Conversations with Sir Ian McKellen

Career Q&A with Ian McKellen. Moderated by Dave Karger, Fandango.

Ian McKellen has been honored with over 50 international acting awards during his half-century on stage and screen. He is treasured worldwide as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

He first worked with director Bill Condon as James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1998) receiving his first Academy Award® nomination, for Best Actor. The same year, top critics’ groups elected him Best Actor, as the Nazi-in-hiding in Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil. For his classic performance in Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, which he produced and co-wrote, he was named 1996 European Actor of the Year.

His varied list of other renowned films include The Keep (1983); Plenty (1985); Scandal (1988);Six Degrees of Separation (1993); Restoration (1995); Bent (1997); Cold Comfort Farm (1995) andThe Da Vinci Code (2006).

On the small screen, McKellen currently stars in the wickedly successful ITV/PBS sitcom Vicious. For his extensive television work, McKellen is a five-time Emmy nominee, most recently for his matchless King Lear (2008); and his comic guest spot on Extras (2006) remembered for the viral catch-phrase: “How do I act so well?” He is most proud of his work as the mentally- handicapped Walter (1982 Royal Television Award) inAnd the Band Played On (1993 Cable Ace Award), about the origins of AIDS and a guest spot in UK’s longest-running soap Coronation Street (2005).

Born and raised in the north of England, McKellen attended Cambridge University and since 1961 has worked non-stop in the British theatre. He has been leading man and produced plays, modern and classic, for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain and in the West End of London. He has won Olivier Awards for Macbeth (1976-78); The Alchemist (1977); Bent (1979); Wild Honey (1984) and Richard III (1990): plus Evening Standard Awards for Coriolanus (1984) and Othello (1989) and for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre (2009).

In 1981, he won every available award, including a Tony for Best Actor, as Salieri in the Broadway production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. He was most recently in New York in No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot after breaking all box-office records in London and on UK and world tours. Over a decade, he toured his solo entertainment Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare throughout four continents, where on DVD it is daily viewed in schools and universities. He astonished his fans as Widow Twankey in the Christmas pantomime at the Old Vic in London (2004 & 2005).

In 1991 Sir Ian was knighted, for his outstanding contribution to theatre. He is co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people. In 2008, the Queen personally appointed him Companion of Honour for his services to drama and to equality.

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