McKellen: Playing the Part (2017) Movie Script

- Jesus, I don't know.
I'm trying to, you know, sum my life up.
And I can't.. It's difficult to do that.
I was frightened it
was going to be walking
over old territory and
what you really wanted
was something, remember
those confession programmes
on television.
John Freeman used to be the
man who interviewed people.
And with the camera just
relentlessly on them,
often in closeup.
You waited for the tears to fall
as the questions about their
mother were answered in sobs.
He tried to break people down.
And you saw the real
person behind the image.
Well, I don't really have an image, do I?
I'm an actor.
Those are my images.
And beyond that, I try to be myself.
I am interviewed an awful lot.
And I've learnt long ago to
edit myself as I go along.
You're announced.
Your public persona is briefly
described and on you walk.
Now, do I walk on modestly,
do I walk on confidently,
do I betray that I'm scared stiff
because I don't know what the
questions are going to be?
Very difficult just to be yourself.
So I treat it as a bit of acting.
Oh, here comes Ian McKellen.
Now, what side of Ian McKellen
am I going to present?
The idea that an actor is
discovered and their lives change,
it might, but you're
not really aware of it.
Then or afterwards.
Your life is a series of
events, interconnected.
I suppose the most crucial decision I made
was deciding to try and
become a professional actor.
Looking back at the point in
which I made that decision,
which was toward the end of
my first year at university,
it does look as if from an early age
I had been preparing for
that moment, but I hadn't.
But it looks like that.
It makes sense.
My love of theatre and my
sister's love of theatre
came from my mother and father.
And my mother did a little
bit of amateur acting.
The first time I ever
appeared on any stage
If you're a boy and your sister's
five years older than you,
that is a gap that's never
quite bridged, and never was.
Jean's dead now.
No, Jean was a member of a secret society.
She organised with some girlfriends.
And I think the second rule of which
was Ian McKellen may not
belong to the society.
Still rankles a bit, that.
I was brought up in the
northwest of England
in the little mining town of Wigan.
I liked nothing better
than going into town
and just spending an hour
and a half looking at things.
And there was a weekly market.
Stalls were set up by people
just for the Saturday.
And I would go with my sweet ration
and just wander around
the stalls and watch.
Each of them were selling their wares.
They put on a little show, you see.
Every sort of 20 minutes,
they did their pitch.
A man selling hair restorer
wore a wig, I noticed.
There was a man who sold
a polish for your tables.
A little crowd would
gather around these people
as they said their pitch.
And sometimes I was called into help.
You don't know me, son, do you?
Never met me before, no answer.
Yes, well here, even a kid can do this.
And I'd put on the black polish for him.
Performers, you see.
Right up close to performers I was.
The fair, that was very important.
Fun fair arrived twice a year.
Took over the main square in town.
Set up all their rides.
They ran the rides, there were
stalls that sold black peas,
and it was Her Majesty's Smallest Subject.
Wonderful marquee.
A light landing on Anita.
Who was inside the booth.
And you paid threepence and you went on in
and there was the smallest
woman I've ever seen.
She was about that high.
Smoking a cigarette.
In a cigarette holder so
it wouldn't burn her skin.
She had a little high voice.
Move on, move on, go on, you've had enough.
And the first smell I was attracted to
were the greasy-haired
tight-trousered young men
who were running the caterpillar
and the big wheel and all that.
Fair, very important.
And I went around there on my own.
This was only five minutes
from where we lived.
So adventurous.
When I was about eight, there
was a big event in Wigan.
The town stopped because the king
and queen were visiting us.
And I thought, "How do they do this?
"They've got a light on in that car.
"They're wearing makeup.
"They've made this look very impressive.
"This is our town, this
is where I go to school.
"L cross this street every day.
"And now, no traffic except that car."
Someone's organised that, I thought.
So, at a very early age I was
thinking how to put on a show.
I don't know where it came from
or what made me do it on the
particular day that I did.
I went up and I painted
a little moustache here
and mussed up my hair and found a hat
and came down waddling
like Charlie Chaplin.
And everyone laughed.
I dressed up as Sir Thomas Beecham,
who was a famous
classical music conductor.
A bit of cotton wool for
his beard and moustache.
Once, when I was about eight or nine,
I went out into the street with
my clothes on back to front.
Easy enough for the
jacket and the trousers
and the shirt and tie
that tied at the back.
Tricky with the shoes.
You can't get the shoes
in the wrong direction.
And I would go out in the street.
Tried to fool people that I was...
You see, I walked backwards to
appear to be walking forward.
It's very, very intensely
human activity, acting.
I had a different accent at school
than the one I used at home to fit in.
And I was acting.
All the world's a stage
and all the men and
women are merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances.
And one man, in his
time, plays many parts.
Human beings, as opposed to
animals, act all day long.
Select when they get up in
the morning what costume
they will wear, what impact they want,
what side of their
personality will be expressed.
You're never just yourself.
You're a part of yourself.
My contemporaries would define themselves
by their relationships with girls.
I had this compensation that Ian
was the lad who loved the theatre.
That's what it felt like, I think,
that when I woke up in
the morning (gasping)
we're going to the theatre tonight.
Oh, I'm going to rehearse a play today.
That was sort of how I defined myself
and what gave me real satisfaction.
For my mother's birthday in 1948,
the family went and
sat in the dress circle
to see a new musical
written by Iva Lovello.
He wrote very, very successful musicals
in which he starred, although
he didn't sing himself.
He played the piano.
And when he lent over the side of a sofa
and gave a glass of
champagne to the leading lady
who was reclining on the couch,
aged nine or so, I had an erection.
I could quote David Hockney who said
when he was about the same
age, he went to the cinema,
and the man next to him
put his hand on his cock
and David says, "I've loved
the cinema ever since."
The same could be said
to me about the theatre.
I suppose I felt I was
different, and that concerned me.
And when it came to
sexuality, there was silence.
I was blind, there was nothing to see,
nothing to hear, nothing to feel.
Making me feel, in a
sense, I didn't exist.
- [Interviewer] Were you
conscious of the fact
that it was illegal--
- No.
I just didn't think about it.
It wasn't a problem, it was just a fact.
And I (sighing)...
It's strange, looking back,
when I meet 13 year old
boys and girls who are pretty
certain about their sexuality,
can even define it, put a
label on it, talk about it.
It's another world.
I suppose I was repressed.
I suppose the fact that
it wasn't talked about
and that I didn't talk
about it meant that I was
not really developing
in a very healthy way.
Probably one of the reasons
why I enjoyed acting,
I could deal with emotions
and self-expression
in a very public way.
Which I couldn't do in real life.
And if it was a substitute
for an interest in sex,
then no wonder it's stayed
with me as long as it has.
I had a secret.
Didn't talk about it,
didn't understand it.
But it was mine.
When we got to Bolton and I was 12,
there were three theatres.
At the Grand, there was a
changing bill of variety acts.
Singers, dancers, comics,
magicians, singing troupes.
Quite famous, some of them,
had been on the radio.
On a Tuesday, when I
knocked on the stage door,
Mr. Bleakely said I can go down.
Oh yeah, go down in.
I'd go down onto the stage level.
