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Ian McKellen

Professional Biography

IAN McKELLEN first acted at school and with amateur groups in the north of England, where he was born and brought up. He attended Cambridge University and, since 1961, has worked non-stop in the British theatre. He has been leading man and produced plays, modern and classic, for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain and in the West End of London.

In Shakespeare he has triumphed as Richard II, Macbeth (with Judi Dench), Coriolanus, Iago, Richard III (also on film) and most recently as King Lear. He was in the first production of Martin Sherman's sensational Bent and premieres of plays by Arnold Wesker, Peter Shaffer, Michael Frayn, Alan Ayckbourn and Mark Ravenhill. Of late he has been Widow Twankey in the Old Vic's Aladdin pantomime and toured Waiting for Godot and No Man's Land with Patrick Stewart. As Salieri in Amadeus he won every available award on Broadway. For over a decade, he toured his one-man show, Acting Shakespeare.

McKellen is recognised worldwide as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

He received his first Academy Award® nomination, for Best Actor, as the gay film director James Whale, in Bill Condon's 1998 classic Gods and Monsters. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as Gandalf the Grey in The Fellowship of the Rings.

Since he has starred in The Da Vinci Code, Mr Holmes, Beauty and the Beast, All is True, The Good Liar , and Cats.

In 2019 McKellen became the first actor to top The Stage 100 list of most influential people in British theatre, following his triumphant UK Tour and West End run of Ian McKellen on Stage.

His television work stretches from Rasputin to Coronation Street, from Extras with Ricky Gervais to Vicious with Derek Jacobi. On the first ever Film On Four, McKellen was in Stephen Frears' Walter and The Dresser with Anthony Hopkins.

McKellen has been an innovator on the Internet, with one of the earliest official sites for an actor, McKellen.com, launched on September 1, 1997. In 1999 he began publishing a series of journal entries that evolved into one of the earliest non-technical blogs. His followings on social media connect more than 10 million fans.

In 1991, Sir Ian was knighted (KBE) for services to theatre in UK. He is a co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people. In 2008, the Queen personally appointed him Companion of Honour (CH), for his services to drama and to equality.