Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE, the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, has 2 Academy Award, 4 BAFTA and 5 Emmy Award nominations, among other awards including a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award to his name. Here are some very interesting facts about the English actor:
He is regarded as one of the greatest stage and screen actor, who exercised his acting profess from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fictions.
As the British cultural icon, he is recipient of all major British theatrical awards in the United Kingdom.
McKellen was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 and knighted in 1991 for his service to performing arts.
His philanthropic nature was very much evident when he joined with fellow actors Brian Cox and Eleanor Bron and appeared in a series of TV advertisements to support ‘Age UK’ largest charity for older people. He also officiated as an umpire in charity match in New Zealand for earthquake victims.
McKellen has a tattoo of the Elvish number nine, in artificial script of Tengwar, on his shoulder in reference to his involvement in the Lord of the Rings and as his character was one of the nine companions of the Fellowship of the Rings.
He is known atheist but became an ordained minister of the ‘Universal Life Church’ in 2013, to reside over his friend and co-star Patrick Stewart marriage to the singer Sunny Ozell.
In December 2012, in an interview to Daily Mirror, he confirmed of his battle with prostate cancer for the past six to seven year and that there is no cause for alarm, as it is monitored with examination.
He was born Ian Murray McKellen on May 25, 1939, in Burnley, Lancashire, England. He is the second child of Margery Lois and Denis Murray McKellen, a civil engineer. He has an older sister.
He is of Protestant Irish and Scottish descent and both his grandfathers were preachers. His mother died of cancer when he was 12 and his father died when he was 24.
McKellen’s great-great-grandfather helped invent the weekend. Robert Lowes campaigned for Manchester’s business owners to allow their workers to take a half-day on Saturdays and can be considered as forerunner to the modern five-day work week.
He attended Bolton School and later earned a scholarship to St Catharine’s Collage, Cambridge in 1958. His passion for acting at Bolton Little Theatre continued to prosper with 23 plays in three years and still managed to obtain his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1961.
McKellen was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Cambridge University on June 18 2014 and in October 30th he was made a Freeman of the city of London.
He started his professional career at the Belgrade Theatre in the play ‘A Man for all Seasons’ in 1961 and by 1970s and 80s, he was well known figure in British theatre figuring prominently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre.
After making his appearances as ‘Plowden’ in the 1964 episode of TV series ‘The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling,’ he was cast as Victor Leech in the 1965 TV Movie ‘Sunday Out of Season’ and as David Copperfield in nine episodes of the TV series by the same name.
He made his film debut with Clive Donner’s ‘Alfred the Great’ and ‘Touch of Love’ in 1969,but only in 1981, he was able to bag the leading role in the film ‘Priest of Love’ by Christopher Miles, his major movie role in twelve years.
It was not until 1993, he was recognized for his performance, when he bagged a supporting role as a South African tycoon in the ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’
He won a ‘CableACE Award for Supporting Actor’ for his portrayal of a gay rights and AIDS activist in the 1993 docudrama television film ‘And the Band Played On’ directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
Although his sexual orientation was well known to fellow actors, only in 1988, he openly acknowledged it. He is the co-founder of ‘Stonewall’ an LGBT right lobby group.
In 2007, McKellen received ‘Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in Comedy Series for his role as himself directing BBC series ‘Extras’ in a play about gay lovers.
McKellen in his fifties played King Richard III, who only lived to be thirty-three, in the critically successful 1995 film ‘Richard III.’ He co-wrote and co-produced the film which won him the ‘European Film Award for Best Actor.’
In 1998, he had two films ‘Apt Pupil’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’ which fetched him positive reviews from critics and won a ‘Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actor’ and a ‘Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.’
He was cast as the Wizard Gandalf in three part sequel of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ consisting of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ in 2001, ‘The Two Towers’ in 2002 and ‘The Return of the King’ in 2003. He received Best Supporting Actor honor from ‘Screen Actors Guild’ and was nominated for the Academy Award in the same category for the first part.
McKellen was initially reluctant to accept the role of Magneto, the super villain in the ‘X-Men’ sequels, but was convinced to accept it when he saw the costume.
He made a guest appearanceas himself on the American cartoon show ‘The Simpsons’ in a special British-themed episode entitled ‘The Regina Monologues’ in 2003. Then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and author J.K Rowling were the others in the show.
In 2006, he was cast as Sir Leigh Teabing, in the Ron Howard film ‘The Da Vinci Code’ adopted from Dan Brown novel. He shocked his costars when stated, that he was unable to suspend disbelief while reading Bible and found it somewhat preachy.
He is the oldest actor at 74 years to be cast in the role of Sherlock Holmes in the 2015 film ‘Mr. Holmes’ by Bill Condon. He took a course in beekeeping with The London Honey Company so as not to be stung during filming.
In between his film commitment he appeared in number of TV series, including ‘The Prisoner’ in 2009, as Norman in the 2015, ‘The Dresser,’ and in the sitcom ‘Vicious’ in 2013, co-starring Derek Jacobi.
One morning way back in 1980, he saw corpse on the beach of the Thames, he lost his appetite for dead meat and became ‘Pescetarian’ mainly for protein.
He took part in the ‘2012 Summer Paralympics Opening Ceremony’ in London as Prospero from Shakespeare’s Tempest along with 73 deaf and disabled professionals. He along with Professor Stephen Hawking narrated the show.
In 2014 he was named in the top ten of ‘The World Pride Power List 2014.’