And in the dark and the
dust, there were these ropes
going up to the flies
that pulled the scenery.
I went into the dressing
rooms, I met these performers.
Having a wretched life, I suppose.
Paid very little money.
Touring around a different town each week.
Every week of their lives.
But when they stepped out
into the light of the stage
from the darkness, they were transformed.
They smiled, they preened,
they presented themselves.
I'd go and stand by the stage manager.
And I could hear the audience
laughing and clapping, gasping.
I'm always looking for that
dividing line in the theatre.
When are you onstage,
when are you backstage?
And these wonderful troupers
knew that world so well
and I just was fascinated by it.
It was going backstage there
and meeting professional
performers at close quarters,
I think, which decided my fate
and that it was inevitable,
although I didn't feel it at the time,
that I would become one of them.
While other boys were playing football
or while other boys were
playing in the playground,
while others were going
to the scout troop,
I was putting on plays, every turn.
It defined me.
I was constantly trying to improve,
trying to work out ways of
which I could get better.
I would, on a Monday
morning, knowing the lines,
knowing the plot, look
in the mirror and think,
what does this character look like?
And it was the mirror that helped me.
I'd try on those moustaches,
pull those faces and,
oh I see, oh that'll do.
I was brought up by a very
loving group of people.
But North Wales is where we
most went for our holidays
to be with them, bicycling
together, black berrying.
Yeah, that's a big part of what
I enjoyed about being a kid.
When I was away in a school
camp and my uncle John
came down to tell me.
And I then defined myself as Ian
was the boy whose mother had died.
My mother died of breast cancer.
Love, comfort, hugs, kisses.
I never talked to a
psychiatrist about this but
my dreams after she
died were that my father
had put her away, hidden
her, taken her away.
And sometimes in the
dream, she would come back.
And there would be a
wonderful reconciliation
of a woman who was not quite herself...
but still loved me.
I felt at the time I didn't feel it.
But I must have done, and I still do.
It was her having said to her sister
reported to me after her death that if Ian
decides to become an actor, she'd be happy
because actors bring
such pleasure to people.
And I didn't need anybody else's approval.
When I left home to go to university,
I think I rather knew I wouldn't go back,
because I had become, I might join in
with this other part of the
world which I could relate to.
There is a world
elsewhere, Coriolanus says,
and I knew what world it
was that I was intrigued by.
To get into Cambridge, which
is a series of colleges
which have their own entrance
exams, I failed at all those.
But there was one last chance.
And I went for an interview.
He was smoking Bachelor cigarettes
and he offered me a glass
of South African Sherry.
And he said, "I hear you are an actor."
- Yes, sir.
- [Ian Voiceover] I don't like actors.
Read any Shakespeare?
- Yes, sir.
I played King Henry V, sir.
- [Ian Voiceover] Do me a speech.
- Now, sir?
- [Ian Voiceover] So I put my glass down
and I stood on the chair and I said--
- Once more unto the breach,
dear friends, once more.
Or close the wall up
with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so
becomes a man as modest stillness--
- And he gave me an exhibition lesson
and a minor scholarship.
So, the most important
audition I ever did in my life,
and that's how I got into Cambridge.
The assumption was that
you would work hard
at Cambridge academically,
and I was warned not
to go down the previous path
that Peter Hall had followed.
I did 21 productions in three years
with amateur undergraduate
groups in Cambridge.
And most of the people there
spoke with a posher accent
than I did and that's when I get rid
of my Lanarkshire accent,
I mean quite deliberately.
Other undergraduates are
doing the same sort of thing.
I mean, who would guess
that Derek Jacobi comes
from deepest, Leytonstone.
No, he had a bit of a posh accent too.
Although my first year
I was living in digs.
I couldn't work there
because of the television on
below my little bedroom
which was also my study.
Because you had to be in
your college by 10 o'clock
at night, and if you
didn't have permission
to stay out later to
rehearse the play with,
you had to climb over the gates.
I was away from home when
I didn't have to have
an ongoing relationship with
my father and my stepmother,
who would occasionally
come and see the shows.
So talking about my relationship with men
was easy enough to avoid.
The idea of being a
homosexual wasn't alien
within theatre circles at university.
So, when I fell in love and was attracted
to one person more than any
other, it just seemed right.
Some of the undergraduates
were doing a production
of Caesar and Cleopatra, amongst
whom was Curt, Curt Dawson.
It was innocent love on my
part, I think, and on his.
The big advantage to me of Cambridge
was that I'm joined in that ethos,
that group, that mafia of young people
who were determined and confident
and wanted to have a life
in the theatre.
The national newspapers would
come down and review us.
Anyone studying drama, to be
reviewed by the Sunday Times
or the Observer or the
Guardian or the Telegraph,
what a gift that was.
Your name became current.
When I was starting out,
the parts I generally played
were not people my own age,
but people in disguise.
Old people.
Extreme characters.
I was playing Justice Shallow
in Henry IV Part Two, an old man.
And the headline was
Here's a brilliant Justice,
but who is he?
And then the piece then went on to say,
I'd like to know this actor's name
because it will obviously
become a name to remember.
And when I read that, I decided
to become a professional
actor, that was it.
Your duty is to arrive in the theatre
as absolutely physically fit
and relaxed and alert as possible,
having rested during the
day so that when you come
onto the stage full of energy.
At the peak of your abilities,
physical and mental.
The people who have been
at work all day say,
"How do they do it?"
Well they do it because they
haven't been doing anything,
but now they are.
And you give your energy to the people
who have been working all
day, who need some energy
to revive their spirits for the next day.
That's what acting is about.
That's how you contribute to society.
The impact of your performance
is not predominately facial,
particularly if you're too
far back in the theatre.
What becomes important is the
silhouette, the whole body.
The way the character walks,
gesticulates, his voice,
the whole body is the way,
probably, I'm going to get into
feeling and believing
that I am the character.
I walk differently in
every character I play
because human beings do walk
differently, I've noticed.
You could not act in the
professional theatre in London.
You couldn't be on television.
You couldn't be in a film
unless you were a member
of British Actor's Equity.
Well, what could you do?
You went out of London to work.
That's what we all did.
And we learned how to act professionally.
We learnt the rigours of the routines
and the techniques and the attitudes.
The romanticism of my
love for the theatre,
it was indulged and satisfied.
I had quickly moved into a flat.
This new theatre had flats for the actors.
We did modern plays that had come straight
from the West End.
We did reviews, we had
to sing, I had to dance.
Did adaptations of Dickens.
We did Shakespeare.
Did Chekhov.
Being befriended by actors
who had been working
in the theatre for 20, 3O years
and really knew what they were doing.
Yes, I was in rep at Ipswich
and just got myself an agent.
And she received a call from
the Nottingham playhouse
which had just been built and asked me
would I play, she thought, the
first citizen in Coriolanus,
which Turin Guthrie was going to direct.
Now, the first citizen
was quite a good part
despite its anonymity, and unanonymity.
And I went out there very
thrilled to be doing that,
and we sat around for the
first day's rehearsal,
which was going to be a
read-through of the play,
and Guthrie, just before
that started, said,
"Now, where is the Aufidius?"
