25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

14 August 2002

Acting Shakespeare

From: Jonathan Dixon timurlame@yahoo.com

Q: In the souvenir booklet of "Acting Shakespeare" you note, ironically I'm guessing, that you're still waiting to play a Shakespeare heroine. I saw part of that PBS broadcast when I was in high school. One moment has stayed vividly with me: your doing Juliet on the balcony. It was so naturalistic and convincing a portrayal of a teenage girl; yet it was coming from a man who, I'm guessing, was in his 30's at the time! It was one of those pivotal enlightenment moments in my own acting development, for it was the first time it struck me that real acting is in the truth of the emotions, not in all the costumes and external paraphernalia.

A: The point you make was at the heart of Acting Shakespeare, which you will recall was done without costume, make-up, scenery or changing lighting. I based the whole show on the Chorus's instructions before Henry 5 that the audience (who listen rather than watch) "Think when we talk of horses that you see them..."

Edward III and Sir Thomas More

From: Kelly McAllister kelberto@hotmail.com

Q: I had the pleasure of being one of the many "extras" you used in your encore for you one-man show "Acting Shakespeare". I recently worked on the American premiere of Edward III, now attributed to Mr. Shakespeare. Are you familiar with this text?

A: I have only ventured once into the Shakespeare apocrypha with Sir Thomas More (1964) but it is interesting that the Elizabethan playwrights contributed to each others' plays rather like there are multiple writing credits these days for screenplays on film and television. By contrast most plays are from one hand only.


From: Paula Flinchum

Q: Even though you don't look a day past 40 when do you think your age will catch up to you???? I hope it won't be for a very very long while(20, maybe 30 years)! And I thank you! i thank you for many reasons, one for being a major influence in my acting interests, and another for helping me become a vegetarian. I had been thinking about it for many weeks and finally desided to when i was reading an article of yours! PAULA FLINCHUM (13)

A: I can just remember being 13 - I was already very keen on the theatre and acting as you seem to be. If you mean that age will catch up with me and stop me acting, I look to the example of the late John Gielgud, the great British actor who was still acting in his 96th year but complaining that he didn't work often enough!


From: Tom Gatley

Q: I am 12 years old and have seen quite a lot of your films, tv shows. The Lord of the Rings is my favourite. I would like to know how you became an actor, did you act in theatres at the start, did you go to a drama school? How did you play Gandalf so well. I am now reading the Lord of the Rings and it struck me how your acting suited the description of Gandalf so well!

A: If you really want to know more about being a professional actor you have come to the right website - with its own search button! I haven't yet got round to cataloguing my acting at school and university in UK. I didn't go to drama school. Most of work until the 1990's was onstage. If you are interested in the preparations to play Gandalf, look at The Grey Book.

Apt Pupil/Gay Police

From: stuart grogan tiberius@prettyboy.co.uk

Q: just last night i sat down to watch a movie my friend brought over, apt pupil. i can't believe i have missed you over the years. well, anyway, apt pupil was absolutely fantastic. dark story line but so well acted. really got the viewer thinking. I didn't know you were gay, that's cool because i'm gay too. did you have any pressure put on you when you came out? i was in the police at the time i came out and found it extremely difficult. what was it like in the acting circles?

A: Glad you approved of Apt Pupil - the movie which introduced me to Bryan Singer (X-Men & X-Men2).

I came out about 1988 under no pressure form anyone except my own reaction to Margaret Thatcher's homophobic government. Have you read "Out of the Blue" by Marc Burke, another ex-policeman (British) about being gay in the force? In UK some of the police forces are recruiting gay/lesbian officers these days, catching up with the example set by some forces in the USA and elsewhere. When the annual Pride March passes the home of the Prime Minister in Downing Street it is always guarded for the day by queer police.

Stonewall UK

From: Lee Richards lee_t_richards@hotmail.com

Q: Do you ever see a time in your lifetime (or mine, I'm 30) when Stonewall UK as an organisation will become redundant, i.e. it will have achieved everything it has set out to achieve?

A: Well that's the dream, isn't it, although Stonewall's specific goals change with government action or inaction. Once the legal system is reformed so it is indifferent to citizens' sexuality, there will still be work on monitoring the attitudes of society as a whole. Perhaps Stonewall's wisest achievement so far has been to sponsor other new organisations with specific aims and areas of concern gays in the military, foreign gay partners, local groups keeping an eye on media homophobia etc as well as supporting and liaising with existing groups like Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

And The Band Played On

Q: I just wanted to say that ever since I saw And the Band Played On as a 15 year-old I've wanted to go into the health field and work with AIDS patients. It was such an inspiring movie.

A: Thank you for your testament to the power of story-telling. Everyone involved in televising Randy Shilts's book knew we were doing something important and although some critics thought the film was covering familiar ground and therefore unnecessary, you proved them wrong.

On Video

Q: Your work in LOTR has made me go back during the last two months and see your previous movies. I deeply regret missing all of your earlier stage work. Will you do any more Shakespeare on film? How can I get my hands on your older films?.. haven't had much luck there.

A: The site catalogues available movies. I'm not planning another film Shakespeare.

Hollywood Protectionism

From: Bobby bobby_iovtchev@yahoo.com

Q: I am a 16-year-old raver who doesn't like Tolkien, or X-men comics (though I LOVED both movies). Do you feel that Hollywood does not wish to let too many European movies through, so that it may remain the reigning king of cinema? I have noticed time and again that great foreign classics are slammed by American critics.

A: I don't think there is a conspiracy between Hollywood studios and film critics to protect the American film industry there doesn't need to be because, as in most countries, foreign language movies are never as popular with local audiences as those in their own tongue. Let's face it, most people (including newspaper editors) go to the movies for bit of escapist entertainment and reading subtitles can be tiresome. Any critic who kept recommending foreign movies that challenged their audience would soon find the editor with a finger on his delete button.

Foreign Actors

From: Prandini Alberto wprandi@tin.it

Q: I am a 20-year-old boy, or man as you like: I would love to start an acting career and since I simply adore the English language I thought of embarking upon a Drama school in London (which unfortunately are a rip-off) or in Britain in general. Do you think it's possible for an aspiring actor to succeed in a foreign country?

A: I know a number of actors who have trained in UK and then gone home to their own countries. This may be the best way because, if English is not your first language or if an English accent is alien to you, a career in UK theatre would be too limited .

The Moment

From: Clare F spudsound@yahoo.co.uk

Q: As an 'aspiring' (i.e. will probably be spending the rest of my life doing something else!) 28 year old actress, I would like to know how you personally tell the point at which you feel you have achieved a character. Do you actually have a specific moment when you feel 'yes, that's him', or do you continue to 'work' on a portrayal throughout the performance?

A: There is often a moment in rehearsal or private study, when the character emerges, feels present. The director (or the mirror) might tell you if you haven't realised it yourself. I enjoy discovering more as a theatre run goes along perhaps not about the character but more about how to present him to the audience.

From: v@karinations.zzn.com

Q: I really love mckellen.com, i have never seen such detail and genuine care put into a website. Will there be any reports from the set of X-Men 2 like the LOTR ones? Keep up the excellent work Ian, you rule.

A: Now there's an idea....


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