Ian McKellen

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Ian McKellen Trivia

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  • Trivia

    • Sir Ian gives his voice to the audiobook version of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.

    • With an interview with the late Studs Terkel in 1986, Sir Ian said he based his performance of Macbeth on a John F. Kennedy gone wrong - a golden boy messed up and off track.

    • Sir Ian Lord of the Rings tattoo, the Elvish number 9 that all fellowship members got is on his shoulder.

    • In 2008, Sir Ian was featured in a show by photographer Simon Annand. The pictures included in the exhibition are of the 30 minutes before an actor steps on the stage in theatres.

    • Sir Ian took part in a successful campaign to save The George Tavern (an English pub), it is his favorite pub in East London. The protest, which included wearing a t-shirt designed by singer Amy Winehouse, was aiming to defeat a motion to have a housing project constructed near the pub. The project would have had for effect the closing of the pub since The George Tavern is also a concert venue and noise complaints would have been expected.

    • Sir Ian once proposed to John Barrowman that they should have a dinner party and invite all the closeted actors they know. The fantasy included Ian and John making the actors sit until they realized you can be an actor, be successful and out.

    • Sir Ian is good friends with John Barrowman. In 2006, Ian accepted Stonewall's Entertainer of the Year Award in John's behalf since the latter couldn't attend the ceremony.

    • Sir Ian compared the [2008] recent rows over gay bishops to the same thing in the military, noting that it's nothing new, just the same old homophobia that exists everywhere.

    • Before taking part in many of the London Pride events in 2008, Sir Ian went to Downing Street to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss Gay issues, along with other Stonewall members. The key item discussed was the "Education for All" campaign, to outlay homophobic bullying in schools.

    • In order to keep fit, at the age of 69, Sir Ian took up Thai kick boxing.

    • Awards

      Academy Awards

      Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Gandalf Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Ian was the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for the Trilogy (2002) (Nomination).

      Berlin Film Festival
      Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement (2006) (Won).

      Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards
      Actor of the Year in a Revival for Pillars of the Community (1977) (Won).
      Actor of the Year in a New Play for Bent (1979) (Won).
      Best Actor in a Revival for Wild Honey (1985) (Won).
      Best Actor in Richard III (1991) (Won).
      Special Award, in recognition of his oustanding contribution to theatre and his continuing support of the industry (2006) (Won).

      London Evening Standard Theatre Awards
      Best Actor for Coriolanus (1984) (Won).
      Best Actor for Othello (1989) (Won).

      Screen Actors Guild
      Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for Gods and Monsters (1999) (Nomination).
      Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for the Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) (Won).
      Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture for the Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) (Nomination).
      Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture for Lord of the Rings:The Two Towers (2003) (Nomination).
      Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2004) (Won).

      Tony Awards
      Best Actor (Play) for Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1981) (Won).
      Best Actor (Play) for Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare (1984) (Nomination).

    • Charitable Work

      After being unable to attend a tribute for theater director Ed Wilson in late September 2008, Ian gave a donation to the bursary created in the late man's name.

      In 2008, Sir Ian gave a talk and answered questions from his audience in a one evening fundraising event to benefit the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT). The charity comes to the aid of homeless gay teen and was founded after the senseless death of Albert Kennedy; the young man died after falling from a car park structure in Manchester while escaping a homophobic attack.

      In 2008, Sir Ian McKellen did a self-portrait as a wizard to be auctionned for the Kaos Signing Choir. The item from Sir Ian was sold for the highest amount at 610 pounds.

      In 2008, Sir Ian donated a signed copy of one of his favorite book for it to be auctioned off; other books were donated by Dame Helen Mirren, Sir David Jason and Gary Lineker. The proceed of the auction went to the charity Book Aid International which raises money to develop literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

      Sir Ian contributed a Doodle to the National Doodle Campaign, which auctions off celebrity doodles for charity.

      Sir Ian participated in the 10 kilometre Walk For Life on the 19th of June, 2005 to raise funds for HIV and Aids charity CRUSAID.

      Sir Ian donated the shirt and tie he wore in the movie The Da Vinci Code to Bolton School, his old school in England, while on a visit there. The items were auctioned off on eBay to raise money to help fund clever children from less wealthy families to attend the fee-paying school.

    • When Sir Ian guested on Desert Island Discs, his musical choices included The Stars and Stripes Forever, Beethoven, Ethel Merman and Dancing Queen by Abba. His Record was Stormy Weather, his book was a Dictionary of Flora and Fauna and his luxury item was a grand piano.

