24 July 2001
From: Jeremy Brull email@example.com
Q: I am a huge fan of the Play Amadeus and really wanted to see your version of Salieri. Are there any videos or even pictures of you in Amadeus? I can't seem to find any. I was also wondering what your personal thoughts on the character are. From what I've heard your performance was legendary.
A: Timely enquiries as I have just posted answers to them in the Stage section of www.mckellen.com. It disappoints me how few decent photographs there are as a record of the Broadway production, particularly as we didn’t video any of the show. Mind you, twenty seasons ago, video was in its infancy!
Advice to Actors
Q: I am 17 and live in Scotland and I would like to be an actor/presenter or a singer in musicals. can you give me any advice on how to achieve this? I do have amateur experience.
A: Not sure about how anyone ends up being a presenter, on television I suppose you mean. As for acting and singing, do as much of each as you can in the best company you can find. Try and mix with drama students and ask their opinion of the Scottish drama academies. Watch them and others acting and singing to judge whether you might be as good as they are.
Advice to Writers
Q: I would really love to be a screenwriter, and I was wondering if you might have any advice for someone like me?
A: The most illuminating and commonsensical advice on writing for the screen can be found in the books and essays of William Goldman ("Adventures in the Screen Trade").
Q: This is unrelated to any of your movies, but I was curious who your favorite comedian is and who your favorite actor/actress is.
A: Silly questions but fun. Comedians: Lily Savage sans doute. Actors - I'll just include people I haven't worked with: Jeff Bridges, Michael Caine, Johnny Depp, Roberts Duval and De Niro, Michael Gambon, Ed Harris, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour and Dustin Hoffman, Helen Mirren, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Gary Oldman, Sean Penn, Paul Scofield, Elaine Stritch, Penelope Wilton and on and on take your pick.
Too old to start?
Q: I have been a fan of yours since I saw the American PBS broadcast of Acting Shakespeare in high school. Between your performance in that show and Derek Jacobi's performance in the BBC's "Hamlet" my life was dramatically changed and my focus was altered from journalism to acting/theatre/film. Although I graduated from one of the top theatre schools in the US, I have not made a career of acting at this point in my life. I'm 35 now. I'm starting to think of going back into acting in the next few years. Is there an age where it's too old to "go for it?"
A: There are a number of very successful actors who didn't turn professional until they were in their 30's. So take comfort and do what you must.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Q: This is actually two questions. First, I was wondering, given your interest in MacBeth, if you were familiar with the wonderful novel by Dorothy Dunnett, "King Hereafter." She came to the conclusion, after five years of research, that MacBeth and the Thorfinn, the Earl of Orkney, were actually the same person.
Secondly, it's been announced that Brendan Fraser will be playing Brick in a production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in London this summer. Is there any chance you might play Big Daddy? That's a production I'd fly to England to see!
A: "The King Hereafter" can wait for my retirement and don't expect me in a Tennessee Williams. I read far too little and my southern accent is lousy. I may miss Brendan's Brick because of Dance of Death on Broadway. Whatever he does, Brendan is rivetting. He arrives in London about now for rehearsals.
From: Tara firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: It seems living in Canada has denied me the right to obtain the film 'Bent'. I was curious to know if you knew anyone in this cold country who had it.
A: Bent is often sold at auction on E-Bay, when it's not available from amazon.com, buy.com etc. Your countryman Lothaire Blutheau is exceptional as Horst. And you will enjoy Clive Owen in his pre-Croupier days.
Don't Forget Me
Q: Are you aware of the play "Don't Forget Me" by the Starving Artists company? I suppose you might describe it as a serious comedy about Hollywood and the gay community in Los Angeles. One of its points is that gay actors are never allowed to play straight people, and when they play gay characters, they always have to be the comedic friend to the main character. The exceptions to this seem to be yourself and Rupert Everett, but the play points out that everyone expects the British to be gay.
A: So everyone expects Brits to be gay do they? Try telling that to Sean Connery and Jude Law! It has long been thought that an openly gay actor would not be cast as a straight character and the point is well taken that Rupert and I (and Nigel Hawthorne, Antony Sher and Nathan Lane, one might add) have not found our work prospects at all adversely affected by being honest about our sexuality.
Screenplays, increasingly, allow gay characters the same depth and believability as straight ones, whoever the actors may be.
Q: Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed that you don't have a fan club. I know some of my friends are sick of hearing me say 'Ian McKellen this, Ian McKellen that' but I often find that I can't help it since I am a bit of a fan. :) You likely get a good number of these E-posts a day—I'm half interested in talking to your other fans, as well as you. Have you ever thought about getting a message board?
A: Thank you kindly but I think this site is quite egomaniacal as it is.
[Webmaster's note: There's an active "Ian McKellen" club at Yahoo!]