Ian Murray McKellen was born on May 25, 1939, in Burnley, Lancashire, England. That makes Sir Ian 75 years old today! The actor is perhaps best known for bringing Tolkien’s wizard Gandalf to life in Peter Jackson’s films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and for his performance as Magneto in the popular X-Men films.
Sir Ian’s love of the theatre and acting began when he was a child and that interest was nurtured by his parents. The young Ian often went to plays with his parents, in particular Shakespeare plays. When Ian entered school, he began acting in school plays. Ian eventually earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge St. Catharine’s College.
In 1961, Ian had his first professional role in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional theatre, Ian made his first appearance in a production in London’s West End and in 1965 was a member of Sir Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ian performed often at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, including the title role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Iago in Othello. He returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2007 in acclaimed productions of King Lear and The Seagull. In 2009, he appeared with Sir Patrick Stewart in a revival of Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket Theatre. The two actors recently completed a highly successful Broadway run of Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land.
Throughout his career, Ian has appeared in film and television roles. In 1993, he played supporting roles in the critically acclaimed film Six Degrees of Separation, and the television movie And the Band Played On. The latter garnered him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. In 1995, he co-wrote and co-produced a film adaptation of Richard III, starring in the title role as well. He won the European Film Award for Best Actor for that performance, and received Best Actor nominations for the BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award. In addition, his screenplay received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. In 1998, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Gods and Monsters.
In 1999, Ian was cast as the villain Magneto in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, reprising the role in X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and the newly released X-Men: Days of Future Past. While filming the first X-Men, Ian was tapped to play Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. His portrayal of the iconic wizard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, and an Academy Award nomination. Fans of the films were thrilled when it was announced that Sir Ian would return as Gandalf in Jackson’s Hobbit films.
In addition to his professional work, Ian is well known for his political activism and charity work. He is a strong advocate for LGBT rights all over the world, and has supported many charitable causes through the years.
In 1979, Ian was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and he was knighted in 1991 for his services to the performing arts.
All of us at Middle-earth News wish Sir Ian the very happiest of birthdays!
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