19 October 2004
Q: Are you a fan of musicals? I have a great passion for them. My favorite on screen musicals are The Wizard of Oz, and Maytime (Nelson Eddy kicks butt). Do you have one of your own on stage or screen?
A: West Side Story, A Little Night Music, Company -- alright, anything by Stephen Sondheim and most by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Q: I discovered your talent when I saw Gods & Monsters and was immediately swept away by not only your performance, but your stunning beauty. I have since developed quite a crush on you and get a lot of grief about it from my family. They all say you're too old. I see this as a sort of repression, not to mention age discrimination. I'm a 22 year old girl. What do you think?
A: Crushes, like true love, have nothing to do with age. Why, my last boyfriend was 22 years old.
Q: I am looking at your film Richard III and it is fantastic. I´ve begun to read Richard III (in german because for me it is too difficult of english). In the book is a person with the name Sir Richard Ratcliff. Is it right that he is not in the film ?
A: Ratcliffe in the film is beautifully played by the Scottish actor Bill Paterson as Richard's batman, a military servant.
THE BETTER THE PART
Q: I saw "Gods & Monsters" for the first time a few months ago and was stunned by your performance. You once said "the better the part, the better the actor". Did you mean a deeper character makes you strive to surpass your best performance?
A: Something like that. For instance, actors win awards mainly because the parts they are playing make demands on them that allow them to outshine their colleagues or others with less fulfilling roles.
Q: One of my great regrets is not seeing you onstage in Dance of Death in NY. I am also a huge David Strathairn fan and would have loved to see the two of you work together. What was it like to work with him? Also, do you have any plans to do theater in San Francisco?
A: Like you I have missed seeing stage performances that I know I should have relished. Remember that plays, unlike films, are not around forever. David Strathairn is a gentle, dedicated actor who tries only to work on worthwhile projects. He was a delight on and off stage, always ready with a smile and a good chat about politics. Alas, I have no plans for an early return to the San Francisco stage. I suppose you missed my last visit there with the National Theatre's Richard III!
From: Amanda Owens
Q: I am a great admirer of the late Basil Rathbone's works. Not just the Sherlock Holmes films, but his other, not quite as remembered roles. "The Adventures of Robin Hood", "Captain Blood", "The Court Jester", and "If I Were King", just to name a few. Did you ever listen to him on radio as a child, or see his movies?
A: His radio work was not I think ever broadcast in UK but I well remember him from Robin Hood in the cinema. He was a very accomplished villain with (like so many successful film actors) a distinctive voice.
SOUTH BANK SHOW
Q: Regarding "A Year in the Life of Ian McKellen", will it air in the USA? I hope so.
A: I don't know, although I think South Bank Shows have often been broadcast on PBS. You might start petitioning! There are backstage scenes from the Oscars as well my visit to Hobart School in Koreatown, Los Angeles, to see a Hamlet classroom performance.
From: Adam Bertocci
Q: I note that you performed in Present Laughter, a show I was in in high school (I played Morris). How did you approach Garry's revulsion at the homosexual advances of Roland, and how do you feel about the play's humor on that dynamic?
A: There is much that is autobiographical in Noel Coward's play, so the gay element is ironic when written and performed by a closetted star actor/writer. For my part I concentrated more on Gary's contempt for Roland Maule's new-wave writing rather than on his puppy-like devotion.
From: John Darling
Q: Your web site answers more than most of should ever have expected to know without meeting you. I've always felt awkward with the expectation so many of us have that celebrities "belong" to the public in some way. Just a fast note to say thanks for the great work & the integrity.
A: I had never expected that so many people (including thousands whose e-mails don't make it to these E-Posts) would have questions for me. I was brought up to answer letters and old habits die hard!
