Gandalf the Grey
Highly acclaimed British actor Ian McKellen established himself as a renowned stage actor in his native country before acquiring worldwide recognition as a film star. Starting in 1964, his stage performances wooed audiences and critics alike, winning lots of awards, including a Clarence Derwent Award, three New York Drama Desk Awards, three Plays & Players Awards, five SWET Awards, a Tony Award, an Outer Critics' Circle Award, a New York Drama League Delia Austrian Medal Award, a London Evening Standard and a London Critics' Circle Drama Theatre Award.
Already popular as a stage actor and one of the leading British actors of his generation, McKellen began to attract the attention of American television audiences with his bright portrayal of AIDS activist Bill Kraus in the acclaimed television movie And the Band Played On (1993), where he took home a Cable Ace Award and earned an Emmy nomination. In 1996, he was honored with a Golden Globe Award for his scene-stealing Czar Nicholas II of Russia in the 1995’s TV film Rasputin.
On the silver screen, McKellen gained noticed after playing the title character in Richard Loncraine's Richard III (1995, with Annette Bening). His good acting handed him a Felix Award, as well as earned nominations at BAFTA and the Golden Globes. In 1998, McKellen won praise and international appreciation with his starring role of Frankenstein director James Whale in Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters. Due to his spectacular performance, he nabbed an International Film Festival San Sebastian Award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and a Chicago Film Critics Association award, and Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. In a more recent film, McKellen received recognition and is well-remembered for portraying Gandalf the Grey in director Peter Jackson's long-anticipated Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), where he picked up the 2002 Screen Actors Guild Award, the 2003 National Board of Review Award and the 2004 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award.
"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." Ian McKellen on his active participation on guy rights Off screen, Queen Elizabeth II appointed the 5' 11" tall actor CBE in 1979 and knighted him KBE in 1990 for his outstanding work and contributions to theatre. After Sir Ian McKellen announced that he was a gay man, McKellen became widely known as a campaigner for gay rights. As for his private life, he met his first lover Brian Taylor in 1964 and the couple remained together for the next eight years. After his relationship ended in 1972, 39-year-old McKellen started a new relationship with 22-year old Sean Mathias, whom he met at the Edinburgh Festival in 1978. Ten years later, the couple announced their separation.
Childhood and Family:
"In my case, it was my father and not my mother who played the piano. My childhood was wrapped in a blanket of melodies by Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikowsky, as Dad tried not to get his huge fingers stuck between the keys of our upright piano that stood behind the door of our little lounge, directly below my even smaller bedroom, where I was trying to get to sleep. I inherited the hands but not the musicianship." Ian McKellen
In Burnley, Lancashire, UK, Ian Murray McKellen was born on May 25, 1939, shortly before the occurrence of the Second World War. The second child of Denis Murray (a civil engineer, died in 1963) and Margery Lois (née Sutcliffe, died when Ian was 12), Ian and his older sister Jean slept under the iron bomb-proof table in the dining-room in his early years.
At age three, Ian was introduced to the world of theater by his parents when the family had an outing to "Peter Pan" at the Manchester Opera House. This fascination went on when his family relocated to Wigan, a coal-mining town in south Lancashire, where he attended Wigan Grammar School for Boys after finishing nursery school at Dicconson Street Wesleyan Primary School. While studying, young Ian participated in several school plays. After a year at Wagan, twelve-year-old Ian transferred to Bolton School (Boys' Division), where Ian was a scholar and acted in school productions. A year later, he appeared in his first Shakespeare play as 13-year-old Malvolio in a production of "Twelfth Night."
As a teenager, Ian gained additional admiration for Shakespeare when he attended a summer camp at Stratford-Upon-Avon and spent evenings watching Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Charles Laughton, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud and Paul Robeson in Shakespearean productions. At age 18, Ian furthered his studied at Cambridge University where he won a scholarship to study English at Saint Catherine's College.
Two years later, however, this honor was withdrawn because he concentrated more on theater than his studies. After receiving a B.A degree in 1961, Ian decided to pursue acting professionally.
Gods and Monsters
Developing an early interest in theater, Ian McKellen made his professional stage debut at age 22 at the Belgrave Theatre when he played Roper in Coventry's production of "A Man for All Seasons" (1961). From 1962-1963, he joined the Ipswich Repertory and made his Shakespearean debut in "Coriolanus," before heading to London and making his West End debut in "A Scent of Flowers" in 1964. McKellen’s performance won praise and he netted his first Award, a Clarence Derwent, that same year. While living in London, he worked steadily on stage and performed in numerous plays.
In 1965, McKellen landed his first television role as Victor Leech in the British TV movie Sunday Out of Season (1965, with Lynn Redgrave), and subsequently had his US television debut in David Copperfield a year later, in which he played the title character as an adult. Also in 1966, the actor won a Plays & Players for Most Promising Actor. Three years later, McKellen made his big move to the wide screen when he played a homosexual character in A Touch of Love (1969). He played Roger in his second film, Alfred the Great (1969), and reprised his stage role of Leonidik in a film version of The Promise (1969). However, the role that drew public attention was his 1969 portrayal of King Edward II of England in the Prospect Theatre Company's touring production of Marlowe's Edward II, which required him to kiss another man.