    • Special Awards/Honours/Positions

      Associate Member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
      President of the Marlowe Society (1960-1961).
      Council of British Actors' Equity (1971).
      Companion of the British Empire (CBE) (1972).
      Knighthood (1990).
      Made "Companion of Honour" in the Queen's New Year's Honours List (2007).
      Made "Honorary Lieutenant Colonel" in the National Guard, while in Georgia.

      Honorary Degrees from the following Universities: Nottingham, Leeds, Oxford and Aberdeen.

    • Ian gave up smoking in 2004.

    • Sir Ian invited his Coronation Street co-star, Anthony Cotton, to accompany him to Sir Elton John's annual ball.

    • Sir Ian visited a nude beach while filming X-Men: The Last Stand in Vancouver, Canada.

    • Sir Ian has complained about Wikipedia.com's inaccurate profile of his life. He said he is unimpressed with the careless biography available to members of the public and wishes his details would be updated so fans aren't misled.

    • Sir Ian's major movie debut was the lead role in 1998's Apt Pupil.

    • Sir Ian has said he was insecure and frightened before becoming a Hollywood star, despite having forged a successful and highly acclaimed theatre career before gracing the silver screen. He credits Hollywood with giving him a new found sense of confidence.

    • Sir Ian has urged the British government to take action against religious leaders who teach homophobic views. He hates the idea of curtailing freedom of speech, but insists religion shouldn't be used to incite prejudice against any social groups.

    • Sir Ian celebrated his 67th birthday at the Cannes Film Festival in France on the 25th of May 2006, partying like a teenager.

    • Ian McKellen refuses to write an autobiography, because he wouldn't be able to write about his death, which would leave his story incomplete.

    • Sir Ian was at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane watching musical Anything Goes when he decided to don a costume and join the cast onstage to perform the song "Blow Gabriel Blow". This was Sir Ian's musical theater debut as he had never appeared in a musical before.

    • Sir Ian used his homosexuality as an inspiration for playing the role of Magneto in the X-Men movies. He takes exception to the common assumption that homosexuals can be 'cured', and channeled this into his acting in the third installment where a machine is used to "cure" mutants.

    • Sir Ian has attacked British laws allowing homosexual couples to form civil unions, saying they are absurd and insisting that they discriminate against both homosexual and heterosexual couples.

    • Sir Ian has criticised Jake Gyllenhaal for being apprehensive about kissing his Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger on screen.

    • Sir Ian is hoping to star in Eastenders and Emmerdale after wowing TV fans with his star turn in Coronation Street, where he played artist Mel Hutchwright for 9 episodes in 2005.

    • British newspaper "The Independent" has ignored Sir Ian McKellen's previous protestations that he was tired of being a gay icon, and placed him atop its "Pink List" in 2006, in fifth place in 2007 and in fourth place in 2008.

    • Ian is a vegetarian.

    • In 2005, Ian fulfilled his lifelong ambition of playing King Lear, arguably Shakespeare's greatest role, on the London stage.

    • Ian played 'Widow Twanky' in Kevin Spacey's production of the traditional pantomime Aladdin at the London Old Vic Theatre (Christmas 2004).

    • Ian originally aspired to be a journalist.

    • Ian studied with Sir Derek Jacobi, with whom he was "desperately in love" with, confessed on Inside the Actors' Studio.

    • Before performing the role of Gandalf, Ian listened to a recording of Tolkien reading Gandalf's lines from the novel. He used this a base for creating the character, and imitated the accent used by Tolkien in the recording.

    • According to an interview, one of the last things Margaret Thatcher did as Prime Minister was to recommend Ian for a knighthood.

    • While being a guest on Jay Leno (December 26, 2003), Ian said that he had not seen X2 when it opened in theatres; he only saw it when the DVD hit the stores.

    • Ian played Maggie Smith in a "Weekend Update" skit on an episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted.

    • Ian was offered the part of Mission Commander Swanbeck in Mission: Impossible II (2000). He was not able to accept the role, due to a prior theatre engagement in London. The part eventually went to Anthony Hopkins.

    • Ian has had two long term relationships in his life. The first was with Brian Taylor, drummer with the Tom Robinson Band in the 60s, and the second was with Director Sean Mathias in the 80s, with whom he remains good friends.

    • Ian received the following salaries for his LOTR appearances:

      The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: £5,000,000

      The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: £4,000,000

    • Ian's first role in a Shakespearean play was as Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

    • Ian played the vampire in the video for "Heart" by the Pet Shop Boys.

    • Ian is approximately 5'11" tall.

  • Quotes

    • (Revealing he believes Britain will have a gay PM one day)
      Ian: I think openly gay politicians are the standard, rather than not, in all parties these days. Eventually it's very likely that one of them will become a leader. We've already had one or two gay Prime Ministers.

