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McKellen, Ian (1939-)


Main image of McKellen, Ian (1939-)

Cambridge-educated Ian McKellen first appeared on stage at the Belgrade, Coventry, in 1961 and has since built up a formidable reputation in plays classical (memorable Richard II and Edward II in 1970; Hamlet in 1971) and modern, working with the National Theatre, the RSC, in provincial theatres and on Broadway.

His film debut was in The Promise (d. Michael Hayes, 1968) followed by Alfred the Great (d. Clive Donner, 1969) and A Touch of Love (d. Waris Hussein, 1969).

Busy on stage and TV (e.g., Ross, 1971) during the 1970s, he returned to film as D.H. Lawrence in Priest of Love (d. Christopher Miles, 1981 - longer version, 1985), and played John Profumo in Scandal (d. Michael Caton-Jones, 1988).

He created one of British screen's most compelling villains in his performance of the tyrannical King in Richard III (UK/US, d. Richard Loncraine, 1995).

Outspokenly gay himself, he came to international attention in his Oscar-nominated roles as gay director James Whale in Gods and Monsters (US, d. Bill Condon, 1998) and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings (US/NZ, d. Peter Jackson, 2001).

In the 1990s, he has consciously expanded his film career and is in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He was knighted in 1991.

Biography: Ian McKellen by Joy Leslie Gibson (1986)

Anne-Marie Thomas, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Macbeth (1979)Macbeth (1979)

Riveting RSC-sourced production starring Ian McKellen and Judi Dench

Thumbnail image of Othello (1990)Othello (1990)

Acclaimed RSC production with Ian McKellen and Willard White

Thumbnail image of Walter (1982)Walter (1982)

Ian McKellen stars in a moving drama about a mentally disabled man.

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