27 March 2001
Long Time No Epost
From: Gloria firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I am enjoying reading your replies. However, there are nothing new that would capture one's attention. I am curious as when will we see something new on this website? The last "Bits and Bobs" e-posts were answered on October 28,2000. Looking forward for more interesting replies and information.
A. Thank you for the gentle reprimand and here goes...
The filming's over . . .
From: Steve Plant
Q: Now all of the filming for "Lord of the Rings" appears to be over I wondered if you will keep in contact with any of the cast, and what was the norm after your other productions, do you all simply wander off into the night?
A. When a play starts rehearsing or a film shooting, the actors get bonding. How else will we be able to present the intimacy of relations that most scripts demand? When we are working away from home, new friendships help the separation from loved ones and familiar places and things. And so a temporary family knits together. Of course families often have arguments: and then there is incest . . .
When the work ends and we all take our ways home again, things are rarely the same and old patterns take over. Yet so often we meet up again on other jobs and it is remarkable how quickly friendships are reinstated.
I should be very unhappy if I didn't meet up soon with the cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A year was a long time and it's daft to throw love away.
Sign here please
Q: WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU IN SOME COMEDY FILMS AND SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN FROM THERE. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD SEND ME A AUTOGRAPH OR SOMETHING CAUSE I WANT TO START A AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION AND I DONT HAVE ANY AUTOGRAPHS AND MABYE YOU WOULD BE MY FIRST. I WOULD BE VERY GREATFUL IF YOU COULD THANKS. I LOVED YOU IN X-MEN, GODS OF MONSTERS AND LORD OF THE RINGS. A FAN
A: Good luck with collecting autographs but I think I'll delay sending mine until you really have seen Lord of the Rings and THEN let me know if you think I'm any good at comedy!
A Christmas Tradition
From: Pam M
Q: My favorite McKellen performance is as Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm, which has become a traditional part of our family celebration when we gather at my parents' farm for the holidays. We know the entire movie by heart, but we laugh harder every year.
A. It's reassuring that professional farmers have a sense of humour and you pay a nice compliment to Stella Gibbons' comedy classic. John Schlesinger's film revives the tradition of those classic Ealing comedy movies which enlivened my youth. If you can't wait till next Christmas, there are excerpts from the video on the Cold Comfort Farm pages on this site.
Greetings from the coven
Q: I belong to an old congregation of witches and wizards. By the name of all of us, I want to tell you we're very glad to know that one of the greatest wizards in literature is represented by a gay actor. Most of us are gay, lesbian or bisexual people. We send you all our love and protection. May the God and the Goddess bless you
A. My respects and thanks to you all.
Only WETA knows for sure
Q: I only recently found out about Lord of the Rings while seeing a trailer for it before another film. As an avid fan of the original trilogy, I was wondering how the production company is going to handle the imagery of fantastical creatures, such as orcs, ogres, Nazgul, fellbeasts etcetera: purely through CGI, or with human actors in costume?
A. I am glad you have discovered this site because I have already addressed your question in previous e-posts, as well as in the Grey Book diary of shooting Lord of the Rings.
From: Nick Corporon email@example.com
Q: I am a huge fan of Amadeus, as it is probably my favorite play. I am currently in a production where I am playing Salieri (and what a wonderful character he is). I was so very surprised to see you at the front of my script as originating the role. How did you enjoy working on that show? Was it a challenge? How were the other actors?
A. You remind me that I haven't yet completed the Amadeus pages in the Stage section of the site so I will soon get round to recording details of my wonderful time (exactly 20 years ago) playing with Tim Curry and Jane Seymour in the Broadway production of Peter Shaffer's most successful play. As the most recent Salieri, you might be interested in reading Pushkin's short play called, I think, Mozart and Salieri which covers the same story.
Q: I recently heard the sad news of the death of Michael Williams. Did you or Mr Williams ever act together at all?
A. I often met Michael through his wife Judi Dench, with whom I have worked on and off since The Promise (1966). Michael was excellent company with a fund of funny stories about theatre. We worked together in the 1976 Royal Shakespeare Company's season at Stratford-upon-Avon when he played Autolycus in The Winter's Tale. I was King Leontes and we shared a short scene at the end of the play. He was a very accomplished actor on radio and television as well as in classical theatre but I shall remember him best for his good nature and good humour backstage.
Return to the stage?
From: Beverley firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: As you have spent so much time recently acting in front of a camera, I think your return to the London stage is long overdue. How about it?
A. I intend to do as you suggest as soon as I can but meanwhile other plans intervene watch this site!
A Knight Out
Q: Please tell me when you'll be back in L.A. to do your wonderful solo show A KNIGHT OUT. It'd be a treat to see you on stage again.