And everyone looked
around, including myself,
and until the finger was pointed at me,
and I was told that I was playing Aufidius
and my agent had just
misheard over the phone,
the first citizen, Aufidius.
They have the same sort of rhythm.
And I suddenly found
myself playing what was
turned out to be practically,
well, the second leading part.
At the end of Coriolanus,
when his rival and dear friend
slaughters him, Aufidius
expresses his deep regret
that he's killed his best friend.
And that's normally played as ironic.
And Guthrie said, "No, be truthful.
"You killed him, you needed to kill him,
"you had to kill him, you couldn't
"stop yourself killing
him, and you do immediately
"see the other side of the situation.
"So that's what you must feel.
"You must turn on a sixpence."
And he encouraged me to wail
deep, deep subtle grief.
Cry that wasn't written by Shakespeare.
It was a moment I dodged
in all the rehearsals.
But I knew that I was going to
have to do it at some point,
and at the dress rehearsal, I
tried to do it and couldn't.
And Guthrie came down the aisle wrapped up
in a scarf, he had a cold.
And said, "lan, you have to do this.
"You have to persuade the audience.
"These are people who are
living at the extremes.
"You have to be heartfelt and you have
"to be utterly committed
and let's do it again now."
(dramatic music)
And I did and found I could
for the first time, perhaps ever,
is to dare, risk, be carefree,
to be unembarrassed,
to be bold, not be shy, to know,
or at least take advantage,
of the fact that in that
moment, you are in charge.
However useless your
life outside might feel
as that's happening, you're
doing Shakespeare's bidding
as it were.
And my dad came to see Coriolanus
and he met Turin Guthrie.
And Guthrie said, "You must
be very proud of your son."
Dad and Gladys, my stepmother,
came to the first night party
in our flat.
Dad sat on the floor, I
had never seen that before.
Chatting up the actresses, I think.
Well, they were all intrigued by him,
he was an attractive man.
Gladys thrilled to be with
some professional actors.
She's adored them since she was a child.
And three weeks later, he
had a stroke or something,
a blackout driving the car
before the time of safety belts.
The steering wheel caved in his chest
and he died a day later.
During my teenage years, I
was horrible to my father.
I wouldn't talk to him.
I just couldn't.
I didn't know why.
I saw only things that
I thought he did wrong.
I didn't see his merits.
No, I wasn't much of a son.
Well, that's because I was a gay
and if I had a girlfriend I was proud of
and wanted to show off and
talk about getting engaged,
of course I would have gone home.
Well, I was in a play which
there was a coffin on the stage.
And I went to the funeral
and I came back that evening
and did the show.
I don't think actors do it these days.
I think if somebody close to you dies,
then you take the day off.
But we didn't then.
The show must go on, you know?
I must have tried to get into films.
And yes, they didn't really want me.
I went for an interview
to play Noel Coward, just an interview.
And somebody there said,
"He's got the look of the young Noel."
And I reported this to
my agents at the time
who was rather pushy who said, "Right.
"Get yourself some photographs
to take as Noel Coward."
So back home, I asked a friend
to come and photograph me.
Impressed by these
photographs, I was called in
for a full day's screen audition.
The man directing was
the screenplay writer.
He said, "You've got the part.
"Dan Massit did it
yesterday, but no, you nailed."
Well, Dan Massit was Noel Coward's godson
and I don't suppose my audition
was ever taken seriously.
And then there was an offer to be
in a film with Gregory Peck,
who was a big star at the time.
And the snows arrived early that year
and the whole thing was abandoned.
So this young actor
thought fuck it, really.
If that's the way films are done,
I don't want anything to do with them.
So I threw myself into the theatre again.
Maggie Smith, then at the National Theatre
as a young actress, came to
see her friend Phyllis Calbert,
spied me and reported
back to Laurence Olivier
who was running the Old
Vic as the National Theatre
and said, "lf you're looking for a Claudio
"in Much Ado About
Nothing, I think he's done,
"they're mending a bicycle onstage."
I thought, this is big,
big international stuff.
This was the most famous
theatre troupe in the world.
I was employed to start off
by playing the young hero
in Much Ado About Nothing,
which starred young Maggie Smith
and her, I think, then
husband Robert Stephens.
Albert Finney was playing
Don Pedro, the next lead.
And I was sort of just below that.
So I felt rather overwhelmed.
Don't think I said more
than 10 words to Maggie
and they a few minutes when
we were doing the play,
I'd felt very much out of it,
although my old friends
from Cambridge days was
in the company playing
the villain, Derek Jacobi.
I couldn't keep my eyes off
Finney when we were rehearsing.
And he was absolutely as
charismatic offstage as he was on.
But again, I couldn't
feel I could befriend
such an iconic young man.
I didn't much enjoy doing it.
I was very nervous all the time.
And looking around me at
all the other young men
who were in the company at the National,
I thought if I'm going to
stay with this company,
it's going to be a long
time before I get to play
parts in which I can really make my mark.
So I left.
And Olivier wrote a letter
with typical florid language
saying he was haunted by the
spectre of lost opportunity.
I got this offer to go and
do a newly formed company
called Prospect, it was Richard ll.
And when that was a success,
we revived it for the
1969 Edinburgh festival.
And accompanied it
with Christopher Marlowe's play Edward ll.
It was a big production.
It was 2O actors or more in the company.
Simple sets, because they had to tour.
There wasn't much money for anybody.
My name's Ian McKellen.
I'm a 3O year old actor
earning 50 pounds a week
playing Richard II in a play
by Shakespeare and Edward ll
in a play by Marlowe, at
the end of a 12 week tour
of theatres in Britain.
(dramatic trumpet music)
- Alack, why am I sent for to a king
before I have shook off the regal thoughts
wherewith I reigned?
I hardly yet have learned to insinuate,
flatter, bow, and bend the knee.
Give sorrow leave a while to
tutor me to this submission.
And yet I will remember
the favours of these men.
Were they not mine?
Did they not sometime cry all hail to me?
So Judas did to Christ,
yet he and 12 found truth in all but one.
I in 12,000, none.
- My swelling heart for very anger breaks.
How oft have I been baited by these peers
and dare not be revenged
for their power is great.
But shall the crowing of these
cockerels affright a lion?
Edward, unfold thy paws,
and let their lives' blood
slake thy fury's hunger.
If I be cruel and grow tyrannous,
now let them thank
themselves and rue too late.
- [Ian] For me to be able
to play two absolutely massive parts,
established me as an actor in every sense.
- Sweet Spencer, we adopt thee here.
And merely of our love,
we do create thee Earl of Gloucester.
- [Ian] I was the leading,
young leading man.
I got the pick of the parts.
You know.
Although I wasn't really aware of it,
I suppose I had become a young star.
(upbeat music)
- Ian McKellen.
- Ian McKellen.
- British actor Ian McKellen.
- I think he's going to be
a very important star.
- [Woman] One of his
country's best actors.
- [Man] A man said to be
the leading classical actor
of his generation.
- [Reporter] McKellen could
earn considerably more
by staying permanently in
London or going into films.
But he prefers to go out on tour.
- I can't go through the stage door,
which is where the actors
and other theatre workers go
of any theatre anywhere
without being excited.
