8 August 2000
Q: Will you be present at the X-Men preview in New Zealand?
A: If I am free from the Lord of the Rings schedule, I hope to nip into downtown Wellington (10 minutes form the film studios) for the opening screening.
Q: Do people actually call you "Sir McKellen" or is the Sir reserved for special occasions?
A: They do, although the "correct" use would be "Sir Ian". I only expect the title when, before the honour, I would have been addressed as "Mr" McKellen.
Q: How do I go about getting one of those nifty comics signed by you? (I was wondering because I found out about the draw when it was too late)
A: Look out for a further draw. In the meantime, enter to win a signed photo.
Q: I see you are an admirer of Sir John Gielgud. I just saw a film in which Sir John, after being sacked from a movie studio position, puts on his hat—carefully tilting it as he put it on his head. He did the same in "Arthur" so many years later. I also saw him in the same style of hat in his obituary photograph in "The Advocate." Was your wearing of a similar hat in your first scene in "X-Men" your idea, perhaps a nod to Gielgud?
A: The hat may well have been my idea as I had liked the comic book image of Magneto in civilian clothes. It seemed clear he was a bit of a dandy and the hat and cashmere overcoat nicely suggest a man of some style. As for Gielgud, he was not in my thoughts when playing Magneto. However, in the film Bent I played a queeny gentleman, also in a hat, who turned out to look just the sort of part in which Sir John would have been perfect.
Q: What is the brand of that reddish glowing shirt Magneto wears in his lair and where can I get one?
A: Yes, Magneto is a flashy dresser so of course his clothes are custom tailored and not available to the likes of you and me, I'm afraid.
Q: Have you been able to meet with Stan Lee?
A: I met the father of the X-Men at the New York premiere of the movie but there wasn't long enough to do more than shake hands and exchange compliments. I spied him throughout the evening, always smiling, chatting and making friends.
Q: If you are going to be in the sequel of X-Men how will you work it into your schedule and do the Lord of the Rings Trilogy?
A: That remains to be seen. The trilogy, currently on schedule, finishes with me in December. Thereafter I must consult with Fox about the sequel.
Q: There is a big dispute in my office about who stopped the bullet. In the scene when you used your powers to fire the gun into the cop's head? Was it Magneto using his powers of magnetism or was it Jean Grey's telekinesis?
A: Of course it was Magneto unless I misunderstood the script, which I suppose is possible.
Q: I took my husband to see X-Men the Movie and he thought it was great, even though he'd never even heard of X-Men before I started talking about it. We were at a sneak preview of the movie and a lot of people were dressed up. Did you expect this kind of reaction to the movie?
A: When I was at ComicCon in San Diego last month, I saw Magneto helmets and cloaks etc on sale and one or two brave souls actually wearing them, although Halloween is months away. There were too a number of Wolverines standing around hoping to be photographed. If audiences start wearing their favourite's costume to see the movie and its future thereby becomes as prolonged as Rocky Horror Picture Show, who am I to complain?
Q: I am currently working on a paper for my English class dealing with the relation of the X-Men comic series to the gay movement. I think we are all "mutants" in a way, but there seems to be a strong connection, especially with such things as the Legacy Virus (a virus akin to AIDS that effected only mutants but spread to "normal" people as well).
A: Many of us, whatever our sexuality or race or individuality, may feel at odds with the majority culture and its laws and expectations particularly in our youth. Mutancy is a metaphor for this disassociation with society and applies to gays, no doubt. Please don't think that AIDS was or is a virus that began with gays and spread from them. In Africa, in parts of which the epidemic remains ferocious, it is almost exclusively a heterosexual condition. Good luck with your paper.
Q: I was wondering if you had problems hearing with that helmet on? I am definitely going back to watch X-Men again, because of such a long line up, we got really bad seats, and this is the kind of movie you need full-screen view to watch.
A: I liked that helmet because it was inspired by the comic and had a contribution to the plot. It was made in England where I was measured for it. Custom-built as it was, my hearing was unimpaired.
I hate sitting too close to a big movie. When I saw The Matrix I couldn't follow the story because the screen was so distorted from my vantage point on the side of the second row: and when I first met Hugo Weaving on Lord of the Rings I didn't realise he'd been in the movie.
Q: The complexity you brought to Magneto was especially welcome. Was it more difficult to take acting seriously when surrounded by those garish (but wonderfully so) costumes and surroundings? I suspect that's why most comic book movie villains end up being such over the top buffoons.
A: I always try and deliver what the script and director want. Had Bryan Singer wanted an over-the-top performance, no doubt I would have had a go. But it was his determination to root even Magneto in a recognisable society and to establish a style of naturalism, which attracted me to the the part and the movie.
Q: Did they cut a lot out of the movie, and was there anything you really would have liked to stay in?
A: I keep reading about the cuts but I am only aware of some fleeting lines of Magneto's from an early scene, which were anyway duplicated in a later one.
Q: Do you intend to work out/bulk up in anticipation of the sequel? I am sure people would love to see you knock the crap out of someone in a fight seen in the next movie! Maybe a senator. . . .
A: Being a pacific person who has eschewed sports since I lost my cricket bat aged 7, I am always surprised when I get involved with fights on stage or screen. The neat point about Magneto is that having such potent powers he does not need to use his knuckles and fists.
Q: I recently saw you in the movie X-Men and thought you were wonderful, but I knew I had seen you somewhere before as a the character somewhere between Magneto and Frolo in Hunchback of Notre Dame. I scanned through your list of films and couldn't find it.
A: Maybe, considering Magneto's ambitious power and Frolo's nationality, you are thinking about Chauvelin in Scarlet Pimpernel (1982).
