16 June 2000
Acting for Fame
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring young actress/actor trying to break into the film industry. All I want to do is to become a famous actress. I just don't know how.
A: If you want to be famous for being a good actor the first thing to do is forget the idea of being famous. Act as often as you can, as amateur or professional, working with those you admire. Go to the theatre and the cinema as often as you can afford. Be prepared for the long haul. And good luck will be important.
Q: Should you ever perform in Atlanta, please know that some of the appreciative applause you hear will be mine.
A: The last time I was in Atlanta (publicising my Richard III movie) the Governor decided to honour me by calling it "Ian McKellen Day" in Georgia! Then he was advised that, it being the third Monday in January, the day was already reserved for Martin Luther King. As compensation he declared me henceforward his official "aide de camp", making me, I suppose, the only openly-gay officer currently serving in the American armed forces!
An Actor Asks About Commercials
Q: I am getting calls for commercials. Do you think an actor can do commercials? I mean morally, is there a true standard to what an actor does.
A: When commercial television started up in the United Kingdom I was appalled by the inartistic interruptions by the advertisers and even turned down some work because of it. I find it almost impossible to enjoy drama or films on American television, unless they are shown without a break.
As for the commercials themselves, two objections come to mind. Unless you are already famous (and sometimes even then) it isn't good for your face and voice to be closely associated with a product. When Laurence Olivier did his commercial for Polaroid cameras, he made sure it was never shown in his home country. As for the product itself, it will be up to each actor to decide whether it deserves his promotion. Ah, it could be said, it's only advertising! But would the same apply if you were asked to advertise a political party whose policies you didn't approve of?
Q: Do you know if there are any official video or audio recordings of your solo show "A Knight Out"? I wonder also if there is a complete video available of your "Acting Shakespeare".
A: I'm afraid you are out of luck. So far, "A Knight Out" has not been recorded, mainly because I consider it as work in progress. Until I have revived it at least once more for the stage and re-shaped it, there won't be a video.
As for "Acting Shakespeare", this was broadcast by PBS in USA in 1985 when schools and colleges were encouraged to tape it for their private use. There has not been a commercially-released version, so your only chance of seeing the show would be to plunder the library of one of those many academic institutions who still use it as a teaching aid.