25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

22 June 2004


From: Christine

Q: Why haven't there been recent updates of the E-post sections? I find them intriguing and sometimes thought provoking. Keep them up. Thank You.

A: Your wish is granted. I get behind with correspondence because there is so much of it and because I am a procrastinator. Sorry.


From: Carl Dunnington

Q: I am a great fan of new plays and especially the work of Conor Macpherson, Martin McDonagh, Patrick Marber and Mark Ravenhill to name a few. Which new writers interest you and have you any plans to appear in new theatre work? Also are you looking forward to working with Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic?

A: My favourite new play is Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman at the National Theatre. It deals with domestic and institutionalised violence, but with a variety of theatrical effects and conventions that make it amusing even as it horrifies the audience.

I am always on the lookout for sparkling new scripts for stage or screen.

Aladdin is the second of four productions in Kevin Spacey's first season at the Old Vic Theatre but he will not be in the pantomime. For the other shows he will direct or act as well as produce.


From: Keith De'Winter

Q: Is it true that you are in panto this Christmas? I'm a struggling Thespian, who has been in panto for the last 2 years, playing Dame! How does one get an audition for something in London? Or better still, are there any roles left in your panto?

A: I'm afraid that, Aladdin not being Cinderella, there is only room for one dame at the Old Vic in December! The other parts will not be cast until we have a further draft of Bille Brown's new script in August.


From: Peter Hill

Q: It would be a great pity if the coming pantomime Aladdin were to be set in Peking rather than Baghdad. It is only recently that the name of this city has been besmurched first by Saddam Hussein and then recently by his ally The Americans. In the middle ages it was known in Arabic as 'Medina al Salaam'. The city of peace. Quite a thought !

A: Bille Brown's script for Aladdin will follow the outlines of the original Arabian Nights tale. Aladdin was indeed born in Baghdad but by the time he falls in love with the Princess Badroulbadour he is living in Peking, where his widowed mother runs her laundry.

The cast of Aladdin & His Magic Lamp, Ipswich, 1962
Tee Vee (Ian McKellen) far left.
Others from left: Irene French, Brendan Barry, Gawn Grainger, Irene Innescourt, Marti Webb, Peter Macriel, Jonathan Meddings, Josie Kidd, Colin Kaye


From: Todd Birmingham

Q: Regarding your Feb. 27th appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. I wanted to let you know how completely sane and refreshing your opinions were.

A: Real Time is a precious contribution to US television and I hope I'll be asked back.


From: Scott Sorensen

Q: Why don't you work harder to affect American Politics, you are SO astute, articulate... your performance on Bill Maher's show was astounding.

A: I am always nervous about the protocol of criticising a host country which I am visiting but Bill Maher's HBO show is irresistible as one of the very few on mainstream US television which tolerates a genuine exchange of views on current issues.


Q: Loved the story about the snoring. Who would sit for 20 minutes beside a snorer in a theatre without nudging him/her awake?

A: Indeed.


From: Tolver

Q: Gay Marriage In San Francisco. Where are you? We need support! This is Equal Rights! Why have you not come out in support of us? Why are you NOT in San Francisco at City Hall helping people get Married?

A: I did send an e-mail to the first men to get married in Massachusetts but I reckon everything went well without my being there (or with you) in person. There's a long way to go before the rest of the world catches up with the pioneers.


From: darrell coon

Q: How do you feel about the gay marriage issue that is sweeping America lately? Ii personally am ashamed that our President, after focusing everything on Iraq and ignoring our problems here, chose to make his first act toward homeland business to persecute a group a people whose only crime is following their hearts. What are the laws on same sex marriages in the UK?

A: It amazes those of us who think that same-gender partnerships are as worthy of legal recognition as any others, that some politicians are prepared to amend constitutions in order to retain the status quo.

In UK, too, the government is so determined not to grant marital status to gays that it is inventing a new set of laws for us, with the support of the other political parties. This will give gays partnership rights, equivalent to marriage in all but name. Worryingly to advocates of social equality, unmarried straight couples will now be disadvantaged, only able to get the new legal rights available to gay couples by getting married.

I agree with the words of Thomas Jefferson that are carved into the walls of his monument in Washington DC:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

These commonsensical sentiments, unfamiliar perhaps to the current President of the USA were at least heeded by the writers of the new constitution of the Republic of South Africa, where it is illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality.

None of this applies to religious bodies, as far as this atheist is concerned. After all, no one is forced to subscribe to a faith whose clerics are homophobic. But for all citizens, a democracy's constitution must never favour one group over another. Civil marriages should therefore be available to all couples, regardless of their gender.


From: Alie

Q: I went to the first legal gay marriage in the US last night at midnight in Cambridge, MA. There were thousands of people there, cheering every time another couple walked out of city hall, holding hands and waving their marriage licenses at the crowd. The feeling was intense and joyful. People held crosses draped with rainbows and signs that said "Mazel Tov" and "God bless you!" and "God loves Gays!" and (my favorite) "YAY!" People were dancing and singing and crying and laughing and it was beautiful. There were children there, children who someday might look back at today (Gay Marriage Day!), shaking their heads in disbelief that gay marriage was ever illegal. There were about 15 protestors who left around 12:20 because they were so outnumbered. One of my friends said that they had to leave because their hate lost to our love. We won!

A: Thanks for your vivid report. I was there too in spirit.


From: Colleen Jones colleenj@shaw.ca

Q: How did you feel when you were presented with your honorary degree recently? No ghosts lurking in the audience like in Emile I hope. I look forward to Emile coming out on DVD so I can buy a copy. It was such a beautiful film in all ways.

A: I have been honoured by a number of universities and at Leeds last month felt, as I always do, that it is unfair on all those other graduands who have had to study hard for their degrees that I should get mine for free as it were. I'm glad you like Emile, whose story is wrapped around his honorary degree.

Lord Bragg presents the honorary doctorate to Sir Ian McKellen, 29 April 2004
Photo by Richard Moran


From: Lee Thought you might enjoy the following quip from Tim Goodman, the TV columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, following Oscar night:

"Can Sir Ian McKellen just introduce every movie clip from here on out? Or read recipes out loud? Or just call us up for a chat? That's a pretty good little actor right there, people."

A: I'm sure he meant "little" in an affectionate way. ;-)

Ah dear itsy-bitsy Timmy G — nice chap it would seem.


From: Jim Minteer

Q: I watched the Oscars and noticed that you had what looked like a red garter on your wrist. Can you explain what that was and what is was for?

A: It was a necklace of red heart-shaped beads I was given in New Orleans. I wrapped it round my wrist to add a little colour amidst the black and white of the tuxedo. Since then the string broke and the hearts were scattered I'm not sure where. So if you find them....

Asked and answered in People magazine


From: Ruth Bonnet

Q: I understand you loved my cousin's performance in History Boys! Sam Barnett is the son of my first (and favorite!) cousin, so I was thrilled that you told him you liked his work! I am flying over from New York JUST to see you in the panto.

A: Samuel Barnett plays Posner perfectly in Alan Bennett's The History Boys" at the National Theatre. I would never miss a Bennett/Nick Hytner production but I went to this one early in the run to support my recent stage partner, Frances de la Tour, who is also terrific in the play - but then so is the rest of the cast. Fortunately I met most of them in the green-room afterwards.



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