Sir Ian McKellen, who was knighted in 1991 for his services to the performing arts, has been thrilling audiences for 40 years on both stage and screen, and has won more than 40 major international acting awards. For his performance as Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring McKellen won a Screen Actors' Guild Award as best supporting actor and was nominated for an Oscar. Since then he has starred on Broadway in Strindberg's Dance of Death and filmed X-Men 2 as, once again, Magneto, the Master of Magnetism. For the telefilm Rasputin, McKellen was nominated for an Emmy and won the Golden Globe Award. Other recent films include Gods and Monsters (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), Apt Pupil and Richard III (co-screenplay writer and executive producer). His many stage performances are legendary. He has acted in and produced classical and new plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre in London and on tour.
Sir Ian was born in the industrial north of England on May 25, 1939, the son of a civil engineer. He first acted at school and at Cambridge University where he studied English Literature and appeared in twenty-one undergraduate productions. Without any formal dramatic training, he made his professional debut in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Then, for three seasons, he worked his apprenticeship with other regional companies, culminating with the opening of the Nottingham Playhouse, where he was directed by his childhood hero, Tyrone Guthrie.
His first London appearance in A Scent of Flowers (1964) won him the Clarence Derwent Award and an invitation from Laurence Olivier to join his new National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre. This was followed by two seasons with the touring Prospect Theatre, storming the 1969 Edinburgh Festival as Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II. These played for two sell-out seasons in London and were televised as well. His Hamlet followed, and established McKellen as the leading classical actor of his generation. In 1972, he co-founded the democratically run Actors’ Company.
His work with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at Stratford-upon-Avon and in London (1974-78) included plays by Brecht, Chekhov, Ibsen, Marlowe, Shaw, Stoppard and Wedekind. His roles included Romeo, Macbeth, Leontes, Toby Belch, and Iago for director Trevor Nunn.
On Broadway, he has won every available award, including the Tony® Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (1980-81).
At the Royal National Theatre, where he is a member of the Board, McKellen’s hits include Wild Honey, Coriolanus, The Cherry Orchard, The Critic, Bent, Napoli Milionaria, Uncle Vanya, An Enemy of the People and as Captain Hook/Mr. Darling in Peter Pan. As Richard III, he toured the world from Tokyo to Los Angeles and later co-wrote, co-produced and starred in the filmed version. For that performance, he was named European Film Actor of the Year and earned a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor.
McKellen’s solo shows, Acting Shakespeare and A Knight Out, have toured the UK, Europe and the United States, raising funds for local charities.