    • (On the teachings of Christianity, Judaism and Islam being taught in school)
      Sir Ian: They should abandon the teaching of their church, because it is cruel and misplaced. It [religion] is the one area where people are not frightened to be openly homophobic.

    • (On how he saw his firsts television and movie roles)
      Sir Ian: I hadn't really thought about TV and film, and when they began to turn up, I think I probably said to myself, "Oh, it would be good to become a successful film actor, because that would somehow augment my theater career." I didn't think of it as striking out in a new direction, particularly.

    • (On his best memory about filming the trilogy of "The Lord of the Ring")
      Sir Ian: I think my favorite memory is actually the work. Arriving in this fabulous location at a ridiculous time in the morning, gradually seeing the dawn coming up and being with a group of people who all liked that sort of experience. There was nobody saying "I wish I was in L.A." or "God, get me an English breakfast."

    • (On his work to make Shakespeare more accessible to all the different members of society)
      Sir Ian: Every time I rehearse a Shakespeare play, I assume that no one in the audience has ever seen it before. I'm very excited by the idea that people may be discovering Shakespeare for the first time; but it's my duty to make sure that what they are excited by is not just another action movie, not just another political intrigue thriller, not just another play about sex and family betrayals and a cruel tyrant with a lot of blood spattered on the screen -- but to point out that these were inventions, not of the cinema, but of Shakespeare.

    • (On giving Stonewall's - the gay lobbying group for which Sir Ian is a founder - list of changes to then Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair)
      Sir Ian: I reeled off Stonewall's demands, and he nodded, wrote them down and put a tick by them all. Then he said 'we will do all that'.

    • (Taking a stand against California's Proposition 8 which would end the rights of same-sex couple to marry in the state)
      Sir Ian: I feel involved in the outcome of voting over Proposition 8. The world has turned to a point where any discrimination against gay people in your state, in your country, in our world is unseemly and unnecessarily cruel. If two people wish to declare their love for each other, who are the rest of us to stand in their way? If they wish to marry, as their parents did, who are we to stop them? In the great Californian tradition, Vote 'no' to Proposition Eight, please.

    • (Commenting on his charity work for Stonewall's Education Champion Programme, educating children about homophobia in UK's schools)
      Sir Ian: I've been to talk at quite a few schools recently. It is essential to talk to 12- and 13-year-olds because they absorb what's thrown at them, whether it be homophobia or tolerance, and we have to make sure it's the positive stuff.

    • (On how impossible it felt to be gay in the 1950s and why the theater was so important to the situation)
      Ian: It used to feel like it was impossible. Yet, when you were on stage, you could be absolutely open about your emotions and indulge them and express yourself in a way that – in real life – I wasn't doing. I think that was part of the appeal. Certainly I felt, when I decided to become a professional, that, "Oh good... I'm going to be able to meet some real-life queers." Because I'd heard that the theater was full of them... and so it has proved.

    • (Discussing why acting attracted him more than any other work when he was young)
      Ian: When I started to do it, I discovered I could do it. I think it's as simple as that. I didn't have any other specialties that I was good at. Growing up and finding an enjoyable activity which the grown-ups admired – or don't object to – for a nice well-behaved boy was fulfilling. It gave me an identity that otherwise I didn't particularly feel I had.

    • (On his first film experiences and how he went about to learn this part of his craft)
      Sir Ian: I was frightened of the camera... Most people are. You just think of yourself having your photograph taken – it's not a pleasant experience. You're worried about what you look like. You suddenly become unnatural... You want to comb your hair, you want to take your glasses off, you want to say, "Please take another one, I wasn't ready." That's what it feels like when you're not secure in front of a film camera, but a hundred times worse, of course, because you're doing it for a living... You're going to be judged. And the film is moving through the camera the whole time. Before I did the film of "Richard III," I deliberately took time off from theater – I didn't do any theater – I only did film... Anything on screen... Anything. I played some very small parts, and visited other people's movies – as it were – and learned the job.

    • (on becoming a Companion of Honour in the December 2007 New Year's Honours List)
      Ian McKellen: I am honoured to join an order which includes such distinguished practitioners in the arts. It is particularly pleasing that 'equality' is included in my citation.

    • (on "The Lord of the Rings" and the Oscars)
      Sir Ian McKellen: If the movies had been made in Hollywood with an American cast, they would have been sweeping the boards every year. So there's a little bit of xenophobia going on there, I expect. But how can you fail to be affected by the achievements of Lord Of The Rings on the big screen? It gets my vote!

    • (on his Internet usage)
      Ian McKellen: I do use it a lot. When I travel, it's a good way to get news. If I want to read U.K. papers, I can do it immediately, rather than waiting a week for them to reach me. And I e-mail a lot. When I'm travelling, it's a good substitute for the more traditional form of letter writing.

