10 Reasons We Love Sir Ian McKellen

A Shakespeare blog seems as good a place as any to take a moment out for a little Sir Ian McKellen love fest, don’t you think? We talk frequently about the greatness that is Sir Ian, but I thought it would be fun to gather all the good stuff in one spot for the rest of the world to appreciate. Let’s get started!

10. Impossibly Cool Young Ian Before he was the acting god (and all around fine person) we’ve come to know and love, Ian McKellen was, well…

….damn! This picture of our man circulated around the net in September 2010 and made more than one net geek rethink what the term “man crush” really means.

9. He’s Magneto. What else is there to say? This isn’t the greatest clip, but it’s the most readily available one. The smile at the end is the kind of thing that put Magneto over the top.

8. Harry Potter is nervous around him. Rumor has it that Sir Ian did get a shot at the Dumbledore role, but didn’t think it would be appropriate because a) he was already another famous wizard and b) Richard Harris, who originated Dumbledore’s role, thought McKellen was a dreadful actor. I enjoyed this interview where Mr. Harry Potter explains what a day on the set was like when Mr. McKellen showed up and taught them all what being “Important” looks like.

7. He was so good at waiting for Godot, Godot actually showed up. Well, no, not really – but while taking a break from the show he looked so authentic that people were throwing money into his hat. McKellen even went on record to invite the person to the show who threw him a dollar, “And if he insists on paying, we’ll knock a dollar off the price.”

6. He’s Gandalf. Demonstrating his continued dominance of the geek world, he moved from comic geeks to fantasy geeks by becoming the wizard Gandalf. He’s even messing with the legions of fans lining up for the next installment in the Lord of the Rings series. When people constantly ask him for updates on the new Hobbit movie(s) he just smiles and says things like “Oh yes, I heard they were making those. No, no one’s called me.” YOU SHALL NOT PASS! (embedding disabled, darn it).

5. Richard III. I’m trying very hard not to make this a Top 10 Shakespeare Reasons We Love Ian McKellen, since his awesome extends far beyond our little universe. But we have to include his Richard III. Anybody who looks at Magneto and thinks, “Wow, this guy plays an awesome villain” needs to check out his Richard.

4. He’s gay. Get over it. Unfortunately that awesome “I’m Gandalf and Magneto” t-shirt turns out to be a photoshop, but that doesn’t change the fact that one of the greatest actors of our generation is an out gay man and not shy about it in the least. He does march, he does speak at rallies, and he’s got plenty of quotes on the subject that are absolute gems:

I’ve had enough of being a gay icon! I’ve had enough of all this hard work, because, since I came out, I keep getting all these parts, and my career’s taken off. I want a quiet life. I’m going back into the closet. But I can’t get back into the closet, because it’s absolutely jam-packed full of other actors.

3. He’s best pals with Jean Luc Picard. Having the comic geeks, fantasy geeks and Shakespeare geeks firmly in his pocket, I wonder if maybe his longtime friendship with Patrick Stewart is McKellen’s attempt to go after the sci-fi geeks and collect the whole set ;). No, seriously, I’m well aware that Stewart and McKellen were members of the Royal Shakespeare Company together (and highly recommend Playing Shakespeare, where you’ll see them acting together years before X-Men). Non-Shakespeare folks may not fully appreciate the awesomeness of this acting duo, who’ve appeared together on both screen and stage. Here they share a stage in Waiting for Godot:

2. He’s Lear. When he’s not being a wizard or a super villain, marching in a gay rights parade or scaring Harry Potter, Sir Ian McKellen still finds the time to tackle the Mt. Everest of Shakespeare, King Lear. Every actor wants to put his mark on Hamlet, but it takes a lifetime to prepare for Lear.

And the #1 reason we love Sir Ian McKellen…

1. He gives away all his best secrets. In this Extras clip, Sir Ian patiently explains to Ricky Gervais exactly how he does what he does. You want to be Gandalf? Listen carefully.

Thanks for everything, Sir Ian! And I do mean everything!

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5 thoughts on “10 Reasons We Love Sir Ian McKellen

  1. Good list. But what about his Macbeth alongside Dame Judi Dench? The best performance of his career, in my opinion.

    Love the Extras clip, though. Have you seen the Extras clip of Patrick Stewart? Google for it if you haven't.

  2. Hi Mark,

    I deliberately didn't make the list heavy on the Shakespeare, as noted. I wanted to sample across multiple areas of McKellen's awesomeness, maybe make the list a little more appealing to everybody else who doesn't already frequent this blog 🙂

  3. McKellan and Stewart have not appeared together in Macbeth (though the universe might very well explode from awesomeness if they had.) They have each played the role on film versions of celebrated stage productions, but decades apart. Stewart does say McKellan gave him advice on how to deliver "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…"

    Other than that small mistake, great list.

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