On May 25th, 1939, in Burnley, Northern England, Ian Murray McKellen was born. His parents, Denis and Margery, soon moved with Ian and his sister Jean (b. 1934, an amateur actress) to the coal mining town of Wigan. His father, Denis was a Civil Engineer, and died in car crash in 1963. His mother, Margery Lois, housewife, died of breast cancer in 1951 - escaping his grief over her passing was one of the reasons he turned to acting. His father remarried to Gladys.
He developed a fascination with acting and the theatre, which was encouraged by his parents; they would bring him to plays, Shakespeare in particular. The amateur school productions fostered Ian's growing passion for theatre. When Ian went to school, he made sure to get roles in all of the productions. At Bolton School in particular, he developed his skills early on. Indeed, his first role in a Shakespearian play was at Bolton, as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Ian soon began attending Stratford-upon-Avon theatre festivals, where he saw the greats perform: Olivier, Hiller, Gielgud, Richardson and Robeson. He continued his education in English Drama, but soon it fell by the wayside as he concentrated more and more on performing. He eventually obtained his Bachelor of Arts (2:2 in English from Cambridge) in 1961, and began his career in earnest. McKellen began working in theatre over the next few years.
For a long time, very few people knew of Ian's homosexuality; he saw no reason to go public, nor had he told his family. They did not seem interested in the subject and so he saw no reason to bring it up. In 1988, Ian publicly came out of the closet on the BBC Radio 4 program, while discussing Margaret Thatcher's "section 28" legislation which would make the "public promotion of homosexuality" a crime. It was reason enough for McKellen to take a stand, and he has been active in the Gay Rights movement ever since.
Ian currently resides in Limehouse.