Sir Ian (Murray) McKellen

Definition

Theater

  • (1939 - ) British actor, noted especially forhis Shakespearean roles. McKellen made his first appearance in a 1961Belgrade Theatre production of Robert Bolt's A Man forAll Seasons. He played for several years in the provinces beforemaking his London debut at the Duke of York's Theatre in James Saunders'sA Scent of Flowers (1964). Following a season with the NationalTheatre in 1965, McKellen came to critical notice with his performancein A Lily in Little India (1966). His reputation as an actorof rare subtlety and intelligence was firmly established with hisportrayals of Shakespeare's Richard II (1968) and Marlowe's EdwardII (1969) with the Prospect Theatre Company.

    In 1972 McKellen helped to found the Actors' Company, an actors'cooperative. Two years later he joined the Royal Shakespeare Companywhere his roles included Dr Faustus (1974), Romeo (1976), and a much-praisedMacbeth to Judi Dench's Lady Macbeth at The Other Place (1976). In1979 McKellen won a SWET award for his performance in Martin Sherman'sBent, about two homosexuals in a Nazi concentration camp. Thefollowing year he enjoyed a major success in New York as Salieri inPeter Shaffer's Amadeus. In 1984 McKellen was appointed anassociate director of the National Theatre; that same year he appearedwith the company in productions of Shakespeare's Coriolanusand the Chekhov adaptation Wild Honey. Subsequent performanceshave included Iago in Trevor Nunn's Othello (1989),a modern-dress Richard III at the National Theatre (1990; filmed 1996), DrStockman in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (1997), Widow Twankeyin the Old Vic's Aladdin (2004), and Estragon in the West Endrevival of Waiting for Godot (2009: with Partick Stewart). In 2007 he returned to the Shakespearean stage after a long absence to play the title role in KingLear; the RSC's Stratford production went on to enjoy successful runsin New York and London. McKellen is now known to a much wider audience through his role as Gandalf in the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings (2001 - 03).

    In the mid 1980s McKellen, a homosexual, emerged as a prominentspokesman for gay rights.

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