4 August 2004
Q: A word of thanks for Sir Ian, who came to Lancaster University yesterday to receive an honorary degree. I asked him, rather nervously, to sign the inlay of a DVD of one of his movies, which he proceeded to do ever so-nicely. I'd been having a lousy week or three and it sort of lifted my spirits up a bit having a big movie star not acting like a big movie star after all! Will now see / buy all your movies so you can get more rich ;)
A: I enjoyed getting a degree in my home county though I felt guilty about having done too little to deserve it. I hope you enjoy the movies although there's no financial reward for me or any other actor in the sales of DVDs and videos.
HRH Princess Alexandra (right) presided as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) was conferred on Sir Ian McKellen, Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, at Lancaster University. Ian's stepmother Gladys McKellen (seated) attended the ceremonies.
Photo by Nigel Slater
From: Paul F
Q: Just got back from the Derren Brown show in London last night. I was extremely happy to see you sitting in the row behind me. I desperately wanted to speak to you but appreciate that everyone is entitled to private time without being hounded by the public. Did you enjoy the show?
A: Like the rest of the audience, I'd seen Derren Brown's television shows, and was very impressed with his stage presence, his self-confidence and his memory which underpin, I suppose, his trickery. I was invited backstage and he wanted to show me his caricature of me (cf his entertaining website) which he thought was on his mobile phone. It wasn't. So the Brown memory is fallible after all!
Q: Just curious, do you ever plan to have children in your life? (via adoption,etc.) I think you'd make a great parent:)
A: I've left it too late so don't have the energy. When I was a more appropriate age, gays didn't openly adopt or have children. It was a responsibility in any case that I was happy to avoid.
From: ROBERT STRICKLAND
Q: GREETINGS FROM GEORGIA. IS THERE SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PORTRAY. ALSO, HAVE YOU EVER DONE ANY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS. I THINK YOU WOULD MAKE A HELL'VA "BIG DADDY".
A: I have played a number of real people on film from Lawrence of Arabia to Adolf Hitler but I have no ambitions to impersonate anyone else.
I'm a big fan of Tennessee Williams' plays but not when they are done by British actors like me, with shaky American accents.
From: karen freer
Q: I'm doing a research project at university for my film studies course about fandom, celebrities and stalkers/stalking. I haven't read anything online about whether or not you have had your fair share of stalkers but I thought maybe you had had a few fans that may have gone slighter over the top in the past. If so I wondered if maybe you could share some of it with me. I do not expect you to name people just the experience of it and types of things people do.
A: Actors hope to entertain audiences by moving their emotions and shifting their perceptions. This only gets dangerous when stalkers get things wrong, confusing their fantasies with the effect that actors' performances have on them. I have had a bad case of being followed around many years ago but fortunately the misplaced enthusiasm faded once it was made clear that it was not reciprocated by me.
Q: As I come from St Helens, I was really pleased to learn that you're also from the northwest of England. Have you ever visited St Helens? Also, with your Wigan background, are you a Rugby League fan, and if so, do you get the chance to go to any matches?
A: I don't recall ever going to St. Helen's. I haven't been to a rugby league game since our family left Wigan in 1952!
From: Gary Threlfall
Q: I have read about your fondness for Jaques Tati's "Mr Hulot's Holiday" and must tell you it's one of my favourite films, I first saw it when I was very young, and the initial scene with the reflected sunlight making the bird sing blew my 8 year old mind. I wonder if you would like to play a similar part yourself, the beauty being that it is universal humour, who needs clever-clever scripts when the joy is all on screen to see ? I think you would make a very good British Tati !!
A: I'd forgotten the bird! but it's typical of Tati's love of the inconsequential. No-one could play Monsieur Hulot like his creator. He is on a par with Chaplin's tramp and the onscreen personas of Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. Most of their comedy is based on mime rather than words, so is as you say universal in its appeal.
Q: if you were offered to would you direct a movie?
A: Mmmmmmmaybeeeeee. I don't really think I'm fitted to the various responsibilities that pile up on a film director's plate, although it must be rewarding to imagine a story filmically. I wouldn't like to feel that a great many people's talent and reputations were in my control.
Q: Did you ever meet or work with the late Jeremy Brett?
A: I used to see him working at the Library Theatre in Manchester mid-1950s, a very handsome young actor, whose face was once the model for shop-window mannequins. Ten years later, we were both in Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic where I think he replaced me briefly as Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing.
We never worked together. Latterly his television Sherlock Holmes was electrifying, moody, neurotic, witty and, of course, handsome.
From: Leslie Ray
Q: Thank you for explaining what pantomime means in regards to the British theatre. I've never been to London, after reading about your upcoming performance, I might have to book a flight. I truly enjoy the theatre, but I find the cost somewhat prohibitive. Are the prices like that in London as well?
A: Once you have afforded the journey to London you will find that our theatres are considerably cheaper than in, say, New York. The National Theatre, for example, currently have performances for only £10: but all the many subsidised companies are reasonably cheap although the commercial theatres of the West End (musicals and long-running shows) charge around £40. Remember that putting on a live show is always expensive because labour-intensive.
[Webmaster's note: At today's exchange rate, £10 = $18.24. Airfare from JFK to LHR on Virgin Atlantic is $377.98, roundtrip economy 7-14 December.]