Capable of delivering dynamic and powerful presence in every role he takes, be it onstage or onscreen, Ian Murray McKellen has satisfyingly created a long list of highly memorable performances for over 3 decades to soar as one of the most outstanding British thespians in Hollywood. Familiar with acting since he was still a young kid, Ian is the second child of civil engineer Denis Murray McKellen and his homemaker wife, Margery Lois, born on May 25, 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire, England five years after the arrival of the couple's daughter, Jean. Growing up in another town called Wigan instead, the boy then was introduced by his parents to performing arts through their regular visit to its cinemas also Frank H. Fortescue's weekly repertory company during his childhood, altogether made him deeply fascinated by the idea of how would it feel to be in the actors' shoes. This desire to take part onstage later became really hard to resist by the time he learned about Shakespeare upon watching a stage production of Wigan's Little Theatre and that of Wigan High School for Girls in which his older sister starred.
Yearning for proper medium to nurture his abundant interest, Ian finally encountered the chance when he moved to Bolton following his father's appointment as the Borough Engineer and Surveyor of the town in 1951. Transferred from Wigan Grammar School for Boys to Bolton School Boys' Division, here he was able to broaden his knowledge about theatre, joining its plays while spending summers with other students attending the school's camp at Stratford-upon-Avon to watch Royal Shakespeare Theatre's presentations in the evenings. There were also Bolton's Grand Theatre in which he could see all the shows for free, thanks to the generosity of the owner who befriended his father, and Hopefield Miniature Theatre, a converted Edwardian house where the 13-year-old kid delightfully landed his debut as Malvolio in “Twelfth Night.” Being able to garner such exuberant experience, it therefore was not surprising at all to find this youngest member of the McKellens in the end came to a determination of pursuing a professional acting career.
Prior to his journey in materializing the dream, there came for him a scholarship to St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge to study English Drama at age 18, and willingly nabbed the offer, Ian thus kept developing his performing skills persistently through appearances in dozens of its students productions until his graduation in 1961. Afterwards quickly landed his stage debut in "A Man for All Seasons" in Conventry's Belgrade Theatre, he managed to show up in the company's numerous plays before by 1962 crossed to the Arts Theatre Company in Ipswich where audience saw him for another year enacting in “Becket”, “The Amorous Prawn”, and “David Copperfield” to name few. Next moved to Nottingham Playhouse in December 1963, he surprisingly drew the attention of director Michael Codron who eagerly cast him without any single audition in his 1964 West End feature of “A Scent Of Flowers” through which his performance unknowingly attracted actress Maggie Smith.
As Smith then recommended him to Laurence Olivier, Ian subsequently was invited by the great man to play at his National Theatre Company and so found himself involved in several of its productions which wonderfully led him to more stints in various stages for the rest of 1960s, notably those of “Richard II” and “Edward II” at Prospect Theatre during the 1969 Edinburgh Festival. It was through these two classical plays that the blue-eyed guy became widely known around England, establishing him to be one of the leading stage actors of his generation, even later prompted Royal Shakespeare Company to include him in by 1974. Smoothly continued to pop up onstage, he also used some of his time to flourish his screen career he has started since 1965, mostly appearing in either TV-movie, like “Hamlet” (1970) and “Macbeth” (1979), or TV series, such as "Play of the Month" in early 1970s and "Jackanory" in 1978.
Though already considered to be a noted thespian in his homeland, Ian's name did not make sound in United States until he portrayed Salineri in the Broadway production of “Amadeus” (1980), primarily due to his attainment of acquiring a Tony Award for Best Actor (Play) category in 1981. This consequently paved his path in the country as he later was seen in CBS TV-movie "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1982), Michael Mann's thriller flick of “The Keep” (1983), plus Meryl Streep's 1985 vehicle entitled “Plenty” among others while he proceeded to maintain his stage career along the way. Gradually gained U.S. public notice, the lean-figured actor thus hit harder upon entering the '90s with a stunning enactment in TV-movie “And the Band Played On” (1993) which brought him an Emmy nomination of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special category a year later. It was quickly followed by two leading actor nods at the 1996 Golden Globe Awards and the 1997 BAFTA Awards, both for his brilliance in “Richard III” (1995).
Seemingly unstoppable to raise people's awe toward him, Ian again struck the silver screen big, this time amazingly collected triple honors of Oscar, Actors, and Golden Globes nominations in the Leading Actor category by 1999 following the rave reviews he received for his superb performance in Bill Condon's “Gods and Monsters” (1998). This fantastic achievement undeniably elevated the versatile man to the forefront of Hollywood film industry afterwards, directing him to more propitious roles by the time he welcomed the 21st century if looking from his involvement in two blockbuster movies of “X-Men” (2000) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001). The latter even won the star a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role category besides garnered him his second BAFTA and Oscar nomination in 2002, all of which surely enhanced his profile couple notches higher as a result.
Moved on to film the subsequent installments of those two movies, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King” and “X-Men 2” which both came up in 2003, Ian ran his dual career steadily for the next few years, taking parts in movies like “Emile” (2003), “Asylum” (2005), plus “Neverwas” (2005) while appearing on London stage to act in “Dance of Death” (2003) and “Aladdin” (2004). Also contributed his distinctive voice in “Eighteen” (2004) and “Doogal” (2006), he once more jumped into thriller genre to star alongside Tom Hanks, Paul Bettany, and Audrey Tautou in “The Da Vinci Code” (2006), a Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's controversial novel of the same title. Then re-teamed with the “X-Men” cast to make the second sequel of the franchise, “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), this elegant actor would still be able to be seen both onscreen and onstage by 2007 for he has already been attached to play the title role in “Magneto” as well as “King Lear” slated to be directed by Trevor Nunn.
Apart from his status as a prominent stage and film actor, Ian has also been known to be one of the very few public figures who openly states about his homosexuality which he revealed in 1988 on BBC Radio 4 during the discussion concerning British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's infamous Section 28 legislation which restricted the public promotion of homosexual causes. Feeling the need to take a stand against the planned amendment, it thus prompted him to declare himself a gay and so has remained an active supporter in gay rights efforts ever since, becoming the co-founder of Stonewall groups and Patron of GAY-GLOS. Following this, there were reports on his relationship with several men, the first being Brian Taylor, a history schoolteacher from Bolton, who had been his partner for about 8 years before separated in 1972. Next was Sean Mathias whom he began seeing in 1978 yet this also did not last long as they ultimately went their own way ten years later and neither did his subsequent involvement with New Zealander Greg Nickels.