Because there, I'm in this secret world
that the public know nothing about.
I relished, as a young man,
being able to fill those
theatres and reach people.
The audience could forget where they were
and just concentrate on the relationship
that we were having.
I felt that I could almost touch them,
at least I could with my voice.
My professional life is
devoted to strangers.
I'm in the company of
strangers all day long.
They're potential friends.
I mean, I've had two or three stalkers
for want of a better word.
A young lady who I had met
at a stage door no more
than that, came into a rehearsal
room when I was in London,
picked up a glass ashtray, and broke it
against the metal heater,
and slashed her wrists,
to what, get my attention
or convey her misery
with which she associated me.
You can't really complain
when you spend your life,
professionally, trying
to affect people's lives
and their thoughts and their emotions.
It's what you've been trying to do.
You've been trying to get
involved in their lives.
To act for a long run in London
doesn't hold that much appeal to me.
It seems to me that the West End
is mainly a tourist theatre.
One doesn't really feel
that one's contributing much
to society in general from his acting
to a lot of people who
are just on holiday.
When you come to Leeds, when
you play to packed houses,
you feel that for that week at least,
you've set up your tent like a circus
and you've made some
sort of impact on people
who won't forget you and their lives
might just have been changed a
little bit by the experience.
The Actors Company was an idea that Edward
and I had had together and we began
by inviting some friends who, like us,
perhaps had been with the
big national companies.
Felt a bit remote from how
the organisation happened,
and had been keen to organise themselves.
If the play was going to be a success,
it would be because the actors
were working well together
with the director.
It's a subtle change.
Normally, a director will choose the cast.
In this case, the cast chose the director.
I was touring.
I wasn't London-centric.
It was very, very hard work.
But it revolutionised the abilities I had
to present my case at a meeting.
I've never had to do that before, really.
Well, that changed my life absolutely.
It was something I had initiated.
It seemed easy because
it was based on things
I absolutely believed in the idea
that it was only a group
of like-minded people
working closest together could
put on the best productions.
Well, you can imagine
the sort of confidence
that we all had that this was ours.
It was us.
My sense of inadequacy and
discomfort and uncertainty
I felt strongly before
I came out, I think.
I related directly towards
the first 49 years of my life,
having on occasion to
pretend to be something
other than I was or not
be honest about myself.
I was absolutely not
confident in being butch
or over-masculine and
that's probably to do
with the fact that I was
different and not interested
in women, which these sort of
characters were, I suppose.
When I look back at TV
stuff that I did early on,
or film, I am not impressed at all.
- I'm a great believer
in family, you know.
Inheriting things and all that.
- Oh really?
- Oh yes indeed, it's
amazing what gets passed on
from father to son.
And I don't just mean appearances either.
- Gracious.
- Liable to think not so bad on any terms.
I can't bear it, and I won't.
I've loved you every minute day and night
since I first met you.
Oh, doubt that the stars are on fire.
Doubt that the sun's...
Get off me.
(dog whimpering)
I'm asking you to be my wife, Dora.
If you love me even 1/10
as much as I love you,
you can't refuse me.
Dora, say you'll be mine.
Say yes, Dora.
- [Ian] And it's when we
did Macbeth in a very,
very small theatre at Stratford,
the other place with only a hundred people
scattered around the
stage, I realised that
that was the size of
theatre I most enjoyed.
That discovery in 1976 began to fit me
for television and the cinema.
- A handle toward my hand.
Come, let me touch thee.
Have thee not.
And yet I see thee still.
Art thou not a fatal vision,
sensible to feeling as to sight?
Or art thou but a dagger of
the mind, a false creation,
proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
- [Ian] That way of doing
Shakespeare is now the model
for many people, that Shakespeare belongs
in very small theatres
where you're witnessing
the dissection of a man's
mind and imagination.
- Who lies in the second chamber?
- Donalbain.
- This is a sorry sight.
- [Ian] And in a small theatre,
that's claustrophobically overwhelming,
where every detail is
available to everybody.
- Thy bones are marrowless,
thy blood is cold.
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
which thou dost glare with.
- I was able to just be, exists, alert
to the fact that it was a performance,
but relaxed in the
moment, making it fresh,
and doing it just for these people now
whose eyes I could actually look into
as I was speaking if necessary.
- And that which should accompany old age.
As honour, love, obedience,
troops of friends.
- I was part of what's now
looked back at as a golden era
of the arts, see?
A lifelong friendship with
Judi Dench resulted from it.
I loved working with her.
She's not an easy actress
to work with in one sense
in that the audience are
all in love with her.
You feel rather cut out when
you're onstage with her.
Now, Judi can always be relied
onto give you a good time,
and she's, I think, would
much rather be playing games,
silly games.
If she decides that we gotta do something,
then we all do it.
To enliven a matinee performance,
she said she distributed
little red sticking circles
that you might put on a Post-it board.
And we were each of us
required to wear one
of these red dots about our costume.
And at the end of the performance,
you would tell the group leader Judi
how many red spots you'd spotted.
John Woodvine playing Banquo knelt down
to me as king and everyone else was able
to observe that he got his
other sole of his shoe.
When we all saw it, we all laughed.
Of course, the tricky bit
is not to let the audience
know you're laughing.
Dear oh dear oh dear.
We get away with so much, actors.
I mean, the childishness of let's pretend,
let's make-believe, bang, you're dead.
We get to behave a way in
which real adults don't do
and we're allowed to do it.
And thank goodness, because it's fun.
I love laughing.
Don't do it that often.
Not many things make me laugh,
but Sean Mathias makes me
laugh, and our relationship,
which began when we met as actors
at the Edinburgh festival
in 1978, I remember
the first evening we spent together.
What we were laughing about.
(upbeat music)
If you play the leading part
in a hit show on Broadway,
there are few more alluring
prospects for an actor.
Everybody knows who you are.
Everybody thinks you're marvellous.
It's a theatre town.
If you make it there, you'll
make it anywhere, you know.
So it was terribly, terribly exciting.
And the centre of New York
was rather a wild place.
There are no distractions
of national politics
in New York as there are in London.
The main industry,
really, supporting tourism
is the theatre, is Broadway.
And you're the top of the heap.
- Ian McKellen.
- My god, you're mixing with presidents.
Almost every night, some
local celebrity would drop by.
Barbra Streisand arriving
in the dressing room with Noel Coward.
And I found myself introducing them
to the other person in the dressing room.
Do you know Rudolf Nureyev,
who was the most famous dancer
at the time.
Rudy may have flirted
with me a little bit.
I don't think I really noticed.
My name in lights for the first time.
It actually isn't that big a deal.
But you say to yourself,
oh I see, I've had my name in lights.
Winning the Tony at the end of that year,
it remains a confirmation
that that was work well done.
I think perhaps of all my
awards that that's the one
that means something to
me, because it sums up
what the year was like, number one.
And when Sean and I fell in love,
it seemed better for us
to start our relationship
of a formal nature by living in a place
that neither of us had lived in before.
So it became ours.
Well, he's been a huge
influence on my life.
A director who's also a very close friend
and who knows more about
me than anybody else.
And who loves me in a way that
he won't let me do anything
that is less than my best.
