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Sir Ian McKellen          

Actor & Activist

An actor and campaigner, Ian McKellen has had an exceptional career on stage and screen. His performances for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company are legendary. In the cinema he has been Shakespeare’s Richard III, the mutant Magneto in 'X-Men' and the wizard Gandalf in the 'Middle Earth' movies. On television, of late, he has starred as The Dresser and in the popular British sitcom ‘Vicious’. His next project is his second King Lear for the 2017 Chichester Festival. He was a founder-member of Stonewall UK and is a vocal activist for LGBT rights worldwide. He was knighted in 1989 and his latest accolade Companion of Honour is for his services to drama and equality.

Ian McKellen is a revered, award-winning British actor of stage and screen known for many roles, including The Lord of the Rings and X-Men series.

Ian McKellen was born on May 25, 1939, in Burnley, England, and has become an acclaimed thespian of the British stage, including his work Edward II, and a respected actor in film, which he began into in the late ‘60s. He earned an Oscar nomination for his role in 1998’s Gods and Monsters and has further cemented his iconic status with roles as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings franchise.

Ian Murray McKellen was born in Burnley, Lancashire, England, on May 25, 1939. His father, Denis Murray McKellen, was a lay preacher and a civil engineer, and his mother, Margery Lois Sutcliffe, was a homemaker. Their household, which also included McKellen's sister, Jean, was religious but relatively tolerant. Tragedy struck in 1951, when McKellen's mother died from breast cancer; the future actor was just 12 years old at the time. Grief hit the family again 12 years later, in 1963, when Denis McKellen was killed in an automobile accident.

McKellen attended the Bolton School -- of which he remains a supporter -- and his acting career began at Bolton Little Theatre. His parents and sister encouraged his early interest in acting, taking him to many theatrical productions, including Shakespearean plays.

In addition to his interest in acting, McKellen was a strong student. At the age of 18, he won a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge's St. Catharine's College, where he befriended actor Derek Jacobi.

While studying at Cambridge, McKellen joined the Marlowe Society, appearing in productions including Henry IV and Doctor Faustus. In 1961, he appeared in his first professional production, A Man for All Seasons. McKellen moved from regional repertory theaters to the West End, becoming a well-known and respected actor known for his performance range. He was knighted in 1991 for his achievements on the stage.

McKellen has appeared in films throughout most of his career, and became widely recognized for his work on the silver screen in the 1990s, following several roles in Hollywood and television films. In 1993, McKellen played a supporting role as a South African tycoon in Six Degrees of Separation. The same year, he appeared in the television movie And the Band Played On, about the AIDS epidemic, for which he garnered an Emmy Award nomination. He also starred in the major studio film Apt Pupil, based on a Stephen King novel.

McKellen's later films reached an even broader audience. In 2000, he starred in the first of several X-Men movies as the villain Magneto. In 2006, he appeared in the film adaptation of the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code. While filming X-Men, McKellen was cast as the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's trilogy The Lord of the Rings. For his work in the film series, he received the Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting actor, as well as an Academy Award nomination. McKellen agreed to reprise the role in Jackson's follow-up trilogy, The Hobbit, the first installment of which was released in December 2012.

McKellen is a prominent gay rights activist. He announced that he was a gay man for the first time on BBC Radio in 1988, although he had come out in his personal and professional lives decades earlier. McKellen co-founded Stonewall, a LGBT rights lobbying group in the United Kingdom named after the 1969 Stonewall riots. He has stated that some of his friends refer to him by the nickname "Serena."


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