    • (commenting in 2003 on what role is left for him to play)
      Ian McKellen: I want to play a dame in pantomime, which is the first thing that British kids see in the theatre when they are very, very young. It's full of dance, song and poetry, has a simple story, audience participation and cross dressing. The principle boy is played by a girl and the mother, the comic dame, is always played by a man, which is why the British love the theatre so much, because they get it all, like a Christmas pudding. But mind you, I think pantomime confuses them as well, so next Christmas I'm going to play a dame in Aladdin.

    • (in response to Richard Harris' comments naming him 'passionless')
      Ian McKellen: Richard Harris was mainly a disappointed man because I had played Gandalf and he had to settle for Dumbletwit. Or Dumblebore, I should say.

    • (looking back at "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy)
      Ian McKellen: It's a wonderful film - I think of it as one film - and the shooting was immensely pleasurable. There was lots to enjoy in New Zealand, apart from the actual filming. I look back on it all with enormous pleasure, and I'm very pleased I was involved.

    • (on how young and old actors relate to one another)
      Ian McKellen: One of the greatest joys of being an actor is sharing the stage with older and younger colleagues. When I was starting out, I loved watching and talking with my seniors. Now my role is reversed, it's touching that the young actors in King Lear and The Seagull are as keen as ever. As for advice – work with people you admire and go and see their work as much as you can.

    • (on how children see him when they meet him)
      Ian McKellen: But I know in my heart of hearts that when that little five-year-old looks up at me and asks for my autograph, that basically what they're asking is Gandalf for his autograph but that's fine with me.

    • Ian McKellen: I think ten years more is probably all I've got, as someone who can nip on a plane and remember the lines and not fall over, so I'm very picky now. But I tell you, it's very sweet at six-thirty in the evening when you're not working in the theatre. And not to get up early for a film... every part you play gives you grief. Everything's still a struggle. It's lovely not to have those things on your mind - deep worries, insecurities.

    • Ian McKellen: (on an autobiography and his website) I'll never put my memoirs in print. What's upsetting about an autobiography is that the final chapter is always missing. I mean, you want the death, don't you? There's more on that site then there could ever be in a book. Eventually, before I die, I hope to have written about every part I've played.

    • Ian McKellen: (about "X-Men: The Last Stand") As a gay man, some people think that it ought to be cured and made normal again and I find it as offensive as someone saying that they have a cure for the colour of their skin. This particular story was close to my heart; it has an important message to young people who may for one reason or another be disaffected with society because society points at their differences and says that they're inferior to the rest of us.

    • Ian McKellen: I really can't see why the government couldn't just say gay people can get married - that would have been true equality and so much simpler. But that hasn't been done because they couldn't face the furor. So they've passed a law that is not available to straight people. Straight people cannot have a civil partnership they have to get married. Extraordinary.

    • Ian McKellen: I got very upset when one of the actors said it was the most terrifying job he'd ever had because it involved him kissing another man. Imagine how rude that is. Suppose I'd said the most appalling thing I ever had to do was kiss Helen Mirren!

    • Ian McKellen: (about his character Magneto in the X-Men movies) He hasn't been given a love line, which I think is a pity. It would be wonderful if the camera hovered over Magneto's bed, to discover him making love to Professor X.

    • Ian McKellen: (about his character Magneto in the X-Men movies) I'd like to see him at the gym, because in the comics he has the most amazing body. I'm the slimline version of Magneto, but of course, these days you could morph my body into something really fantastic.

    • Ian McKellen: (about "The Da Vinci Code") When I read the book I believed it entirely. I thought that Leigh Teabing argued his case very convincingly indeed, and clever Dan Brown for twisting my mind in the right direction. And when I put the book down, I thought what a load of... and that's still going on in my mind. I'm very happy to believe that Jesus was married. And I know the Catholic church has problems with gay people and so this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay.

    • Ian McKellen: Acting is acting and if that were true, that gay actors cannot convince audiences playing straight characters, Heath Ledger wouldn't be allowed to be in Brokeback Mountain because he's presumably a happily married young man who doesn't have a gay bone in his body. And couldn't you just tell?

    • Ian McKellen: One of my main concerns is for school children who think they are gay and get bullied in the playground. Gay now has a new definition. Young people use it to mean 'rubbish' - how awful is it for a young adolescent boy or girl to think that they are rubbish? Schools and school teachers need to be trained how to help these children. I was one of the speakers in Trafalgar Square at the weekend and I suggested we abandon that word and use another word beginning with G. Gorgeous. I said, 'Look at me. I am gorgeous!'

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