Ian McKellen E-Posts
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30 April 2008

NEVERWAS

Q: I am a big movie watcher and I now have a new favorite movie -- Neverwas, you were amazing in this beautifully filmed movie. And I love that your character only used sugar water.

A:  I'm so pleased you enjoyed a little-recognised film which was brilliantly written and directed by Joshua Michael Stern in Vancouver.  It looks good on DVD.

WALTER

Q: Thank you for starring in one of the best dramas I've ever had the privilege to see. I was only 10 when 'Walter' appeared on Channel Four but stayed up late to watch it (with my parents' blessing) because, as someone whose brother is mentally-handicapped, I wanted to see what 'Walter' was all about.  Even 25 years later it leaves an impression on me.

A: Yes it was a bold gesture to broadcast Stephen Frears's movie on the first night of Channel 4 " the very first Film on Four.  They showed it again recently late at night.  I've written at length about it on this site but omitted the final story after its broadcast.  I was at home as the credits rolled and the phone rang " my sister saying she couldn't bear to watch the film all through, as she didn't like to see her brother so disadvantaged as Walter's character.

I was  a little miffed when someone else called.  "Hello this is Laurence Olivier.  I have just watched Walter.  The finest performance I've ever seen on television."  So I phoned my sister back and told her!

GAY SINGAPORE

Q: I'm Wei, a Singaporean gay boy and saw your interview with CNA and had a good laugh :) To be fair though, the gay population and culture in Singapore is one of the most vibrant in Asia despite its silly laws; I hope you did manage to find the gay bars and all.  Activism has been underway and all, but sometimes the picture's rather bleak.  My friends whom I've come out to have been amazingly supportive and accepting, and I  believe with the next generation of Singaporeans, gay people will be  accepted as who they are.

A: Your optimism is heartening though others in Singapore think it will be a generation before their government legalises homosexuality.  You will be interested in  "Solos" by Zihan Loo, a very talented student film-maker, telling his true story of living as a 15 year old with a 40 year old schoolteacher.  It cannot be screened in Singapore where it was made but soon may be available on DVD to be ordered online.

Ian McKellen and Frances Barber on
Channel News Asia (CNA Singapore):

THE HORSE'S MOUTH

Q: I would dearly love to see a new version of The Horse's Mouth with you playing Gully Jimson.  Peter Jackson as director? Kathy Bates as Sarah? Geoffrey Rush as the Professor? The Blakian inspiration and the paintings could be much improved upon. 

A: I just remember Alec Guinness great as ever as Gully.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Q: I am currently 'teaching' 'The Merchant of Venice' to my senior students and note your comments regarding Antonio as being a 'wonderful part.'  Would you care to elaborate? My students are fixated on Shylock and state that Antonio's character lacks substance; others just think he is just a sap.

A: Antonio (not Shylock) is the title role and could fairly be considered the hero of the play.  He is a third of the love triangle which dominates the story.  Your students should consider his opening line "In sooth I know not why I am so sad," denying he is in love with that sad "Fie."  I think he is the one leading gay character in Shakespeare, rejected somewhat as Jews are in Venice.

Presumably a Catholic, he embraces martyrdom " quite fascinating.  Yes, Shylock drags our attention with some of the most potent lines in Shakespeare, but Antonio is his match emotionally.

KING LEAR

Q: I am curious to know, please, if you studied people with vascular dementia during preparations for Lear?   I am still reeling from seeing my 'father' on stage at the Courtyard on 21st June 2007.  He, a fond old man blinded in a car accident at 45, struck by dementia in later life - all power disabled, but fondness still there as he is lead around Stratford, white stick in hand. I can't help but think your performance was as much a result of your own human studies around the world as Shakespeare's insightfulness.

A: The insights are all Shakespeare's, and having examined them and felt them, I didn't need any further research.  Mind you, my 100 year-old step-mother died when I was starting to learn the lines and her occasional dotage must have coloured my awareness of Lear's.

LORD OF THE RINGS

Q: I  must thank you for your efforts with the Lord of the Rings > movies.  I was in the throes of a nasty reaction with an antibiotic.  The movies were in many ways my salvation.  I completed my dissertation listening to the music.  It helped me concentrate. 

A: You should really be thanking Howard Shore for his 12 hours of music.  Music hath charms.  There is so much in the story which is optimistic about human endurance, I'm not surprised you have been uplifted by Middle Earth.

BISHOP ROBINSON

Months ago, I was so upset about what was happening to Bishop Robinson that I wrote you and asked you to make a public statement. You've done so much better than that. Thank you for your support, the man and the ministry needed it and I, for one, will forever appreciate you for your kindness and care.

A: I have been in touch with Gene Robinson about his standing within the Anglican Union.  His congregation appointed him as their Bishop, unfazed by his being openly gay.   His rejection by the Lambeth Conference might look like just an internal quarrel among the clerics involved but in the world beyond the Church it is a high-profile example of homophobia which is relevant to us all.

SCHOOLCHILDREN

I am a high school teacher living in the US and your name comes at least couple of times during my lessons among all the other famous gays who were brave enough to come out.  My seven-year old son is a big movie watcher just like me. He watched all your LOTR and X-Men movies, even though he still can't seem to understand how you can be in both of them :)  However, be happy to learn that when we were watching the Golden Compass, he was able to say "Gandalf" when he heard Iorek.  He could also distinguish your  voice  in Stardust, Flushed Away and Doogal. I am saddened to know that even seven-year old kids call names (you can guess what they are) at schools but according to his teacher he told his friends to stop talking mean about gay people because the actor who plays Gandalf and Magneto is gay. Well, I do have gay friends and he knows they are gay but I guess you being gay is much more "wow" than Uncle Patrick being gay :)

A: When the world seems full of dark unanswerable problems regarding equality, along comes the witness of a 7 year-old  to set us all at rights again.  Many thanks.

AT THE DOOR

 Q: In response to the person who thought Gandalf muttered "Jesus" at the door of Moria, the first time I saw the film I thought you said "Screw this." Which of course was impossible. A second viewing, in a quiet living room opposed to a crowded theatre, revealed it to be "It's useless." :)

A: I was always surprised that the Moria mutterings weren't clarified.  We shot that scene in a flooded carpark through a wet cold night.  My teeth were chattering which might explain Gandalf's indistinct diction.

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