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Ian McKellen as Gandalf

Gandalf Ian McKellen

Date of Birth:  May 25th, 1939
Place: Burnley, Lancashire, England, UK
Height: 5' 11" (180 cm)
Education: Bachelor of Arts 1961 from Cambridge University, UK
Tattoos: a #9 tattoo in Elvish on his stomach
Parents Denis and Margery McKellen and sister Jean
Official Site: http://www.mckellen.com/

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On May 25th, 1939, in the small town of Burnley in northern England, Ian Murray McKellen was born. His parents, Denis and Margery, soon moved with Ian and his sister Jean to the coal mining town of Wigan. It was in this small town that young Ian would ride out World War II. He soon developed a fascination with acting and the theater, which was encouraged by his parents. They would all bring him to plays, those by William Shakespeare in particular. The amateur school productions fostered Ian's growing passion for theatre.

When Ian was of age to begin attending school, he made sure to get roles in all of the productions. At Bolton School in particular, he developed his skills early on. Indeed, his first role in a Shakespearian play was at Bolton, as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Ian soon began attending Stratford-upon-Avon theatre festivals, where he saw the greats perform: Olivier, Hiller, Gielgud, Richardson and Robeson. He continued his education in English Drama, but soon it fell by the wayside as he concentrated more and more on performing. He eventually obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1961, and began his career in earnest.

McKellen began working in theatre over the next few years. Very few people knew of Ian's homosexuality; he saw no reason to go public, nor had he told his family. They did not seem interested in the subject and so he saw no reason to bring it up. In 1988, Ian publicly came out of the closet on the BBC Radio 4 program, while discussing Margaret Thatcher's "section 28" legislation which would make the "public promotion of homosexuality" a crime. It was reason enough for McKellen to take a stand, and he has been active in the Gay Rights movement ever since.

Ian currently resides in Limehouse, where he lives with his current lover of 8 years, Sean Mathias. The two worked together on the film Bent (1997). To this day, McKellen works mostly in theater, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990 for his efforts in the arts. However, he has managed to make several quite successful forays into film. He has appeared in several productions of Shakespeare's works including his well received Richard III (1995), and in a variety of other movies.

However it has only been recently that his star has finally begun to shine in the eyes of North American audiences. Roles in various films,Cold Comfort Farm (1995) (TV), Apt Pupil (1998) and Gods and Monsters (1998), riveted audiences. The latter in particular created a sensation in Hollywood, and McKellen's role garnered
him several of awards and nominations,including a Golden Globe and an Oscar Nod. McKellen Continues to work extensively on stage... solidifying his role as Laurence Olivier's worthy successor,having recently scored hits in the London productions of Peter Pan and Noel Coward's "Present Laughter".

Random facts

  • He was knighted in 1990.

  • He played the vampire in the video for "Heart" by the Pet Shop Boys.

  • Originated the role of Antonio Saleri in the Broadway production of "Amadeus."

  • He had a tattoo of the Elvish character for 9 along with all the other members of the fellowship in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Is a vegetarian.

  • Played an ex-Nazi soldier in Apt Pupil, and an ex-Jewish prisoner in X-Men.

  • Was offered the part of Mission Commander Swanbeck in Mission: Impossible II (2000). He was not able to accept the role, due to a prior theatre engagement in London. The part eventually went to Anthony Hopkins.

  • Appointed CBE in 1979.

  • Played Maggie Smith in a "Weekend Update" skit on an episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted.

  • While being a guest on Jay Leno (December 26, 2003). Ian said that he had not seen X2 when it opened in theaters, he only saw it when the DVD hit the stores. He then called up Bryan Singer and asked "Is there going to be X-Men 3?" Bryan replied "Yes". In excitement Ian got Bryan Singer 6 movie tickets to go see Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

  • According to an interview, one of the last things Margaret Thatcher did as Prime Minister was to recommend him for a knighthood.

  • The original Lord of the Rings books, and X-Men comics, both feature a character named Sauron, and a book entitled "The Return of the King." The X-Men graphic novel The Return of the King is, appropriately, about the return of Magneto.

  • He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1985 (1984 season) for Best Actor in a Revival for Wild Honey.

  • He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1991 (1990 season) for Best Actor in Richard III at the Royal National Theatre.

  • When he arrived in New Zealand for his role of Gandalf in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, director Peter Jackson showed him interviews with professor J.R.R. Tolkien. As a result, he decided to impersonate Tolkien's accent in his role. Thus, Peter Jackson said that he "based his performance of Gandalf on Tolkien".

  • Began acting as a means of escape from mourning after his mother's death and constant bullying at school from fellow students.

  • He was awarded the 1989 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Othello.

  • He was awarded the 1984 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Coriolanus.

  • He was awarded the 1989 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre Award) for Best Actor for his performance in Othello.

  • Graduated with a 2:2 in English from Cambridge University.


Flushed Away (2006)
X-Men 3 (2006)
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Displaced (2006)
Neverwas (2005)
Asylum (2005/I)
The Magic Roundabout (2005)
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Pet Shop Boys: Pop Art - The Videos (2003)
Emile (2003)
X2 (2003)
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers(2002)
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring(2001)
X-Men (2000)
Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man (2000) (voice)
Copperfield (1999) (TV)
Apt Pupil (1998)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Swept from the Sea (1997)
Bent (1997)
Rasputin (1996) (TV)
Restoration (1995)
Richard III (1995)
Jack and Sarah (1995)
Cold Comfort Farm (1995) (TV)
To Die For (1994) (voice)
Shadow, The (1994)
I'll Do Anything (1994)
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
And the Band Played On (1993) (TV)
Ballad of Little Jo, The (1993)
Last Action Hero (1993)
"Tales of the City" (1993) (mini) TV Series
"Sleepers" (1991) (mini) TV Series
Othello (1990) (TV)
Countdown to War (1989) (TV) .
Scandal (1989)
Windmills of the Gods (1988) (TV)
Zina (1985)
Plenty (1985)
Walter and June (1983) (TV)
Keep, The (1983)
Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1982) (TV)
Walter (1982)
Priest of Love (1981)
Dying Day (1980) (TV)
"Amud Ha'Esh" (1979) (mini) TV Series
Macbeth (1979) (TV)
Recruiting Officer, The (1973) (TV) .
Hamlet (1972) (TV)
Hedda Gabler (1972) (TV)
Edward II (1970) (TV)
Tragedy of King Richard II, The (1970) (TV)
Keats (1970) (TV)
Promise, The (1969)
Alfred the Great (1969)
Touch of Love, A (1969)
Hay Fever (1968) (TV)
"David Copperfield" (1966) TV Series
Sunday Out of Season (1965) (TV)
Trial and Torture of Sir John Rampayne, The (1965) (TV)

All letters should be sent to:

Ian McKellen
c/o ICM Limited
76 Oxford Street
United Kingdom


Contributed by                   and Elril Galia

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