My biggest weakness of an
actor, don't tell anybody,
is if there's a scene of high emotion,
when a character's out of
control of his emotions,
you have to totally commit
to that and in the moment
delve into things that you perhaps
don't know about yourself.
And I found that difficult.
What I can't get to grips with
is the essence of the man.
And so I'm having to go back
rather in these late stages
of rehearsal to absolute
basics of what the man is.
What do his attitudes spring from?
An Englishman's home in his
castle is quite a good summary.
But it does mean, yeah,
you don't interfere with other people.
You have relationships with them,
of course, you fall in love
with them, you live with them,
but beyond that network, you
don't bother other people.
Let them do what they want to do.
Well, that is wonderful isn't it?
But if it means that it inhibits you
and that you don't express yourself
and you don't risk and you
don't stand up for yourself,
then that's not good.
- [Max] I kind of pity him.
- [Prisoner] Germagnus Hershfield?
- Oh yes, yes, I remember him.
- Berlin.
- He wanted to--
- Make queers legal.
- Yes, I remember.
- People who saw Bent,
Martin Sherman's play
about the ill treatment of gay people
in the labour camps of the
Third Reich in the 1930s
couldn't help applauding every night.
When I was interviewed about it I said,
"Oh, this was a play about
civil rights and humanity."
I couldn't bring myself to say it was
about the gay experience,
which it self-evidently is.
I'm not suddenly turning
political, as it were.
I'm not doing this play
because it says something
that I passionately believe in.
I'm afraid behaving as
a rather amoral actor
who's seen a very good
part in a very good play.
- [Interviewer] One of
the methods of the play
is the change that overtakes
your character Max, isn't it?
Who, initially, is more
concerned with survival,
later in the play does protest
and declare his homosexuality.
I mean, is that an important
aspect of the character
to you, in something about the play?
- You know, all great parts in good plays
are charting of a journey.
If Martin were to claim
that it's mainly a play
for homosexuals, about homosexuality,
he would be denigrating his play.
And that's not the case, I don't think.
What woke me up was AIDS.
- [News Anchor] The
sports council for Wales
decided to fire the AIDS carriers
from this pool and the
National Sports Centre--
- [Woman Anchor] Firemen too were worried
about the dangers.
They fear they could
contract AIDS in accidents
from infected blood or from saliva
when giving the kiss of life.
- [Reporter] 4,000 doomed to die
from AIDS over the next three years.
- AIDS was the big,
big issue of the 1980s.
It was a killer.
It was a worldwide killer.
And it killed some of my friends,
including my first boyfriend Curt.
And those of us lucky
enough not to have the virus
which led onto the disease
which led on automatically
to death, seeing friends dying around us,
felt we had to do something.
And one thing I could do was
raise money for this centre
that was being built called
the London Lighthouse.
And they needed funds badly
because they were
renovating an old school.
And having just been
doing my one man show act
of Shakespeare in America,
I thought if I put that on
in London and don't charge
for it, we could make a lot
of money quite quickly,
which is what was needed.
The money from the box
office would go the next day
to the site where it would pay the workers
who were opening up this building.
And I would go into the audience
with my bucket at the end
and get further contributions.
Carol Waters said could she have a word
and as I was collecting money she said
didn't I know anything about Section 28?
And I didn't.
But she gave me some literature
and I came back home here
and read it and immediately
called her up and said,
"What can I do to help?"
Now, Section 28 was a
mean-spirited little law
brought in as a private members bill
but adopted by the
conservative government.
- Children who need to be taught
to respect traditional moral
values are being taught
that they have an
inalienable right to be gay.
All of those children are being cheated
of a sound start in life.
Yes, cheated.
- Which said that a local authority
could not promote homosexuality.
An odd phrase, 'cause you
can't promote sexuality.
But they meant it was a
topic that should go on
not being talked about, and
certainly not in schools.
Suddenly, I identified myself,
before everything else,
as a gay man, and cared
about other gay men.
Arguing the case against Section 28,
I came out on a BBC discussion programme.
- [Interviewer] So, you would
just like to see Clause 28
disappear altogether?
- Oh yes, I certainly would, yes.
I think it's offensive to anyone who is,
like myself, homosexual.
Apart from the whole business of what can
and cannot be taught to children.
The programme would not be
broadcast for another two days
and I had two days to tell people.
They were all hugely supportive.
Said they'd known for many years.
And how glad they were
that I felt able now
to be honest about it.
The image I've often used is
of the removal of a weight
on my shoulders that I
didn't realise was there.
And it fell off.
I felt physically healthier.
And the shyness which
I had felt all my life
because I was hiding
the fact that I was gay,
found it difficult to talk about,
I could now walk in a room and be proud.
I found myself in the
company of other people
who wanted to make sure that that law
or something like it
could never happen again,
because the law was passed
and the law was changed
and we did have Section 28.
A new law which was clearly anti-gay.
I've not been angry about
many things in my life,
but I got angry about that.
And it was a fruitful
act because it was a spur
to use my methods of communication
and my ability to communicate and my fame.
Clause 28 is in part designed
to keep us in our place.
But it didn't work with me.
Well do what you can, I think.
If you want to join a
group, go and join a group.
If there's anything
you can do on your own,
do it on your own.
Do whatever you can.
And in doing that, come
out, whether you're gay,
lesbian, or straight, that doesn't matter.
We all have to come
out against Section 28.
If you have to abseil into
the House of Lords, do that.
But it's the whole spectrum of our society
which is affected by it,
because gays and lesbians
are everywhere and they must
be seen to be everywhere.
Being vocal, being
sensible, being indignant.
And if you can do it with
a smile in your heart,
we'll get there quicker, I think.
And I went to other friends
like Michael Cashwin,
an actor who had come out
about the same time as I did
over Section 28.
And he'd had the same
idea that there should be
an organisation to
prevent anything happening
like this again.
There should be a permanent lobby.
It should be a professional lobby.
It should be paid for.
Money could be raised to make it happen.
And through that lobby, we
would educate the public
at a time when the press
didn't talk about gays.
Certainly not positively.
So early on in setting up Stonewall,
it was a group, and it was
10 lesbians and 10 gay men
who eventually came
together, gender parity.
Founded on principle.
And here I was, now in a committee
hoping to make things happen.
It felt like the Actors Company again.
We were all on the same side.
And then I gave up an awful lot of time
helping to start Stonewall
and imagining how it might be
and raising funds, principle.
My contribution wasn't much.
I didn't understand the law.
I didn't understand how
to manipulate the press,
which you have to do.
- [Reporter] Sir Ian
McKellen's visit to Number 10
is believed to be the
first time a prime minister
has had an official meeting with an actor
that is for homosexual rights.
- I directed and devised The Equality Show
with Elton John and Sting
performed together for us
at the Albert Hall for free.
Raising funds for Stonewall, awareness
about the presence of gay people,
suddenly the subject matter of being gay
was in the public domain.
- In Britain, it is lawful
for men and women to have sex
at 60, but men can't
have sex with other men
until they're 21.
This, say homosexual pressure
groups, is an anomaly,
and it's time to equalise
the age of consent.
- I think the majority
of people in Britain
don't want this to become
a more homosexual society.
