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Sir Ian Murray McKellen
(May 25, 1939 - living) U.K.

Ian McKellen

Award-winning actor, and gay activist


Born in Burnley, Lancashire. His parents soon moved with Ian and his sister Jean to the coal mining town of Wigan. It was in this small town that young Ian would ride out World War II. He soon developed a fascination with acting and the theater, which was encouraged by his parents. Ian soon began attending Stratford-upon-Avon theater festivals, where he saw the greats perform: Olivier, Hiller, Gielgud, Richardson and Robeson. He was educated at Wigan Grammar School and Bolton School. He obtained a scholarship to St Catharine's College Cambridge where he reads English.

Ian McKellenHe had his education in English Drama, but soon it fell by the wayside as he concentrated more and more on performing. He eventually obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1961. His professional acting début was in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. His London acting début was in 1964 in A Scent of Flowers at the Duke of York's. He received the Clarence Derwent Award. He first acted at the National Theatre in London in 1965.

Sir Ian McKellen is internationally renowned as the leading British actor of his generation. His Shakespeare performances on stage and screen are legendary. His versatility and pre-eminence in modern work as well as the classics have won him over 40 important awards in the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA, and an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. For over three decades, alongside his prestigious stage appearances worldwide, he has starred in scores of films, television, and radio productions.

Ian McKellenIn 1972 he founded the Actors Company with Edward Petherbridge. He first appeared at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974. He received the Olivier Award five times. His first film starring role was as D. H. Lawrence in Priest of Love in 1981. In 1981 he received Broadway's Tony Award for his role as Salieri in Amadeus.

Very few people knew of Ian's homosexuality; he saw no reason to go public, nor had he told his family. In 1988, Ian publicly came out of the closet on the BBC Radio 4 program, while discussing Margaret Thatcher's "section 28" legislation which would make the "public promotion of homosexuality" a crime. It was reason enough for McKellen to take a stand, and he has been active in the Gay Rights movement ever since. He co-founded Stonewall and has been patron of Gay Sweatshop and London Lighthouse, and an associate director of the National Theatre.

He was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Gods and Monsters. As far as we know McKellen was the first openly gay actor to be nominated. He received his knighthood in 1989, and was the first openly gay person to be knighted. He was awarded an honorary degree from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1998. Ian currently resides in Limehouse, where he lives with his current lover of 8 years, Sean Mathias. The two worked together on the film Bent.


His Work includes:

  • A Scent of Flowers (1964)
  • A Touch of Love (1969)
  • Faustus (1974)
  • Romeo and Juliet (1976)
  • Macbeth (1976-77)
  • Ian McKellen
  • Pillars of the Community (1977)
  • The Alchemist (1978)
  • Bent (1979)
  • Amadeus (1981)
  • Rasputin (Golden Globe award)
  • Priest of Love (1981)
  • Walter (TV, 1982, see picture at right)
  • Acting Shakespeare (1984)
  • Wild Honey (1984)
  • Plenty (1985)
  • A Knight Out (1988)
  • Othello (TV, 1989)
  • Scandal (1989)
  • Richard III (1990)
  • Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
  • And the Band Played On (1993)
  • Tales of the City (1993)
  • Heaven's a Drag (1994)
  • Apt Pupil (film)
  • Cold Comfort Farm (TV, 1995)
  • Richard III (1996)
  • An Enemy of the People (1997)
  • Present Laughter (1998)
  • Gods and Monsters (1999)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Website: http://www.mckellen.com

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