Hello Sir Ian,
A: I'm afraid your quip was wasted on the man who wasn't me at the Rocky Horror Show, which I have seen once and don't intend to again. I was, though, in Sydney last year, briefly, to present a Helpmann Award, en route from Melbourne to New Zealand, touring for the Royal Shakespeare Company in King Lear and The Seagull — both of which beat the RHS hands down.
Q: How refreshing to see that like a lot of people you use London Transport. I was heading to Tottenham Court Rd tube station when you jumped on the train at Holburn tube. To see Sir Ian McKellen sitting reading his book was one of the most bizzare situations i have had on the underground. Thanks for the 5mins of pleasure i got thinking to myself I was sitting opposite a living legend.
A: Sounds unlikely that a living legend would be on the underground! Let's say that one wasn't but that it was, very likely, just me. The Central Line links my home to the New London Theatre, with a short stroll either end. So during the King Lear/Seagull run earlier in the year I travelled that way twice daily.
As for spotting famous people in London, I've never quite recovered from seeing the young Tommy Steele (then a huge star) capering across Charing Cross Road when I moved to London in 1964. Ten years later, more thrilling still, was the late Jack Benny, one of my favourite comedians. He was in town for a stint at the London Palladium and we were both at the same performance of the hit Savages by Christopher Hampton, which starred another favourite, Paul Scofield. At the end, I waited to watch Benny's departure and eventually he shuffled out of the auditorium and staggered painfully across the tiny lobby of the Comedy Theatre, aided by a stick and lady companion. How on earth would he manage on the wastes of the Palladium stage? So in trepidation next evening I was there for his opening and as his signature tune was played I feared that a legend might fall. But no: out he strode out, confidently elegant as ever, looking half his age. Doctor Theatre had done it again.
Q: In 1964, The Beatles performed a raucus version of the Pyramis & Thisbe play from Midsummer Night's Dream as part of a BBC special called Around The Beatles. Were you involved in this? During the skit, several actors heckle the Beatles, and one of them looks very much like you. (It was recently posted to YouTube.)
A: Thanks for introducing me to the skit, which if I had been involved with I'd have been boasting about it long ago. The first actor is Trevor Peacock currently playing in Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre in London. The taller of the hecklers looks like the late Long John Baldry but his companion I can't identify. I am sorry he certainly isn't me.
MIKA AT THE BRITS
Q: Not so much a question, more of a thanks for the MIKA comment - my girlfriend and I thought it was hysterical!
A: Before announcing the Arctic Monkeys as Best British Band, I confided that I had gone to the Brits last week in the hope of meeting Mika, another of the winners. Immediately after, I found him waiting for me at the backstage reception where I also met his mother and siblings. He invited me to see the final gig of his 18 month tour, at Brixton Academy, which was a fantastical party. Mika is a wonderful song-writer and showman and I'm looking forward to his second album.
Q: I watched the recent BAFTAs in London and it was lovely to see you looking so well and happy. I also was lucky enough to catch a very brief but very sweet reunion between yourself, Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom. Was it as much a joyful meeting as it appeared? It was truly a joy to see the wizard, the king and the elf reunite on the red carpet. Do you and the actor Fellowship keep in contact as much as fans of the movies would like to think?
A: If I looked well at the BAFTA's, it was perhaps because after a year of King Lear I had just shaved off his untidy beard and was wearing a new suit. I was certainly happy to meet Orlando and Viggo. We don't see each other often enough and the promise we made after filming seven years ago, that the Fellowship should re-unite each year hasn't yet been fulfilled alas.
Q: I'm sure I'm only one of a legion of adoring fans raining praise on you for the Olivier Nom. Being an admirer both of yourself and your good friend Patrick Stewart, I wonder if there may be doublets at dawn (or something!) between you? I emailed RSC long ago enq. about cheap tickets/tours as part of the 'Complete Works' (being a mature student my pennies are sacred) and was emailed back some info and the comment that you, yourself hitch-hiked your way down to Stratford to see some of your heroes perform. Is this true?
A: It's kind of you to note the nomination — and diligent, considering that the Olivier Awards are not televised these days and take place at a relatively inconspicuous event on 9 March 2008. Patrick Stewart and I are agreed that it's probably Chiwetel Ejiofor's turn to win for his Othello at the Donmar Warehouse. Othello, Macbeth and King Lear all nominated — are these prizes won by great parts as much as by their interpreters?
That said, having been thrilled by Mark Rylance's turn in Boeing-Boeing, I'd be very happy if he won. The RSC's response to your modest request sounds a bit dusty but it's true that I did cycle one year as a schoolboy the 130 miles from Bolton to Stratford-upon-Avon. A cheap way to travel but the tickets were full-price, 12 and half pence in modern money for a standing place at the back of the stalls!
Q: I was wondering if you had ever heard of Mouse Guard? It's written by David Petersen and is absolutely gorgeous. If there was any one that could add voice to these brave fellows perhaps you'd give a go? Its a series that is crying out to be made into an animated film - not a disneyesque saccharine one - but one that gives it its proper due.
A: Having been of late a toad and a polar bear as well as a springy Zebedee (The Magic Roundabout), I don't see why I couldn't manage a mouse or two. Meanwhile my next animal impersonations will be later this month, when recording the CD of Outcast, the fourth book in Michelle Paver's series, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.
A: Amadeus preceded The Scarlet Pimpernel, so it was good to have established a friendly relationship with the leading lady. Wikipedia makes no mention of Jane's stage work and I suspect she hadn't done much in the professional theatre before Amadeus, playing Mozart's wife. She cut her run in the play short in the early days of a pregnancy.
Q: Hello, I'm speaking with you on facebook, is it really you ? Because a lot of people can impersonate you... And speak with you is a dream for me, I also want to be sure...
A: A number of my younger friends have Facebook entries but not me as yet. Someone is pulling your leg — or the wool over your eyes.
Q: You have done a wonderful job in portraying this beautiful beast Iorek Byrnison and I should hope that if the second and third installments in the trilogy are produced you will be voicing him again... You nailed him!... Spot on Wonderful job. Comment from a true HDM fan. -Liam
A: I haven't yet heard about any sequels although they must be planned to follow the book's story through. If they don't happen, I can honestly say I can't bear it.