25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

6 September 2003


From: vanessa_mennella@hotmail.com Vanessa

Q: In a recent visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London I was delighted to spot your portrait by Clive Smith. Aside from this one and the one by David Hockney are there any other paintings of you? What is it like having your portrait painted?

A: During the Broadway run of Dance of Death in 2001, I sat over 40 hours for Clive Smith in my Westside apartment overlooking Central Park, for his portrait commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery after his winning their BP Portrait competition the previous year. His original plan to reveal my slouching on a deep, white sofa with my playscript at my knees, got drastically cut down he literally cut the canvas to size for the finished painting, now more of a close-up. The skin texture is cleverly captured in the oils Smith is famous for his skin. I think his portrait of me looks like what I felt like, reclining for 40 hours on the sofa you can't see.


I have turned down a few chances to be painted and photographed because I don't enjoy sitting still for long periods. Clive was generous with tea breaks. And I'm glad to be on the walls of one of my favourite galleries.


(Left: Ian McKellen by Clive Smith, oil on canvas 13 1/4 in. x 8 1/8 in.,  National Portrait Gallery, London)


Q: Seeing as Hollywood has woken up to the tremendous talent you possess - a talent that has bewitched me from that day at school when I 'forced' to watch Trevor Nunn's Macbeth - I was (vainly) hoping you might use your influence to suggest my dream project to those movie moguls you deal with. The life, and background to it, of Leonardo da Vinci has fascinated me since I was a child. In my very humble opinion it would make a wonderful piece of dramatic art, and a gloriously rich piece of cinema. I can think of no living actor who could play the adult Leonardo other than yourself.

A: I hope you saw Mark Rylance as Leonardo on British TV recently. I didn't unfortunately. Other memorable Leonardos include Frank Langella (1983), Richard Ainley (1943), and John Glover (1991)  


Q: Is there any 'official' way to get, purchase, obtain, acquire, procure, buy or steal (only kidding!) a photo of you? I mean a photo of you as you (not Gandalf, Magneto, James Whale, Richard II, etc, etc,etc).

A: Well ask the webmaster but can't you download something from the galleries? We don't sell pictures (though some cinefan shops do).

[Webmaster's note: The National Portrait Gallery sells prints of the Clive Smith portrait.  Click here. Also, we often have drawings to give away signed photos. Click here.]


Q: God evening, before I write you a letter one question, do you speak German?

A: Nein. Sorry.


From: Sheri

Q: Hello! Just wanted to ask if Emile is going to be released internationally or is it just going to be in Canada...

A: Emile will certainly be released outside its native Canada, although I expect an early outing at this year's Toronto Film Festival. I nipped over for less than a day (18 May) to this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Emile was on the front page of the Hollywood Reporter's celebratory edition and where I was guest of honour on the beach of La Croisette, hosted by the ever-generous Hollywood Reporter. Stealthily in this and other ways Emile's producers are introducing the film to distributors worldwide, although don't expect an official release until 2004.

Ian McKellen arrives in Cannes, May 2003, greeted by committee sent by Stella Artois

In Toronto for Emile, 6 September 2003
Photo by Mike Cassese for Reuters


From: Nathan

Q: Do you get to go to the cinema much these days? And if you do, what is your local? I am kind of hoping you will say The Filmworks Greenwich as this establishment is owned by UCI and I am an employee of the company . Plus if you have, what is the most recent film you have seen? And did you enjoy it?

A: My local at the end of my street is the UCI cinemas on the Isle of Dogs. The film I saw most recently, reduced for a miniature video on British Airways, was Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore's Oscar-winning exposé of guns in USA with an appearance by Charlton Heston where it's hard to say whether he is acting or not: either way, Highly Recommended.


From: sevendustlady@yahoo.com Angela

Q: I have become an admirer, not only of your theatrical intelligence and talent, but of your strength, your obvious clarity in your sense of self. I am of the strong opinion that it takes not only a great deal of innate will, but a vast and illuminating spirit to be a forthright and proud gay man in any country, social circle, state, or occupation. After browsing....well more like sitting up long nights until my arse was sore a bit....reading each typed text again and again...mostly the journal entries on activism and politics in your country re: age of consent, homophobia etc...I have become even more of the opinion that such a thing is respectable and quite refreshing to this 31 year old previously-silent lesbian. I digested each meaningful and genuine phrase and song I felt and heard in your writings, mustered up as much as could be found or created within myself, and came out of the closet...so to speak. This done solely on the encouragement I found on this website, never spoken as a "here here, come forth oh lesbian" (haha) but implied to my spirit as a significant hug, if you will. A matter of gravitational pull from within the brain as I read and unto the heart as I began to feel. A simple thing, really, that I read, was uplifted, and encouraged.

I am lighthearted in this new and unfamiliar territory of going about my daily life without hiding or hushing one damnable thing about myself as a lesbian.

A: You certainly came forth oh previously-silent lesbian. Bravissima!


From: Kara

Q: I commend you on your incredible openness with your sexuality. I am still struggling with my own sexuality, as a bisexual Canadian female who is very involved with theatre and the like. I am a teenager. I probably would not have been able to come out in the theatrical community here in my city, without your inspiration.

A: Thank you for letting me know and confirming that it can be fun being gay, making connections to each other's problems across the barriers of age, gender and geography. And if you doubt I had problems, think I was 49 when I finally managed to do what you seem to have accomplished at a third that age!

Congratulations and good luck.


From: sheartiste@yahoo.com Patti

Q: If a stint as Dumbledore is not to be, then does the role of Alastair "Mad-Eye" Moody appeal?? Would love to see you in the HP series...or any other film.

A: The length of the HP series may inevitably eventually bring more vacancies amongst the senior wizardry on the Rowling estate. Meanwhile I'll make do with Middle-earth.


From: Jeff Barker

Q: You look like a "chip off the old block," i.e., I thought the photo of your father was you! Did (do) any of your family have theater experience, too?

A: My mother did a little amateur acting, as my sister still does in East Anglia. My father played the piano in public but didn't act. My cousin Michael was a chorus boy in West End musicals before he settled down. I have my father's jaw, eyes and bags and big hands, ears and calves. He and I both favour his father, who, as a successful non-conformist lay preacher, was a performance artist.

Dennis Murray McKellen, 1950s


From: evoicbd@inbox.ru Anna

Q: Once there was the biggest country of the world called Russia or Russian Federation. There lived lots of fans of yours (maybe for you it is not a lot (just 49,906,302, almost one 50 million of fans)). Once they came to the Release of the Fellowship of the ring and you were NOT there. Fans were very upset, but they had got hope that you will come to the Release of The Two Towers. Three hours before release of TTT: somewhere about hundred of people standing before the door of the Pushkinski cinema. No one came. So now we are almost crying. Asking you our dear actors of LORT (especially Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Eijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and of course the Director Peter Jackson) visit our precious country at the 18 December at the Release of the ROTK. Thank you.

A: I am going to travel on the Return of the King trail beginning with the world premiere at the Embassy Cinema, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand on 1 December 2003. Then Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Copenhagen to Denmark because 30%+ of the population have seen the first two films and Peter Jackson is good to his fans. I shall pass along your e-mail and see what happens. Thank you.



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