25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

10 November 2002


Q: Until recently I worked nursing in a Psychiatric Hospital; people often asked me what got me interested in this type of work and I could never really answer, stating that I had an interest in mental health care for some time. I recalled seeing a film called Walter and a second film Walter and June when I was younger. I am now 32. Over time I have tried to locate either the film or information regarding the film to no avail, often asking at video shops if they have a film titled Walter at which they reply yes and smiling present me with a Michael Caine film called Water!

A: Hurrah hurrah! The DVD of the Walter films is to be released early next year.


From: Paul Andrew MacLean

Q: I am a big fan of composer John Corigliano, and I loved the recording of his "Creations" work, in which you supplied the narrative voice. How did you become involved with that recording?

A: I was asked simple as that! It is always a thrill to be close to a large orchestra playing and that more than anything persuaded me to do this job.


Q: I did have one question and it's really just to settle a bet: when you were in college and working towards becoming a professional actor, what sort of work did you do on the side? A friend of mine said you waited tables like many college students and/or struggling actors, but another person said you worked in the college library. The wager at stake is footing the bill for dinner in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

A: In these days of student loans and debts, it may now seem incredible but my supervisor at Cambridge University warned undergraduates that vacations were not to be used to earn money but for travel, reading, conversation and other gentlemanly pursuits. Even so I did manage two jobs before I became an actor ­- helping the General Post Office sort out the heavy Christmas mail and working nights in Warburton's Bread Factory in Bolton UK, lifting hot buns and loaves straight from the oven onto their cooling trays. Gloves were discouraged and I can feel the heat 40 years on.

Perhaps to settle, or confuse the bet, I should confirm that I worked in St Catharine's College Library but only as a student, not as an employee.


From: haystack69@hotmail.com Angela

Q: How do you react to people wanting your autograph after a performance? Do you mind that people wait for one?

A: As long as I sense that an autograph will not turn up for sale on E-bay soon after, I am happy to provide one.


From: Louise

Q: I often come here to reset my compass after I've thunk myself into a paradox over some issue of or argument over my sexuality, as some of your comments in interviews have been among the most constructively and provocatively useful things I've heard: (I'm 27 - I came out about 10 years ago after a particularly galling episode of Four Corners - an Australian current affairs thingy) It's been amusing me for at least a week to think of creative reasons why your film emails might warrant their own archive but a response to your sexuality or activism doesn't. I'm looking forward to being spoilt again with the indulgent depth of the Magneto/Xavier relationship in Xmen2. And I promised myself I'd write a short email! Damn! My humble apologies.

A: Other correspondents will have noticed that E-posts are often abbreviated before posting. Webmaster Keith will no doubt think of separating out the Gay Topics but then some (like the next one) are so notable they merit appearing under more than one heading (like "Gay" and "LOTRings"). Sorry but don't expect too many meaty confrontations between Magneto and Xavier in X-Men2.

[Webmaster's note: Some time soon I expect we'll try creating a separate section for gay/activism E-Posts. Thanks for the encouragement.]


Q: I just want you to know that when I found out what you were, I was at debate as to whether I was going to see the ''Two Towers.'' I decided I would because I know most of the actors aren't. But I want you to know I have lost respect for Gandalf, even though it is not completely fair, because it's not the character's fault, it's the actor's.

A: I am glad you conquered your prejudice, homophobia, confusion it's difficult to give it a pleasant name because by accepting that gay actors can succeed in leading roles in big movies, you enter the real world where gay people are everywhere, whether you approve of them or not.


Q: A few months ago I was watching one your interviews where you were most forthcoming about being a gay actor and what that meant professionally. I admire your honesty and your unwavering desire to live in truth. You are the perfect foil to all of those film executives who believe that gay people cannot "play straight". Sexual orientation has nothing to do with an actor's ability to inhabit a role with authenticity. I believe that is why it is called acting and not "standing in front of a camera, being yourself".