A. I toured A Knight Out between other engagements in the '90s and still feel I could do more with it. This would involve adding new material, as you may remember many of my comments were about those recent events which concerned gay people. So it might well be appropriate to bring it back to Los Angeles one day.
Homophobia, Acting, X-Men
Q: I was searching the web for any news concerning the upcoming "X-Men" sequel when I ran across your web page writings. I was surprised to learn you were gay. Maybe I don't get out or read enough. I am not gay, but am baffled how narrow minded people can be. I have had debates with friends over issues such as marriage, benefits for couples, and children. I do not understand how some people can feel being gay is reason to be punished. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I am glad that you're undaunted by ignorance.
A. Thanks for the encouragement which is typical of many others I regularly receive. Unless webmaster Keith Stern is shielding me, there hasn't been a negative e-mail on the subject for a couple of years or more. [Webmaster's note: I'm sure I forwarded both of them.]
As for more from the X-Men, I have no news at the moment, although I expect a sequel to be ready to go in 2002, after the settlement of the upcoming strike action from Screen Actors' Guild, of which I am a member.
What You Can Do
From: Charmaine Bouford email@example.com
Q: I am a big admirer of both your acting and a strong supporter of your activism activities. Is there anything any of us in America can do to help you with your activism in your country?
A. Perhaps the most dangerous obstacle to social advance for gay people, is silence. That is partly why I encourage lesbians and gay men to declare themselves whenever appropriate. But everyone can help by refusing to tolerate intolerance. For example, the newspapers, local and national, often print anti-gay comments particularly in the letter pages and in editorial comment. It is always helpful to write that you don't expect your favorite paper (or radio and television stations for that matter) to publish anything which suggests that gay people should be disadvantaged by the law or scorned by defamatory remarks. Then if your letter is ignored, write again and persuade your like-minded friends do to the same. You might also contact your local chapter of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for further suggestions.
From: Justin firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: How do you feel about actors who play practical jokes while on a film shoot? It's always seemed kind of offensive to me but perhaps it's just a great tension-buster?
A. Jokes on the set can relieve tension but I can't remember any of them getting in the way of the serious business of filming. In the middle of a close-up in Six Degrees of Separation, I was covertly goosed by Donald Sutherland who was standing next to me but out of shot. My flurried reaction bewildered the director but I didn't let on nor complain. Indeed I was rather honoured. After all, there can't be that many of us, I presume, who have felt the great Donald's hand on their bum.
From: Elaine Carter email@example.com
Q: Of all the roles I've seen you in my favorite is Dussander. Have you ever come across a role that was too difficult, even for you? How do you decide on which parts to take, and which to pass up?
A. I invariably chose those parts that I know will test me and although that can lead to desperation at times, it seems to bring the best out eventually. If you think I am going to draw people's attention to those times when a part defeated me, you are wrong! Although it's safe to admit, 25 years on, that I was no good as Romeo, at least when we opened at Stratford-upon-Avon. As the run went on (in repertory with Macbeth and others) I improved but nowhere near enough.
Romeo is a difficult part, vanishing from the stage just at the point when Juliet (a much easier role) is coming into her own. Shakespeare's Antony (who dies an act before Cleopatra) is another part which defeats even the most accomplished of actors. If you ever hear I am playing Antony, make sure not to come and see me.
From: Philip Reeve firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: It is not a question Sir Ian, just a message. I am a Wellington resident. I hope you enjoyed your time in our city and the rest of the country and left with good memories. I know the city has enjoyed hosting the LOTR cast and crew - "star" spotting at Eva Dixons, the cricket and the supermarket!
A. You can be the first to know that I shall be back in Wellington by Easter I'll report more in the Grey Book. I expect to grab soup and a sandwich from Eva's, which is at the end of the street where I shall be working once more with Peter Jackson.
Q: I imagine some of your work as a gay rights activist has involved gay parenting rights. As many people have their children later in life, have you ever considered adopting a child of your own?
A. It is clear that two parents of the same gender do not disadvantage their children and because they think hard and long before becoming parents may even provide a more protective family life than a conventional father and mother. It will always depend on the individuals. The children of gay parents whom I know all seem notably well-adjusted.
I have never been ambitious to have offspring of my own.
From: Grant Chapman email@example.com
Q: I was just wondering if you have seen the new film Billy Elliot (known as Dancer in the UK, I believe) and, if so, what you thought of it? Personally, I found it to be fantastic. Also, did you enjoy the Harry Potter novels?
A. I really enjoyed the wit of the first Harry Potter book but am surprised that a satire on the English private school system should be internationally so popular.
Billy Elliot is still on my must-see list as Julie Walters is one of my favourite actors: pity about the Oscar.
Bits and Boobs
Q: I'm not very good at writing letters, and this will probably (hopefully) be the first and final fan mail I have ever written. I love what movies of yours that I have seen. When did you decide to become an actress?
A. I suggest you have another look at my movies.