Q: What effect do you think your role in X-Men will have on your popularity here in the United States? Do you think it will make your name more recognizable?
A: Until I began, after the release of Richard III, to play leading parts in movies, I was no better known than other actor who has spent most of his career in the theatre at home in my case the United Kingdom. Although I have toured often in Europe and the United States, twice with my solo show Acting Shakespeare, I don't have an international reputation. New York is different and Broadway has been as friendly to me as London's West End. I am more often recognised on the streets of New York than in London.
The visitors to this site have been predominantly from the USA since I began Magneto's Lair a year ago, and many of them say that my name is new to them. That's OK with me. Very few actors become famous worldwide and I have never aspired to be one of them.
I hope, though, that I am now not categorised exclusively as a "British classical actor" but more as one whose work in films can be as reliable and entertaining as it is on stage. If that's what you mean by "popularity" and "reognizable", then I'm more than content.
Q: We (my 11 yo son and I) just returned from The X-Men. WOW! Besides me now looking for my own life size Hugh Jackman action figure (hopefully coming to a store near us) Jonathan (my son) and I are convinced you would be perfect as Voldemort in the new Harry Potter movie. I told him I would tell you this but not to hold out too much hope since you already have another great wizard on your plate.
A: I can't do "Harry Potter" because its schedule conflicts with Lord of the Rings - not that I was offered a part, although I recently met up with David Heyman, the English producer, who secured the film rights from J. K. Rowling. That was just before Chris Columbus was announced as director, with an American actor as Harry. I fully expect them to be surrounded by wonderful eccentric British wizards but, as you say, Gandalf got me first and and on top of Prospero (1998), I think I'll be happy to slow down on the spells for a bit. (I agree about Hugh Jackman.)
[Webmaster's note: Since this posting it has been announced that Daniel Radcliffe a young British actor who worked with Sir Ian in David Copperfield has been cast as "Harry Potter."]
Q: I always love it when I see a movie that you're in, but even more I'd love to see you on stage. Have you ever considered coming to the States to perform at Washington D.C.'s Shakespeare Theater (the Lansburgh)?
A: I've seen the Lansburgh auditorium, when visiting the Folger Library, but not a production there. Jude Kelly and Patrick Stewart enjoyed doing Othello I know. Otherwise I have not played in Washington since doing Richard III at the Kennedy Center (1990). Amadeus opened at the National Theatre in D.C. the night President Reagan was elected and later I returned with Acting Shakespeare, which the schoolboy Edward Norton saw there.
Q: One of the best parts of X-Men is the educational value of it. As a high school English teacher your portrayal of Romeo is depicted in our textbook I tend to see lesson plans in everything. The film really drives home the topic of discrimination and equality and would be a great touchstone for discussion and debate within the classroom.
A: Yes I agree and glad you might use its lessons in the classroom.
Q: I went to X Men again, 2nd day in a row. My younger son Nolan (9) wanted to see it too. I didn't need to have my arm twisted, I leapt at the chance. If I really enjoy a show I like to see it again (to better seperate the effects from the performances....and to act like a giggly teen drooling over Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and well...you. Much to the amused disgust of my 11 yo son. *much eye rolling* But I found your performance so much more enjoyable the 2nd time that I went out and rented Gods and Monsters which was WONDERFUL. My 11 yo son liked it too. With the issues of Mr. Whale's homosexuality brought up to my son in the film I was wondering, with your activism in human rights issues have you found it easy discussing bigotry with young people in a way that registers? I find our schools here (Ohio) being very concerned with gender stereotypes, racially charged language and sports violence more then they are with stopping frequent taunts of "faggot" or "queer" which often pass in front of teachers without so much as a blink. My son, who starts jr. high late this month, has told me that he hears these things and knows they're wrong but isn't sure what he can do to stop them when the adults who hear them ignore them. I've told him that the best thing he can do is to tell his classmates that those words hurt feelings and keep telling them that whenever he hears them. But other then that...what? Do you speak to youngsters on the subject?
A: I have been wondering the same thing recently. I don't often visit schools but given the chance I drop gay matters into the classroom conversation even though Section 28 of the UK's Local Government Act (1989) might consider this the illegal act of "promoting homosexuality". Perhaps your son's moral superiority to his teachers is a sign that knowledge will eventually slay ignorance and the prejudice that goes with it.
Q: I've seen the movie (X-Men) twice so far and I was just watching Apt Pupil tonight and I was impressed by your chameleon-like ability to transform yourself. Do you have any say in the make-up or wardrobe of your character in your movies?
A: The character's appearance is so personal that I should be very unhappy not to contribute to the look of my face. After all, for 20 years or so, before I met the wig department of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatres, I put on and cleaned my own wigs and even learnt how to apply a beard from crepe hair and spirit gum. In the theatre, actors do their own make-up. Film lighting is more demanding and the camera close-up lens more observant than a theatre audience so I am happy to let the experts do it for me. But how I look is in the end my responsibility just as the ways I speak and walk are.
As for costume, the overall style may be decided before the actors are onboard but I always want to interfere to make sure what has been designed suits the look of the character as well as my body!
Q: My absolute favorite part, and what truly made it worthwhile to spend $7.50, was to see a fine, gray-haired Shakespearean actor in a tight black vinyl supervillain suit. That just about made my week. It's about bloody time. Now we need to get an older woman into such a role.
A: Now there's an idea Mrs. Magneto. Who should play her? Kathy Bates? Maggie Smith? Julie Andrews?
For more about X-Men be sure to read Magneto's Lair and