Ian McKellan Talks Gandalf, Retiring and Why Coming Out Helped His Acting

  • Pin It

ian-mckellenIan McKellan is back reprising his role as Gandalf in the highly-anticipated release of The Hobbit.

Although the actor hadn’t played the character since 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, he admitted, “Gandalf came back very easily.  But then I haven’t forgotten him over the years.  So many people want to say hello and talk about him, he’s never far from me.  You do worry a bit—Andy Serkis said he was afraid at first his Gollum sounded like someone imitating him doing Gollum.  But for me, once I get the makeup on again, and there he is staring back from the mirror, it’s not difficult to return to him.”

The Lord of the Rings series is of course full of special effects and magic, but McKellan is quick to point out that acting is the same no matter what the medium.  In an interview with NJ.com, the 73-year-old said, “You work just as hard, although different things are brought into play depending on the part.  That’s what keeps it interesting.  I’ve done pantomimes, I’ve done drag roles, I’ve done King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company, I’ve done 10 weeks on the soap Coronation Street—I adore being able to visit various, unfamiliar areas.  I’d hate to be stuck just doing Shakespeare, or just doing films—although the fact that I’m able to do either is quite remarkable to me.”

After starting out in theater in England (including attending Cambridge), the actor’s career changed when he decided to come out in 1988.  McKellan noted that his confidence grew at the age of 49 because of this brave decision.  “My friends told me my acting improved overnight,” he said.  “I was doing Uncle Vanya, and suddenly I found I was able to cry onstage at will, because there was no longer a barrier between my feelings and my expression of those feelings.  My film career really took off, and became a major force in my life.”

McKellan isn’t sure why more actors don’t follow his lead.  His career has flourished, including winning two Oscar nominations for Gods and Monsters (1998) and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002).  “The usual thing one hears is that, oh, well the audience won’t accept them in those parts anymore,” the actor said.  “Well I’m part of the audience, and I don’t care what the private lives of the actors are.  I don’t care how an actor votes, or who he has sex with, or if he doesn’t have sex at all.

“I’m paying money for the performance.  I have no problem in Tom Hanks being brilliant in Philadelphia—and I know he doesn’t have any problem with me doing my best in all the straight parts I’ve played.”

Although the actor wishes he had done more new plays (“I’ve probably done too many classics, but as an actor I’ve never been much of an innovator,”) the actor’s schedule is fully booked.  McKellan will be appearing in two more Hobbit installations, as well as returning to the X-Men franchise in 2014.

“People keep asking me, when are you going to stop?” the actor said.  “Why would I want to?  What would I do with my time?  Mind you, I have a lovely house in London, I live by myself and I quite enjoy looking in my diary in the morning and seeing I have absolutely no engagements.  But I do love going to work.  It’s my craft, it’s what I do, and continue to do…It’s like making chairs.  If you make chairs, you don’t say, well I’ve made the perfect chair, I’m done, I can stop now.  There are always new designs, new materials, new challenges.  There’s always room for improvement.”

The Hobbit opens tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/watch-andy-serkis-talks-motion-c.jpg
Watch: Andy Serkis Talks Motion Capture, His Career and More
This week saw the release of the final film in The Lord of the Rings saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Out of the dozens of actors who appeared in the series, the one whose career was most defined by the six-film franchise is Andy Serkis, who portrayed Gollum in the series […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/dan-stevens-summer-in-february.jpg
Dan Stevens Recalls When Shia LaBeouf Disrupted One of His Broadway Performances: “I wish I’d had a broadsword then”
Though Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is billed as the final movie in the fantasy series, it still incorporates some new blood into the mix alongside franchise favorites like Ben Stiller and Robin Williams. The most significant new addition is Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey, who plays Lancelot. Lancelot doesn’t realize that […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bradley-cooper-the-elephant-man.jpg
Bradley Cooper Takes A Grad School Dream To The Broadway Stage With, ‘The Elephant Man’
Bradley Cooper is proving to be an actor who wants a career defined by strong work. Instead of solely relying upon franchises like The Hangover, the Oscar nominee is mixing it up again between the big screen and the stage. Cooper is starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway this theatre season. It’s a role […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bob-balaban-a-delicate-balance.jpg
Bob Balaban on Being a Character Actor: “It’s what I do and who I am and I really enjoy it”
With Glenn Close and John Lithgow in the cast of Broadway’s A Delicate Balance, it’s okay if you didn’t notice that veteran actor Bob Balaban is also in the cast. Balaban, who is probably best known for his roles in Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries and for his supporting roles in dozens of other films, has returned […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/michael-c-hall-hedwig.jpg
Michael C. Hall on His Broadway Life After ‘Dexter': “There was a desire to perform an exorcism”
When it was announced that Michael C. Hall was replacing Andrew Rannells in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, it was a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t that people thought Hall couldn’t pull off the role of a transgender rock star — he was previously on Broadway as the Master of Ceremonies in […]