A: I agree particularly with the assumption that the blame for employment inequality in Hollywood is the fault of those executives who think audiences are incapable of separating out actor from performance. Even my previous correspondent can do that.


From: Sam (Samantha)

Q: Someone asked me if I was gay, because I was being very friendly with my brother, who is gay, and they were making fun of him and me. Because of that, and being unsure, I didn't answer yes or no. Do people ever make fun of you, or something similar, like this, and if so, what do you do?

A: If this "someone" is close to you , perhaps you can return calmly to the subject and talk it through. I assume that those who go out of their way to condemn someone else's homosexuality are probably, deep down, worried about their own. Homophobia is a powerful virus. It is never easy when you are suddenly attacked (verbally or physically) to behave as you would wish. It's always later that you think up the perfect riposte.


From: Elizabeth

I recently read in Citizen magazine (published by Focus on the Family) that you tear out pages of Bibles because of verses you find offensive to your homosexual lifestyle. . . .

I'll let slide the slur that my God-given sexuality is a mere lifestyle, and say yes, I do remove the page containing Leviticus 18:22 where it is asserted that "To lie with a man as with a woman is an abomination." I know there is some confusion amongst you Christians as to what an abomination is, but it sounds abominable to me and I resent it. I don't want those words near me at bedtime they don't relax me. It seems that Gideons provide their Bibles as a gift. Not looking them in the mouth, I always leave the rest of the Bible for the next occupant of the hotel room. Sometimes strongly-held beliefs disconnect. Much as I abhor censorship, the Leviticus verse on which you presumably base your own disaffection for people like me makes, you will appreciate, a poor bed-fellow in a lonely hotel room. . . .

I'm a Catholic Christian and believe what the Bible teaches. Catholic Christian theologians disagree about what the Bible teaches re: homosexuality. While it isn't my place to tell you what to do with your personal life, I believe you have no right to defile something sacred to Christians all around the world just because you don't agree with its teaching. . . .

I promise you I feel much more strongly about the Bible's homophobia than you could ever feel about my defiling it. . . .

I strongly believe that homosexuality is wrong because it is God's truth, which cannot be erased or altered. I would never try to deny anyone their free will; you chose your lifestyle and I do not challenge that. But I doubt you would like it if I went around tearing up books promoting homosexuality. . . .

Exactly - that's why Section 28 should be repealed. It censors what UK schoolchildren may read or talk about in the classroom. . . .

The Bible happens to be more than just a book; it is the Living Word of God. Do you think that what is said in Leviticus about homosexuality just doesn't apply to life anymore? Is that why you tear out the pages you don't agree with! The teachings that God has set up are still true and always will be. . . .

The history of your church is the history of how the world changes. Re-interpretation of the Bible is part of it. As an atheist I don't accept the Bible is the word of a non-existent God. And as for the laws of the land (so often based on Judaeo/Christianity) I prefer the view of Thomas Jefferson quoted on the wall of his memorial in Washington DC:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in law and constitution, but laws and institutions go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind . . . We might as well require a man to wear the same coat as fitted him when a boy."

I don't know if you'll even read this, or if it makes any difference to you what a 14-year-old kid thinks. All I wish to say is that I'm disappointed. Well you know now. . . .

That you are 14 and thoroughly indoctrinated in anti-gay rhetoric makes me unhappy. . . .

"The Lord of the Rings" is a great movie, but the thing that made it really come alive for me was the actors and actresses that played their parts so well. You were one of the best. If what I have said offends you, I offer my sincerest apologies. If what was said in Citizen magazine was untrue, then please forgive me and completely disregard this letter. You are in my prayers.

I am glad you enjoy the movie. As for being offended etc. consider this we can argue and disagree about your beliefs without hurting you because worthwhile beliefs should be open to question and challenge. But my sexuality is not a belief. I did not decide to become gay as you decided to join or remain in the Church. Your views about me do hurt. You can stop being a Catholic (at least a homophobic one) and still be yourself. I can't stop being gay. Is that really an abomination?

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