In the 1970s, McKellen continued to pursue both his stage and screen career. In the early 70s, he was seen in several television movies like The Tragedy of King Richard II (1970), Edward II (1970), Keats (1970), Ross (1970), Hamlet (1970), Hedda Gabler (1972) and The Recruiting Officer (1973), but audience still did not take notice of his screen performances. He then made his way back to theater in 1974. For the next five years, McKellen made a reputation for himself as a stage actor. He first portrayed Edgar in "King Lear" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where his stage work again blossomed as he netted a New York Drama Desk in 1974. He next teamed up with Trevor Nunn for "Romeo and Juliet" (1976, opposite Francesca Annis) and turned heads once more for playing the title character in "Macbeth" (1976, with Judi Dench). His bright performance handed him a Plays & Players' London Theatre Critics award and a Society of West End Theatres award for Best Actor. McKellen later reprised his stage role for the 1979’s television film Macbeth. In 1979, he won another Society of West End Theatres award for his brilliant portrayal of Max, a gay man who pretends to be Jewish when captured by the Nazis, on a Broadway production of "Bent" at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
With a lot of theater exposures under his belt, McKellen went on to draw attention when he was cast as the jealous rival of Mozart, Salieri, in the Broadway production of "Amadeus" in 1980. Due to his outstanding performance, he was honored with a 1980 Tony, and in the same year, he also took home several awards for his stage contribution, including a New York Drama League Delia Austrian Medal for Most Distinguished Performance by an Actor or Actress on the Broadway Stage, a New York Drama Desk and an Outer Critics' Circle award.
Also in the early 1980s, McKellen earned positive reviews from critics for playing the title role of a mentally-retarded man in the British television film Walter (1982), directed by Stephen Frears. Though he won a Royal T/V Society in the category of Performer of the Year for his fine work in the film, McKellen was still relative unknown to much of the U.S public. He continued to take on roles in such films as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982, TV), Walter and June (1983, TV), The Keep (1983, TV), The Keep (1983), Zina (1985), Plenty (1985), Windmills of the Gods (1988, TV) and Countdown to War (1989, TV), but his starring role as John Profumo in Scandal (1989) launched McKellen’s film career internationally.
While working on films, McKellen appeared on Broadway reprising "Acting Shakespeare" in 1983, in which he nabbed a Plays & Players award and received a Tony nomination. He also acted in a short-lived production of "Wild Honey" (1984) and won a SWET for Best Actor for his work in the play. The following years, he picked up a London Evening Standard for his work in "Coriolanus" and a London Critics' Circle Drama Theatre award for his bright performance in the 1989’s "Othello." In 1990, McKellen portrayed the title character in "Richard III" for director Richard Eyre at the National Theater. He then embarked on world tours as the title role in "Richard III" and as Kent in "King Lear," as well as performed "Richard III" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Because of his bravura portrayal of Richard III, McKellen netted the 1990 SWET for Best Actor of the Year.
While on screen, after his initial success in the 1989’s Scandal, McKellen began to branch into major Hollywood movies and television roles in the 90s. The American television audiences took notice of him as Archibald Anson Gidde in the acclaimed series "Tales of the City" (1993). He gained even more attention when he was cast in the supporting role of AIDS activist Bill Kraus in the made-for-cable movie And the Band Played On (1993), in which he won a Cable Ace and earned an Emmy nomination. On the big screen, McKellen made a cameo appearance in Last Action Hero (1993), costarred in The Ballad of Little Jo (1993), played the supporting role of South African tycoon Geoffrey Miller in the sleeper hit Six Degrees of Separation (1993, opposite Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Will Smith), was featured in the comedy I'll Do Anything (1994) and found himself acting with Alec Baldwin in the adventure film The Shadow (1994).
In the mid 1990’s, McKellen delivered impressive performances in films like Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Jack and Sarah (1995), and received critical acclaimed for his titular performance in Richard Loncraine's Richard III (1995, with Annette Bening). He won a Felix for European Actor of the Year and earned nominations at the Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for his work in the film. In the following year, he took home a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and received an Emmy nomination for the 1995’s TV film Rasputin, playing Czar Nicholas II of Russia. In 1997, McKellen had an extended cameo as Uncle Freddie in the film version of Bent and played Dr. James Kennedy in Swept from the Sea (1997).
McKellen’s big break arrived in 1998 when director Bill Condon cast him as the British expatriate film director of Frankenstein, James Whale, in Gods and Monsters. Delivering a stunning performance, the British actor picked up several awards including an International Film Festival San Sebastian, a Broadcast Film Critics Association and a Chicago Film Critics Association for Best Actor. His performance also won a score of international attention when he earned an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination. Also in 1998, another breakthrough role for American audiences came with Bryan Singer's acclaimed adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Apt Pupil, where McKellen portrayed an old Nazi officer named Kurt Dussander. At the end of decade, McKellen returned to British television in a production of David Copperfield (1999), opposite future Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.
In the new millennium, McKellen enhanced his reputation with such high profile films as director Bryan Singer's popular comic-book action adventure X-Men (2000, along side Hugh Jackman) and its installment X2 (2003). In 2001, he delivered another big breakthrough with the supporting role of Gandalf the Grey in director Peter Jackson's long-anticipated Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002 and 2003). His spectacular acting in the films garnered him a Screen Actors Guild award, as well as an Academy award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In the same year, McKellen returned to his theatrical roots when he stared opposite Helen Mirren in the Broadway production of "The Dance of Death" (2001).
After having the title role in Emile (2003), McKellen returned for the final installment of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), where he nabbed a National Board of Review and a Broadcast Film Critics Association award for Best Ensemble Performance. From 2004-2005, he kept busy with projects like providing the voice for Jason Anders in the animated film Eighteen (2004), did voice work in The Magic Roundabout (2005), played Dr. Peter Cleave in Asylum (2005) and Gabriel Finch in Neverwas (2005). McKellen will soon play roles in the upcoming The Da Vinci Code (2006), X-Men 3 (2006) and Flushed Away (2006).