MACBETH IN GAELIC
From: robert thomas armand
Q: Saw your movie production of "Richard III" it was A-1! I dug it! I am working on a screenplay of Macbeth set in more modern times, jeeps, cannon, napalm, mercs, slashings/hackings/burnings. robber/barron dupont type home castles. More modern dress, clash against the old mediaeval style costumes- witches. The new world (sans spirits) pragmatic, tough, military/wall street speaks in modern english. The witches live in a world of spirits, speaking in gaelic. What do you think?
A: My own "updating" of Shakespeare is always concerned with making the text (Shakespeare's main glory) more accessible. I've written about this in the foreword to Richard III which is available on this site. Your own approach differs although my only quarrel is with the translation of the witches' lines though I suppose a gaelic-speaking audience might be grateful. Good luck.
SHAKESPEARE ON BBC
Q: i recently decided to check out ambrose video's release of the bbc's production of the complete dramatic works of william shakespeare. the first two plays i watched were richard III and the merchant of venice. to my surprise, both productions featured a lotr cast member: bernard hill as one of clarence's murderers in rIII, and john rhys-davies in tmov. Disappointingly, i didn't see your name attached to the project at all. how is it that the man whom harold bloom called the greatest richard III ever did not play the title role in the bbc version of that play, or any role in any of those productions?
A: I didn't approve of the basic thinking behind these BBC productions which was to set them either contemporary with Shakespeare or with the period of the play's action. The claim was it would avoid a modernity that would date the productions but I thought it a lost opportunity to link them to the vitality of television which is always at its best when it seems to be broadcasting live. On those grounds (which I touch on in my foreword to Richard III) I turned down a couple of offers to take part. Shakespeare works well on television, where direct address is more convincing than in the cinema and where elaborate settings are less effective than close-ups on the actors' faces.
From: Stephanie Kagehiro
Q: I happen to be a straight female who opposes the idea of gay marriage. Please believe me when I say that I have absolutely nothing against gays or lesbians. I believe that if two persons love each other, they have every right to pursue their happiness and are entitled to the same basic freedoms enjoyed by everyone else. I am simply opposed to the usage of the term "marriage" in these instances. I feel that the definition of "marriage" is the union of a man and a women and should not be used to define any other relationship. If another term were used to describe the union between two homosexuals, I personally feel that much of the opposition would disappear. I can certainly understand your opposition to this suggestion. Using a different term to describe a gay couple might make that union seem that much less "holy" and therefore less of a commitment to certain straight individuals. My only answer to that is, given the astronomical rate of divorces these days, there doesn't appear to be that much "holiness" or deep commitment in the straight world. Another argument against my suggestion is that using another term could lead to all sorts of discrimination when applying for a job, getting into college, purchasing insurance, etc. Besides being wrong and totally unethical, this sort of discrimination is entirely unhelpful to society. Laws can go into place to prevent, or at least deter, such occurances, although one could argue that such laws would fail, judging by the amount of discrimination going on right now. I am an Irish-Japanese (%100 American) nineteen-year-old kid and already I've been discriminated against for my Asian heritage. I also hope this letter did not offend you or anyone else--that was certainly not my intention.
A: Underlying your clear argument, which many agree with, is perhaps a concern that gay marriage might reduce the validity of straight marriage. It would not, any more than your heritage reduces the status of Americans from other origins.
Religions have traditionally associated marriage with reproduction, although as they happily bless childless unions, why not gay ones? But the state should have no bar to society's recognition of a publically declared parnership of any two people of whatever gender or sexuality. "Marriage" is only a word but if gays and lesbians wish to use it, they should for equality's sake be allowed to use it.
Q: I'm just writing to you because I think you are a great actor, great person and handsome too ! In Norway it's allowed for men to get married, and my partner and I did this two years ago. He was 62 and I 35. I got only two years with him, he died of lung cancer 2 months ago. I'm trying to cope with my loss, but it's difficult. One thing I have decided to do is to write to those that really mean something to me. And do it while I can. I don't know what I really want to gain by doing this. Guess I'm just yet another gay fan that would want to meet you.
A: Thank you for writing. My commiserations. I am glad your country recognised your relationship in time.