1. They'll let me play a gray-bearded wizard, but they still wouldn't cast a young gay actor - who was out - in a straight romantic lead.
2. They didn't call it marriage, although you can call it anything you want. The one thing you cannot mention is God, that is absolutely verboten. I suppose I'm a bit mean-spirited, but I really can't see why the government couldn't just say gay people can get married - that would have been true equality and so much simpler. But that hasn't been done because they couldn't face the furore. So they've passed a law that is not available to straight people - straight people cannot have a civil partnership, they have to get married - extraordinary.
3. (on "Apt Pupil" - 1998) I didn't like my character. He didn't seem very deep. He just seemed a representative of evil.
4. (12/5/03, about the cheering fans outside the Intercontinental Hotel, where he was staying in Wellington, New Zealand:) It's like several Christmases all come at once. They all love Gandalf, but I'm like Father Christmas in the shop. I'm not the real one.
5. In theatre, I have been able to take parts I didn't think I could do - you have time to rehearse and learn. In movies, they want you to do what they know you can do - there isn't the time.
6. (12/5/03, on initially thinking it crazy to release the LOTR trilogy 12 months apart) I thought people wouldn't remember what happened a year ago. But I hadn't factored that they would be so successful at the box office, and that so many people would buy the DVD and videos in between the release of each film. I had thought the whole enterprise was doomed, because of the release pattern. I'm very happy to have been proved wrong.
7. (explaining how he acts so well) Case in point: Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson comes to me in New Zealand and said to me: "Sir Ian, I want you to be Gandalf the Wizard". And I said to him: "You are aware that I am not really a wizard?"
8. If "The Da Vinci Code" (2006) had been filming in a place where it rains a lot, I probably wouldn't have done it. Quite low down in the list is "How much am I going to be paid?" I'd say I was quite cheap, but my main feeling about money is that I don't want to feel as though I'm being taken advantage of. Certainly, I'm cheaper than Anthony Hopkins. The other actors they asked to play Gandalf wouldn't go to New Zealand on that money for that length of time. I thought it would be a bit of an adventure. Tony Hopkins didn't think it would be an adventure. Tony is part of Hollywood. I'm an eccentric English actor, and there's a lot of us around.
9. (on his first theatre experience, "Peter Pan") I wasn't over-impressed. For one thing it wasn't a real crocodile and I could see the wires.
10. I can't take on all the worries of the world, you know. I can only talk about being gay and being an actor. I'll have to leave those other battles to somebody else.
11. I think it's one thing to declare your sexuality, if you care about what that is. It's another thing to start talking in public about what you do in private and who you do it with. It's not that they (my significant others) don't want to be identified as gay, but that they don't want to be identified as...with me.
12. (referring to "Lord of the Rings") How did I know what to say? They had my lines written down on a script. How did I know where to stand? People showed me.
13. Many unthinking people just don't like the idea of gays joining in their games, nor in the military and, it would seem, in the movies.
14. It's only fair that stable gay relationships of long standing should have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. I know the image of gay marriage is to some people horrific and ludicrous.
15. When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. (J.R.R. Tolkien) didn't think to mention it.
16. Try and understand what part you have to play in the world in which you live. There's more to life than you know and it's all happening out there. Discover what part you can play and then go for it.
17. I am encouraged by the theatricality of (J.R.R. Tolkien's) readings - full of rhythm and humor and characterization. Without question Gandalf is like Tolkien but then so, I suspected, are Frodo and Aragorn.
18. I looked down from my terrace hanging over the Thames one morning. It was low tide and there, stranded on the pebbles, was a four-legged corpse - hairless, white and bloated. Was it a calf or a sheep or a goat or a dog? I stared at it until the tide rose and washed it away. For 24 hours I was off my food. When I started eating again, I couldn't face meat - fresh or tinned. Overnight I was vegetarian and I have been for 15 years or more. I've seen the pictures of factory farming and followed the politics of mad cow disease and felt effortlessly superior. Yet it's not reason or conscience that keeps me off meat and fowl - and these days fish, too - just a memory of that unidentifiable, decomposing body on the beach.
19. My confidence only really peaked when I was 49 and said: "Yes, I'm gay."
20. It was wrongly assumed that I wished to become some sort of leader among gay activists, whereas in reality I was happier to be a foot soldier.
21. I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction. I mean, walking on water? I mean, it takes an act of faith.
22. I've had enough of being a gay icon! I've had enough of all this hard work, because, since I came out, I keep getting all these parts, and my career's taken off. I want a quiet life. I'm going back into the closet. But I can't get back into the closet, because it's absolutely jam-packed full of other actors.
23. If I was a star, it would be difficult to go off and do "Coronation Street" (1960). So I guess I'm not a star.
24. Godot is whatever it is in life that you are waiting for: "I'm waiting to win the lottery. I'm waiting to fall in love". For me, as a child, it was Christmas. At least that eventually came.
25. It may be my rather puritanical upbringing at odds with my inborn laziness that makes me feel guilty at the end of the day, unless I am able to point at some achievement. But this need be no more impressive than cooking a meal or going for a long walk.
