Band Played On (1993)
The Ballad of Little Jo (1993)
Camp Christmas (1993)
Scandal (1989)
Plenty (1985)
Zina (1985)
Professor Kronfeld
Loving Walter (1983)
The Keep (1983)
Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
Paul Chauvelin
Priest of Love (1981)
Thank You All Very Much (1969)
Alfred the Great (1969)

Writer (Feature Film)

Richard III (1995)

Producer (Feature Film)

Richard III (1995)
Executive Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Song Performer
Apt Pupil (1998)
Song Performer ("Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera)")

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Camp Christmas (1993)

Director (Special)

Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare (1982)

Cast (Special)

The 76th Annual Academy Awards (2004)
2004 IFP/Independent Spirit Awards (2004)
A Passage to Middle Earth: The Making of Lord of the Rings and Return to Middle Earth (2003)
X-Pose: X2 Mutants Uncovered (2003)
17th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards (2002)
The 59th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2002)
The 74th Annual Academy Awards (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Return to Middle Earth (2002)
The Orange British Academy Film Awards (2002)
Passage to Middle-Earth: The Making of "The Lord of the Rings" (2001)
X-Men: The Mutant Watch (2000)
David Copperfield (2000)
City (1994)
Voice Of Augustus; Voice Of Druid
Out There (1993)
Armistead Maupin Is a Man I Dreamt Up (1993)
The 46th Annual Tony Awards (1992)
Living Shakespeare: A Year With the RSC (1992)
Suleyman the Magnificent (1987)
Dying Day (1982)
Hamlet (1982)
Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare (1982)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1994)
Windmills Of The Gods (1988)

Life Events


Made his professional stage debut in a production of "A Man for All Seasons" at the Nottingham Playhouse


Spent a season as a member of the Ipswich Repertory company


Made TV acting debut on episode of the British series "Kipling"


Made his London stage debut in "A Scent of Flowers"


Appeared as Claudio in Franco Zeffirelli's staging of "Much Ado About Nothing"


Co-starred with Lynn Redgrave in the British TV production of "Sunday Out of Season"


Cast in first film role in "The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling"; film never completed


Made American TV debut in serialized version of "David Copperfield"; played title character


Originated role of Leonidik in the London production of "The Promise" opposite Judi Dench; made NYC debut in same role opposite Eileen Atkins


Made his feature debut reprising his stage role in film version of "The Promise" (released only in the U.K.)


Played his first onscreen homosexual in "A Touch of Love/Thank You All Very Much"


Made his stage directorial debut with "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" at Liverpool Playhouse


First played "Hamlet" in BBC production


Starred in the one-person TV production "Keats," based on the life of the Romantic poet John Keats


Founded and served as a director with Actors' Company


Returned to the NYC stage as Edgar in "King Lear"; performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music


First stage collaboration with college chum Trevor Nunn, "Romeo and Juliet"


Had stage triumph as "Macbeth" opposite Judi Dench; reprised role opposite Dench in 1979 TV production


Wrote the one-person show "Acting Shakespeare," which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival


Portrayed Max, a gay man who pretends to be Jewish when captured by the Nazis, in "Bent" at the Royal Court Theatre in London


Toured sporadically throughout U.S. and Europe in "Acting Shakespeare"


Portrayed novelist D. H. Lawrence in the film biopic "Priest of Love"


Won a Tony Award playing Salieri in the Broadway production of "Amadeus"


"Acting Shakespeare" filmed for TV broadcast


Undertook the role of the villain Chauvelin in the CBS TV-movie "The Scarlet Pimpernel"


Earned acclaim playing a mentally challenged man in British TV movie "Walter," directed by Stephen Frears


Appeared under much makeup as an elderly doctor in "The Keep"


Reprised "Acting Shakespeare" on Broadway; received Tony nomination


Returned to Broadway in for the short-lived production of "Wild Honey"


Portrayed a British diplomat in one scene of the screen adaptation of David Hare's "Plenty"


Starred as John Profumo in Michael Caton-Jones' "Scandal"


Played the title role in "Richard III"; directed by Richard Eyre at the National Theater; also served as associate producer


Embarked on world tour alternating as "Richard III" and Kent in "King Lear"


Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts


Landed cameo role as 'Death' in "The Last Action Hero"


Had small role in the PBS miniseries "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City"


Played AIDS activist Bill Kraus in "And the Band Played On" (HBO), earned Emmy nomination


Cast as a servant to Robert Downey Jr.'s Robert Merival in "Restoration"


Wrote screenplay, executive produced, and starred in "Richard III"; directed by Richard Loncraine; moved setting to 1930s Europe


Portrayed Czar Nicholas II of Russia in the HBO film "Rasputin"; garnered second Emmy nomination


Had an extended cameo as Uncle Freddie in the film version of "Bent"


Played Kurt Dussander, a former concentration camp officer, in Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil"


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


Starred in the Los Angeles stage production of "An Enemy of the People"


Re-teamed with Bryan Singer for the big-screen version of the Marvel comic's "X-Men"; played the villain Magneto


Returned to Broadway opposite Helen Mirren in "The Dance of Death"


Breakout role as 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)


Once again played Magneto in "X2"


Co-starred with Natasha Richardson in the psychological thriller "Asylum"


Portrayed Holy Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing, in Ron Howard's film adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code"


Received an Emmy nomination for appearing as himself on an episode of HBO series "Extras"


Reprised the role of Magneto for "X-Men: The Last Stand"


Returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company for the productions of "King Lear" and "The Seagull"; both directed by Trevor Nunn


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


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


Appeared in a revival of "Waiting for Godot" at London's Haymarket Theatre; starred opposite Patrick Stewart


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


Again reprised role of Gandalf the Grey in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"


Re-teamed with Patrick Stewart, his "Godot" and "X-Men" co-star, in repertory performances of "Waiting for Godot" and "No Man's Land" on Broadway


Played Gandalf once again in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"


Played an elderly Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon's "Mr. Holmes"


Voiced Cogsworth in Bill Condon's live-action Disney remake "Beauty and the Beast"


Reprised Gandalf, along with several of his most famous stage characters, in a limited-run London production called "Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You"


Played Lear in productions of "King Lear" at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Duke of York's Theatre


Lent his voice to an episode of "Family Guy"


Movie Clip



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


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



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."