25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

12 March 2000

The Keep

Q: One of my favorite performances from you is Dr. Cuza in The Keep

A: Dr. Cuza was fun to play because he was a 40-year-old trapped in an 80-year-old body. There is a similarity here with Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings) who when Grey is an old wizard and when White is a re-energised younger-seeming commander in the field. Gods and Monsters, too, gave me the chance to play James Whale as nearing 60, with his younger self in the flashbacks for the filming of The Bride of Frankenstein. I enjoyed ageing in Priest of Love as well.

Click to enlarge
Matt McKenzie (Colin Clive), Ian McKellen (James Whale), Rosalind Ayres (Elsa Lanchester) and Arthur Dignam (Ernest Thesiger) on the set of Gods and Monsters

Alfred The Great

Q: My favorite movie of yours is Alfred the Great. Did you do your own fight choreography in the film?

A: I was trained on the spot in Galway, Ireland,to do the fairly primitive broadsword fighting of the battle scenes. I was advised to use Errol Flynn's trick when mortally wounded - look surprised.

Q: How were extras recruited for the large armies in Alfred the Great?

A: The fighting extras were supplied by the Irish army just as their predecessors had fought in Laurence Olivier's film Richard III in the early 1950s. My own Richard III battled with some moonlighters from the British Army and currently on The Lord of the Rings Middle-earth is populated by New Zealand professional forces disguised as Orcs, Uruk-hai and Rohirrim.

Six Degrees of Separation and Will Smith

Q: You have been in one of my favorite movies, Six degrees of Separation with Will Smith, and I was wondering, did you think Will would become such a big star?

A: When we shot Six Degrees of Separation, Will Smith was already a star on television and before that was popular for his rap music. It must have been disconcerting for him to transfer from the TV rehearsal room where he was top dog and fit in with the band of old-timers in the movie. But he was well protected by the affection of Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing. Fred Schepisi was a strong teacher and gently insistent that Will should deliver in every scene.

I was sorry that Will had a problem with kissing a man in the movie. He said his fans would be unhappy. Well this fan wouldn't have been. Nor I suspect would many of the others. The public is alert to the business of acting and don't confuse the role with the actor - certainly not in the case of such a graceful, funny, versatile one as Will has turned out to be.


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