There has been a campaign for a long time
to try to make homosexuality
perfectly acceptable
within society.
We have it in the media.
We have it with prominent people
like yourself coming forward.
I don't think it is succeeding.
That is to say, I don't think
that the majority of people
We don't want to go down the line
of having more homosexuality
because young people are
particularly vulnerable.
The majority of people
are still very strongly
opposed to spreading homosexuality,
that they're not in favour
of persecuting homosexuals.
- Well, you're repeating yourself.
And again, it's the view of the majority
against a minority and I don't approve it.
But do please read the BMA report.
And your idea that somehow
people of 16 and 17
are vulnerable, was that your word?
Undecided about their sexuality.
No, sexuality is fixed.
Everyone agrees, which is why
the BMA has changed its mind,
before puberty.
Now that's not to say that young people
are not confused about their sexuality,
and no wonder when they
hear, with respect,
About it, and didn't walk about
in the streets protesting
that they were gay.
You know, it took me 49 years
to be honest about myself.
And your arguments seem to be in favour
of people being gay but
not talking about it.
Let's keep it to themselves
and don't spread it.
No one wants to spread it.
It exists in society.
Always has, always will.
It takes two heterosexuals
to make a homosexual.
And so it carries on.
Why not just be at ease with it?
Admit there is a variety of sexuality.
I'm not trying to stop you have children.
I'm not trying to do
anything to disrupt anyone.
I just want some freedom for myself,
and that's the argument
I make on the behalf
of the 16 year old that I used to be.
And if I became known as that gay actor,
I didn't mind at all.
I was a communicator, I was
an actor, I was a performer.
And I felt I had found my
place in British society.
I didn't have sex until
I was an undergraduate
and I was just finishing
Cambridge when I fell
in love with a beautiful boy from Kansas
who was about to become
a professional actor.
Curt and I and at last I felt
I had joined the human race.
But not entirely,
because still we didn't
talk about being gay.
The idea of gay politics or any advance
in gay rights just wasn't on the cards.
And we were forced to live
in this odd no man's land
of loving where you could and
no clubs, no bars, nothing.
And one of the reasons I
became a professional actor
was that I'd heard that
there were gay people
in the professional theatre.
(audience laughing)
And it turned out to be the case.
The trouble about looking
back on even your own life
and who knows it better than
one's self, and I get it wrong.
My impression was that I always wanted
to be a theatre actor and I was
happy being a theatre actor.
I had no ambitions to become a film actor.
Well, my friends tell
me that wasn't the case
and I was always bellyaching
about why has Tom Courtney
got this part, why is
Anthony Hopkins in films now?
Why can't I be...
I think I would judge the films I've made
as before Richard Ill and after.
After I had the confidence.
When we were doing King Lear
and Richard Ill in America
over I think five or six
cities across the States
on the suggestion of Richard
Eyre who had directed the play.
When I asked him, "Couldn't we film it?"
I started writing the film script.
And I had to start being a film producer,
something I had never done before.
And will never do again.
It took two years of persuading people
that even on a limited
budget of $6 million,
we could ever make the money back.
I used to get very, very
nervous on a film set
because of my insecurity
of not having done much film-making.
In preparation for a rather
nerve-wracking business
of starring in a movie, I visited,
as I put it at the time,
other people's films.
I just got to see how it worked.
What it was like to be
in front of the camera.
- We haven't got any
business done tonight.
- [Stephen] Meet John
Profumo, Minister for War.
- One day, I suddenly
realised all these people
behind the camera who had made me nervous,
were all there not to observe
and criticise and comment
behind their hands, but to help.
The director, looking.
The cameraman, looking.
Sound man, hearing.
Makeup, checking.
Costume people, looking.
All with their own
expertise, all contributing.
And you're just the
centre of their attention
because everybody wants
you to get it right.
Everyone is supportive.
They're not being critical.
They're not observing, they're part of it.
And that was a revelation.
And now I find being on a studio one
of the most comfortable places
because everybody wants it to be good.
Everyone's there together doing it.
And I thought before they
were the enemy really,
rather than the friend.
And the camera, well,
you just forget about it.
You can't forget about it
but you know it's there
but it's another friend.
The rest was easy because
I knew the part backwards.
I knew what the production should be.
I'd helped in the casting.
We had a wonderfully strong cast of people
who were very experienced in Shakespeare.
And who were intrigued by the
idea of putting it on film.
Richard Ill comes out, I'm
playing the leading part.
I've got a credit as producer
and as screenplay writer.
And it got good reviews
so oh hello, Ian McKellen,
does Shakespeare on film.
Oh, he's a film actor.
- Why I can smile and
murder while I smile.
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears
and frame my face to all occasions.
And therefore, since I
cannot prove a lover,
I'm determined to prove a villain
and hate the idle
pleasures of these deaths.
- Theatrical performance is appropriate
because he's a theatrical
showoff, Richard III.
So a certain presentation was appropriate.
Same with Magneto to a certain extent.
Gandalf's a bit of a showoff as well.
Those are the parts that I'm
perhaps the best at playing.
- Thank you.
- The pleasure is mine.
James Whale.
- James Whale, I found a
very easy part to play.
We had to shoot so much footage each day
in order to get through in the time
that the investment could buy.
At the beginning of a long
speech that I was delivering
to Brendan at the end of a long day,
I think with about half an hour to go
So that work has to stop,
the director Bill Condon
said to me, "lan, that's the situation.
"And you've probably only got time
"to do the speech twice
and it's a long speech.
"You might want to do it more than that.
"If you do, just keep speaking.
"If you stop and come
to the end of the speech
"and I say cut, that'll be the signal
"for the plugs to be
pulled and for work to stop
"and you'll never get another chance.
"That's the nature of film,
it's your last chance."
Well, that's how I got through the speech.
I did it a number of
times and I didn't stop.
- And you just sit there.
You let me talk.
Yes, the poor old man you think
that I'm the crazy old poof.
Why are you here?
Let's get this straight.
What do you want from me?
- I want to be a model, remember?
- Well of course I remember.
What do you think I am, so fucking senile?
- Mr. Whale?
- How I could've been so stupid, stupid.
- Mr. Whale, you all right?
- What was I thinking about?
- The day I was nominated for an Oscar,
I was playing in a repertoire of plays
for the West Yorkshire
Playhouse, which is in Leeds
in the North of England and I had to do
all my interviews on a telephone line
in between performances.
So I think life was going on as usual.
I wasn't making any assumptions.
The problem is, of course,
once you're up for an Oscar
or a Golden Globe even
or a BAFTA or something,
you are encouraged by
the publicity department
for whatever you're being nominated for
to do all the interviews.
To go around almost actively
touting for the vote
of the various members
of these organisations.
That's a bit unseemly.
And all the actors know it.
And they feel embarrassed even
as they're holding their hand
up and saying, "Look at me,
look at me, look at me."
(audience applause)
And the success of that
film, I think has given me
as much pleasure as
anything else in my life.
It's fun playing man who once lived.
You have more scope, don't you,
if you're playing a character
that is entirely fictionalised.
I thought, at the time, I
wasn't very good as Magneto,
and I've had that confirmed
for me seeing the films.
