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/2015/01/dianne-wiest-the-humbling.jpg
Two-Time Oscar Winner Dianne Wiest on the Lack of Work for Older Actresses: “I have to move out of my apartment soon”
Whether it’s because of the lack of acting roles for older actresses or if it’s because the shine eventually wears off on many Oscar winners, there are many once-acclaimed actresses who struggle to find meaningful work when they are middle aged and older. According to two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest, her lack of work in […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/jk-simmons-whiplash.jpg
A Conversation with J.K. Simmons: ‘Whiplash’, His Career and More
Simmons talks about his career in detail, including how taken he was with the Whiplash screenplay by writer/director Damien Chazelle and how much he believed in the project
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/bradley-cooper-american-sniper.jpg
Bradley Cooper’s Physical Transformation in ‘American Sniper': “It changes the way you walk, the way people relate to you”
American Sniper continues to heat up the box office as well as Bradley Cooper‘s already hot career. To play the role of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the actor had to bulk up quite a bit to make his portrayal believable. “I had to get to the point where I believed I was him,” Cooper says. […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/watch-al-pacino-talks-the-humbli.jpg
Watch: Al Pacino Talks ‘The Humbling’ and His Extraordinary Career
In this conversation with Al Pacino talks about his role in The Humbling -- including working with Greta Gerwig -- and his historic acting career
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/watch-oscar-nominee-steve-carell.jpg
Watch: Oscar Nominee Steve Carell Talks Improv, Auditioning for ‘The Office’ and ‘Foxcatcher’
Carell talks about his entire career as an actor, including his background in improv, how he landed the Michael Scott role on The Office, and Foxcatcher