Ian McKellen was born on 25 May 1939 in Wigan, UK. A highly
acclaimed British stage and screen actor whose work has spanned
genres from serious Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular
fantasy and science fiction movies. In recent year's he has
found fame with a younger generation of movie goers with his
roles as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's Lord
of the Rings trilogy
and as Magneto in the X-Men
In 2005 he also appeared in British soap opera Coronation
recently he appeared in the Da
movie based on Dan Browns best selling novel. We caught up
with McKellen as X-Men:
The Last Stand was
due to open in UK cinemas...
What initially appealed to you about the role of Magneto?
McKellen: I hadn't read the X-Men comic before, but
it was explained to me that it was an outsider story, and
I was instantly drawn to that. Also, how could I not be attracted
by the idea of a great big cloak, huge boots and the ability
to fly where I want?
this latest film, I do one of the most spectacular stunts
ever seen in the cinema. I can't reveal what it is, but rest
assured, it will take your breath away!
while you don't expect great long speeches in X-Men,
all the films are very, very stylish. They have a great look
Why has the character of Magneto struck such a chord with
The demographic of our audience is young. It also contains
a high proportion of black, Jewish and gay people, who have
all been encouraged by society to think of themselves as oddities
or mutants. I hope that's why X-Men chimes with them
- it's certainly why I was attracted to the idea in the first
So the film supports the idea that "different is good"?
Absolutely. There is a famous scene in X2,
where the character of Bobby comes out to his parents as a
mutant. His mother says to him: "Have you always known?"
Similarly, in X-Men: The Last Stand, a cure for mutancy
is discovered - mutants are encouraged to have an injection
that will make them "normal". Magneto is dead against
the idea, just as I'm dead against the idea that you should
try to "cure" people of being gay.
What effect has X-Men had on your career?
It's given me an immense amount of street cred. On the day
after 9/11, I walking through the smoke and the smells of
New York. There were knots of policemen everywhere. As I went
past one officer, he called out: "Hi, Magneto".
That's an indication of X-Men's extraordinary reach.
gratifyingly, Magneto in the X-Men comic now has a
look of Ian McKellen about him!
SFO: What was it like filming X-Men:
The Last Stand?
I had an absolute ball. I was in Vancouver for fifteen weeks
and spent most of my time outdoors. The actual filming was
an occasional interruption to our sybaritic life in the open
air. We all had such a brilliant time that if the third X-Men
does well, there is no reason why we shouldn't make another
It was lovely to hang out with the cast again - we've all
become close friends. Hugh
Jackman and I are great chums - it was wonderful
to see him again.
Jones is in this film, too, and you've got to get on with
him! He's unfailingly jolly, the life and soul of the party.
To have cred with him is quite something!
How did you get on with Patrick Stewart?
Patrick and I completely bonded. It's odd - although we're
both English and have done a lot of theatre, we've only ever
worked together in Vancouver. When we first met, he was still
feeling an exile in LA. He loved to hear my stories about
London, just as I loved to hear his stories about Hollywood.
We're so close, we're the same person really!
hoping to work on his long-planned film version of The
Merchant of Venice, set in Las Vegas. I'm really interested
in playing Antonio, the only gay character in Shakespeare.
And it would be a marvellous chance to play opposite Patrick's
Have you found your global fame hard to handle?
No. A few years ago, a friend said to me: "You do realise,
Ian, when X-Men and Lord of the Rings come out,
your life will totally change?" I didn't know what he
was talking about, but he was right. My life has totally changed
- but in a good way. Unbeknownst
to me, it's given me a lot more confidence.
instance, people said to me: "You can't possibly appear
in [the long-running British TV soap opera] Coronation
Street - what a ridiculous idea!" But they were wrong.
Viewers' reactions to my role in Coronation Street
last year were entirely complimentary. I discovered I could
slip into the special form of acting required for that show.
I don't know if I would have had that confidence a few years
in the movies has pushed me to places I didn't know I was
allowed to go.
SFO: Does the public attention ever
get out of hand?
No, I really like the fact that people are interested. I'm
rather a shy person, but I love the fact that there are very
few places now where I don't get a really friendly welcome.
Whether it's a classroom, a Quaker meeting hall, a nursing
home or a restaurant, people are always very warm towards
got used to it happening now, although it is still a very
odd thing because most people don't have it. But it's still
a very nice experience because it makes me feel a bit more
secure - "Oh, I'm going to be all right."
I don't have it anything like Tom Hanks does. He has to go
around disguised. He doesn't even go in taxis anymore because
he can't stand in the street and hail them without being pestered.
Who'd want that, having to live in a fortified castle in Hollywood?
That sort of fame is really troublesome. It's never been at
that level for me. It's much more manageable for me, and really
So how do you stop all the adulation becoming oppressive?
I know Magneto and Gandalf are the superstars, not me. They're
icons. It's on those characters' backs that I ride. They're
mighty inventions and whoever had the luck to play them first
would have been the beneficiary of people's respect. I feel
like I'm their representative on earth.
keep coming up to me and saying: "Hey, Magneto"
or "Hello, Gandalf." They're not my fans, they're
the characters' fans. Which is fine by me because it stops
me getting a swollen head!
You're one of the finest theatre actors of your generation.
Do you ever get the slightest bit peeved that you're being
upstaged by a comic-book character and a 7000-year-old wizard?
Not at all. Journalists often ask me: "Aren't you sorry
that after all the work you've done, you're best known as
Magneto and Gandalf?" But that's what I've always wanted
- not to be known as myself.
I want to draw attention to the characters. JRR Tolkein and
Shakespeare are the really great guys. Actors are merely the
medium through which a story happens.
SFO: That said, these roles have boosted
your worldwide profile immeasurably, haven't they?
Oh yes. Prospective employers can now place me in a way that
they couldn't before. The trouble is, a lot of them think
I'm as old as Gandalf - 7000 years old. I get offered a lot
of old parts, which I'm not interested in. The other day,
I was offered God - you don't get any older than that!
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Emma Carter at New Media Maze
The Last Stand is released in UK cinemas from 25 May 2006.
view the trailer