26. I...think of the Bible as great literature rather than great history; great imagination rather than reliable witness. Whatever, it is not as a law book that I respect the Bible.
27. Macbeth is a very popular play with audiences. If you want to sell out a theater, just mount a production of Macbeth. It's a short play, it's an exciting play, it's easy to understand, and it attracts great acting.
28. Nobody has ever looked to Hollywood for social advance. Hollywood is a dream factory. I love the way that conservatives think that Hollywood is a bed of radicalism - it couldn't be more staid and old-ladyship if it tried. The audience don't give a blind whatever about the sexuality of actors. Gay people fancy straight people and vice-versa. It's all in the head, so what does it matter? You're not going to meet "Heath Ledger". You're not going to find out…It's the image you're looking at and falling in love with. There will be girls who go and see those two unhappy gay cowboys and go home and have fantasy dreams about them. Lovely!
29. Acting is no longer about lying. It's now about revealing the truth. People are at ease with me now. Honesty is the best policy.
30. (About the 2008 death of Brad Renfro) I first caught sight of Brad Renfro when he was kicking a football around with Bryan Singer on the half-built set of Apt Pupil in Hollywood. He was a kid having fun and that's how I shall always remember him. But he was more than that. He was a proper actor and when we worked together he was determined to be accepted as such. On set, he was blusteringly confident although it was obvious he would have benefited from training as an actor. Yet, as Todd, the disturbed teenager in "Apt Pupil", he tapped into an inner demonic world and carried the film on his young shoulders. He longed to belong in the alien world which perhaps in the end overwhelmed him. He was only 25 and it is dreadful we shan't see all that he might have achieved.
31. You always think that 70 is the end of the road: "Somebody died when they were 73; good life". You're closer to death, and you better make sure you don't waste too much of your time doing things you don't want to do. No point in saying things you don't believe in.
32. "The Lord of the Rings" is a mythology, it is a fairy tale, it's an adventure story. It never happened. Except somewhere in our hearts.
33. Personally, coming out was one of the most important things I've ever done, lifting from my shoulders the millstone of lies that I hadn't even realized I was carrying.
34. It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. And even more difficult for a woman if she's lesbian. It's very distressing to me that that should be the case. The film industry is very old fashioned in California.
35. I don't make much distinction between being a stand-up comic and acting Shakespeare - in fact, unless you're a good comedian, you're never going to be able to play Hamlet properly.
36. It wasn't exactly a mistake, but if there's anything I regret, it's probably having disguised my own native accent. Actors of my generation all tended to speak RP (received pronunciation). Of course, it's all different now and drama students are encouraged to keep their regional accents and be able to do RP when required. Even at the BBC these days there's no standardized accent, and I rather think that's a good thing.
37. That was the big effect "Lord of the Rings" had on me. It was discovering New Zealand. And even more precious were the people - not at all like the Australians.
38. Before acting, I wanted to become a journalist. I also toyed with the idea of being a chef - but that's only when people asked me what I wanted to be. In fact, I always used to say I wanted to be an actor, but I didn't ever believe that I was good enough to become one.
39. If I was on a march at the moment I would be saying to everyone: "Be honest with each other. Admit there are limitless possibilities in relationships, and love as many people as you can in whatever way you want, and get rid of your inhibitions, and we'll all be happy".
40. The thing you notice here after America is how refreshingly ordinary people look because they haven't had their chin wrapped around the back of their ears.
41. There are not many things in my life I can be absolutely proud of or certain I got right, but one of them is that I've got better as an actor. I've learnt how to do it. And I still have enough energy to do it.
42. There's no sex in Middle Earth.
43. When we'd suggested doing it, the Theatre Royal management had said: "Nobody wants to see Waiting for Godot." As it happened, every single ticket was booked for every single performance, and this confirmation that our judgment was right was sweet. Audiences came to us from all over the world. It was amazing.
44. When you were on stage, you could be absolutely open about your emotions and indulge them and express yourself in a way that - in real life - I wasn't doing.
45. If we were to draw a graph of my process, of my method, it would be something like this: Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian, action, wizard "You shall not pass!", cut. Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian.
46. If you've got Mystique as your girlfriend the fun you could have in bed - I've just imagined X-Men 3 might open with me in bed with Patrick Stewart.
47. I headed out to have a breather at the stage door, dressed in my tramp costume. I had my bowler hat between my feet and there were passers-by, and one of them turned back and said: "Do you need help, brother?" And $1 fell into my hat!
48. Acting is a very personal process. It has to do with expressing your own personality, and discovering the character you're playing through your own experience - so we're all different.
49. I tend to discourage people from calling me "Sir Ian," because I don't like being separated out from the rest of the population. Of course, it can be useful if you're writing an official letter, like trying to get a visa or something passed through Parliament. They're impressed by these things.
50. I think the point to be understood is that we're all different. I've never been a fan of theories of acting. I didn't go to drama school, so I was never put through a training that was limited by someone saying: "This is the way you should act."
51. I was brought up in industrial south Lancashire, down the cobbled road from where LS Lowry (1887-1976) lived and painted.
What do you think of Ian McKellen's quotes?
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