If you look at the comics,
Magneto is usually drawn
from a low vantage point.
His legs wide apart.
A superhuman body of
muscle and sinew and power.
But then there's me, Ian
McKellen, who (chuckling)...
I did ask for a suit that was made for me
which had false muscles in it
and they used to put that on
diligently each day to
give myself wide thighs
and calves and pecs.
Becoming cartoon characters isn't easy.
And we weren't helped by the costumes
in which were costumes that fitted a film
rather than fitted the
outrageous nature of the story.
- Mr. Laurio, never
trust a beautiful woman,
especially one who's interested in you.
- Those stories mean something,
and I think that's what separates our,
perhaps, X-Men from the other comic books.
Superman, the Hulk, Spider-Man,
I'd say even James Bond,
are all the same people.
Wimps who change their underclothes
and become superheroes.
Discover their inner life.
That's not Magneto.
Magneto is a political
warrior, clear-sighted,
pained, anguished, determined character.
Really well worth playing.
And in any civil rights movement,
there is an argument between
the Magneto character
who says we bloody well
fight to the bitter end
and are proud of our
difference and if necessary
we'll be violent in our
own defence, a sense that,
perhaps, our difference makes us superior.
Well, that may be the Malcolm
X view of the black situation
or Martin Luther King the Professor X,
Patrick Stewart's character,
who says let's learn
how we can contribute to
society, be a part of it.
Fit in.
Be proud of ourselves but
care about people in society
beyond ourselves.
So, those are stories worth telling.
It's not just adventure.
It's not just fantasy.
- The war is still coming, Charles,
and I intend to fight it,
by any means necessary.
- And I will always be there, old friend.
(dramatic music)
- Storytelling is so
basic to human activity,
as I suppose there isn't
a nationality in the world
in which young children
aren't told stories.
And stories bring human beings together.
- [Frodo] You're late.
- A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins.
Nor is he early, he arrives
precisely when he means to.
- It's one of the things
I enjoy most about film
is the reality of the set.
In the theatre, it's all pretend,
it's all make-believe, it's
all hardboard and canvas.
Nothing what it seems,
which has its own delight.
But you're on a set in Lord
of the Rings, and there it is.
One day, we were lifted
up in a helicopter.
I think I was the only
actor, the rest were doubles.
And certainly the pony wasn't a real pony,
it was a boy and his
girlfriend, that double.
They had a hard time
because we were dropped
by the helicopter onto
virgin snow on a high ridge.
And you see this poor pony
try to walk very, very slowly.
Fall over into the snow.
And we were abandoned by the helicopter,
in which was a camera,
and they filmed our progress up the ridge.
I think only once because
we had left our footprints
in the snow and therefore
couldn't do it twice.
As we're going longer and I'm
going snow up to my knees,
with a perilous drop on one side
and a bit of a peak at the
other, I could be on Everest.
It's about as far away from
green screen as you can get.
We were there.
Constantly, we were there.
And you ask any of the actors,
there were other locations.
I remember in The Hobbit other locations
we were, again, lifted up by helicopter.
I had to spend a day in the sunshine
with a fantastic view
over some lake or other
and surrounded by mountains.
It was the lap of luxury
in the wildest of settings.
I was doing an early scene
when all the dwarves,
small, plus Bilbo, small,
arrive in Bilbo's house,
and big Gandalf is there too.
So I had to look bigger
than the rest of them.
We rehearsed the scene.
I met a group of actors
who I didn't really know
in full makeup.
I then left their set
and went into my own set
which was made of green so
that it could be removed,
and a camera mirrored, it was
then slaved, is the phrase,
to the camera that was photographing
the dwarves at the same time.
So these cameras moved at the same time.
Their lenses moved in and out.
Mine was done by a robot.
It was just me and a moving camera.
Where should I look?
'Cause I'm meant to be talking to people
who are on another part of the studio.
Well, they'd obligingly put photographs
of each of the actors on stands.
And whoever was talking,
the light flashed.
The trouble was that these
were photographs of the actors,
not of the characters that I had just met.
I didn't know who anybody was.
That was green screen with a vengeance.
And at the end of the day, my head fell
so that my mouth was very
close to the microphone
which was hidden in my
costume and I said to myself,
"This is not why I became an actor."
And I was quite tearful.
This was broadcast
across the entire studio.
I honestly cannot remember what this
has to do with the story at all, so...
- [Peter] You don't really need to.
- All right, so I'm just
looking vaguely apprehensive.
- [Peter] Vaguely apprehensive
and weary at the trees.
This is potentially your first
shot in Return of the King.
And action.
(eerie epic music)
- There are very few
actors who have been in two
what are called franchises, two series,
popular, very popular movies.
I was ready for it.
I wasn't phased by it.
I was in my 50s or even older.
On gay issues, I had been a spokesperson.
Now I could be a spokesperson
for the films I was involved in.
I was used to doing interviews.
I was used to making the case.
So that was a bit of
luck not to become famous
and successful in films
when I was too young
to quite know what I was doing.
And very pleasing to me that
it was an openly gay man
who was playing Gandalf,
an openly gay man who was playing Magneto.
There it was, everybody knew.
A few people said we can't
have Gandalf the Gay,
but apparently you could.
Not that I played him gay.
He's 7,000 years old,
I think sex was a thing
of the past for him.
What I'm not good at is
doing what I'm doing now
which is trying to not edit myself.
Not edit what I'm saying.
Though of course we do.
Just before we speak, we
think what we're going to say.
But really, I do.
And sometimes I pause and think,
hm, what would be the
best way to put this.
And it took, I think,
doing a comic version
of myself in a sketch
written by Ricky Gervais
and Stephen Merchant, his writing partner,
for their series Extras.
They wrote a comic version of myself,
a pompous actor, very pleased with himself
and probably some sonorous
tone came into my voice
and I talked about the
difficulties of my job
and all that sort of thing.
- How do I act so well?
What I do is I pretend to
be the person I'm portraying
in the film or play.
- Yeah.
- You're confused.
- No.
- Very simple, case and point.
- I was so alarmed at how
stupid and comic I was
with the slightly
exaggerated version of myself
that I realised that often
when I had been on chat shows
trying to be myself, what I had been
is an exaggerated version of myself.
The man who knows it
all, the man who's wise,
the man who's been there, done that.
Now I'm trying to just speak to you.
Oh, here comes Ian McKellen.
Now, what side of Ian McKellen
am I going to present?
Am I going to talk seriously about gays,
in which the case I must drop
anything that looks unnatural.
Am I going to talk about
the film or play I'm doing,
which I'm hoping to
persuade people to come see?
I must convey my enthusiasm
and I must also try
and enthuse them, but who is them?
Who am I talking to?
It's a puzzle.
But if you've got a message,
it's a puzzle worth solving
and coming to terms with.
- [Interviewer] And mark it.
What are the things that
you think about the most?
- Death.
Every day-
I think about how it might come about.
I would think about
how it would come about.
It must be that feeling,
oh I reckon, I'm really
going to sleep now.
Yeah, well, you can, forevermore.
You can imagine that
being quite attractive.
Particularly if you're in pain
or you've lost your reason or something.
I renovated my house recently
and I put in an elevator
that was fortunate, room for a lift.
And I don't use it as yet, but it's there.
Otherwise, I think am I
going to end up in a hospice
or a hospital, or a geriatric
ward, or an old people's home?
Who's going to look after me there?
I don't have family.
I don't have any dependents
who are going to look after me.
So I have to sort of organise that myself.
The other day, Sean Mathias,
who is one of the executives
in my world said, "Look, when you die,
"we're going to have
to organise a funeral,
"but I don't know what to do.
"So would you please sort it out?"
That sort of turn.
Well, I had an evening to spare and I did.
I had the most enjoyable
evening of (chuckling)
my wish list of what should happen.
Initially, my funeral,
and then my memorial.
I want no religion at either event.
And I would like the
memorial to take place
in a celebratory way, in a theatre.
Free admission.
And I want a lot of beautiful people.
I don't want anyone who didn't know me
who was in it to be paid.
And I thought I might like it to end
with one singular sensation
from a chorus line.
When I finished this I thought,
oh, I'd love to go to that funeral.
So, I hope I might arrange a
dress rehearsal before I go.
You're not told that, when you're young,
that when you're old, you
think about death all the time.
But I think it probably means
as I've noted with people
I've seen die, that they're ready.
As I see other people getting
decrepit and unable to work,
I think, well, that may well happen to me.
And when it does, there's
not much I can do about it.
But in the meantime, why
deny myself the pleasure
of rehearsing a play?
- What am I to say?
gay I am happy.
- I am happy-
- So am I.
- So am I.
- We are happy-
- We are happy-
What do we do now that we're happy?
- Of all the methods of telling stories,
the one which the storyteller
is closest to the audience
is in what we call live theatre.
Well, I don't think I've ever
been away from it, really.
I've never imagined not doing a play again
at the earliest opportunity.
And when Godot ended, as
we bowed to the audience,
thank you, thank you for coming,
hope you had a good time.
Thank you, thank you.
And I started to cry.
- [Friend] It's all right, it's all right.
- I feel that's my last
performance on a stage ever.
- That's silly.
- No, god.
No, darling, thank you so much.
Thank you so, so much.
The end of a play has been
so intense, it's a family.
A family has forged itself.
A group who trust each
other, who want to be
in each other's company,
who collectively are
taking responsibility.
And then it stops.
Your life seems to be
pretty meagre in comparison.
Mine does.
Now, I haven't brought up children.
I haven't had one constant
partner who I've been trying
to nourish a relationship
with a family life.
Which, probably, is more
satisfying than anything else
you can possibly do.
I don't have that, so I maybe invested
what's needed to have
kept that situation going
into my work, perhaps.
I am baffled how anybody can
bring up children and act.
Because acting takes everything out of me.
I don't seem to have anything left.
- Sir Ian McKellen was in Gloucestershire today
helping pupils put together a play
about homophobic bullying.
Students from across the county were there
to learn some hints and
tips from the master.
- What takes up quite a lot of time
is visiting schools, at the moment.
I tell them about my life
and a child as a gay boy.
A trend seems to be rather
people in their early teens
don't want to have labels
because they don't find them relevant,
that they want to be themselves.
That's their label, me.
And it's occurred to me that
the label I put on myself
as being gay is actually a label,
although it has a new name
now, it used to be queer,
that other people have put on
me, why should I be defined
by my sexuality when anyone
who's straight isn't?
I now understand.
So perhaps I shall stop being gay.
Perhaps it's time I stopped
talking being out of the closet.
Remember, that's all in the past.
So when you're with young people,
you realise, even though you are old,
you do have out of date attitudes.
And how would I discover
that if I didn't meet them?
So, I go along and the part I'm playing
is of concerned older
gent who likes what I see
because when I was their
age, it didn't exist.
Well, that's not true anymore.
So I tell them what it used to
be like and their jaws drop.
And of course, I go along as
the man who played Gandalf.
And the first thing I say to them,
and you know, I've polished
this little routine that I have.
If you don't do your revision properly,
do you know what will happen?
- What?
- What will happen?
- You shall not pass.
(cheering and applause)
And you know, little
Ian McKellen who thought
he might want to be an
actor, who enjoyed acting,
never thought that actually
the real centre of his life
was nothing to do with acting at all.
Well, that's what Roger Allam
or Mike Gambon or Judi Dench,
Maggie Smith, Martin Alpers,
would say about their lives,
but they'd be referring to their children.
I'm in the company of
strangers all day long.
My professional life is
devoted to strangers.
I think those of us
who don't have children
have a (sighing)
need to feel that some part of our lives
are just given to the next generations.
It's very appealing if a
young actor knows something
about what I've done in the past
and if it's had some
impact on them in some way.
Ed Norton tells me he
decided to become an actor
when he saw me do my
one man Shakespeare show
in Washington D.C.
And Michael Brambidge, a big
producer and director now,
decided to become involved in theatre
when he saw The Twelfth Night
that I had set up
and toured for the RC.
That's lovely.
It used to be that it was my
secret, my life, my profession.
I found it difficult to
talk about, still do really.
Although I'm coming on now.
If I know about anything,
and I don't, I can't cook.
I can't run my finances.
I'm not an expert on anything
except this acting business.
And I can't even talk about that
because what I do is very personal
and I'm in with a group of people who
are all doing the same thing
and they have been the
most wonderful friends
and lovers and protectors and guides
and anything you could
want from a human being,
I've found in working in
the theatre particularly.
And now, I'm a senior
member of this large troupe.
(dramatic music)
- [Gandalf] You shall not pass!
- And isn't it funny,
these visits to schools,
my sister was a teacher.
Her husband was a teacher.
My uncle was a headteacher.
Both grandparents were preachers.
My father was a lay preacher.
I'm one of them.
It turns out.
Trying to change the
world, make it better.
(upbeat dramatic music)
And I wasn't in Harry Potter.
Though sometimes they say they
think I played Dumbledore.
And sometimes I think I did.
Oh, you know what it sounds
like, is this an obituary?
I'm still alive, I'm still here.
What sort of music do you like?
You what?
I say indie pop-
I don't know what it means.
I think one thing I might
say to young Ian is you know,
you're quite attractive.
I was.
I didn't know.
Nobody ever told me.
(phone ringing)
In fact, I thought on my 80th
birthday one of the things
I might get myself would be an orchestra.
Just for the day.
Playing only tunes I knew whilst I sang.
Wouldn't that be fun?
I've had most of my haircuts
done for jobs, you know.
Somebody I don't know and
it probably not very good
at the 'yob comes and cuts my ha.
Thank you.
And I wasn't nominated for Mr. Holmes.
I was a bit disappointed.
Because I thought it was sort
of acting that they
might have appreciated.
And I said, "Who wins these SAG Awards?"
And I looked it up on Google.
Ran through all these famous actors.
Oh, Ian McKellen, oh.
I won a SAG Award.
I had forgotten.
Well, Joe, I am bewildered, but
I don't know what we're doing
or what you're doing.
Life goes on and life
stops and then, you know.
But if I can help somebody...
If I can help somebody
As I pass along
Then my living will not be in vain
Yeah, well that's about it, isn't it?