Ian McKellen has been honored with more than 40 international awards for his performances on screen and stage, most recently the Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Actor 2008 for King Lear.
Born and raised in the industrial north of England, McKellen started acting professionally in 1961. After graduating from Cambridge University and serving a three-year apprenticeship with regional British theatres, he rapidly established himself as the leading actor of his generation in Shakespeare and other classical plays in London.
His legendary performances as Shakespeare's "Richard II" and Marlowe's "Edward II" stormed the 1969 Edinburgh Festival and were televised. In pursuit of the ideal theatre ensemble, he was a founder/member of the Actors' Company. As leading man for the Royal Shakespeare Company, he played Macbeth opposite Dame Judi Dench, as well as Romeo, Iago and Toby Belch, and in plays by Brecht, Chekhov, Ibsen, Jonson, Shaw, Stoppard, and Wedekind. He has regularly starred at the National Theatre, most recently in "Peter Pan.”
McKellen also works regularly on stage in the U.S.A. On Broadway, he won every award for his performance as Salieri in Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus." More recently he starred in "Dance of Death" and hosted "Saturday Night Live." He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2005. At Brooklyn Academy of Music, he made his debut in 1974 as Edgar for the Actors’ Company’s “King Lear.”
McKellen has also worked extensively in television; as Stephen Frears' "Walter," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," "And the Band Played On," "Rasputin,” “Cold Comfort Farm" and in the longest-running British soap opera "Coronation Street.”
McKellen has made more than 40 movies including Magneto in the “X-Men” films as well as his Oscar® nominated performance in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In 1996, he co-produced, co-scripted and starred in a film version of “Richard III”. Shortly after, he earned his first Oscar® nomination for his portrayal of film director James Whale in “Gods and Monsters”. He earned the Annie Award for the voice of Toad in the animated “Flushed Away”.
McKellen recently played Widow Twankey in the traditional pantomime "Aladdin" at the Old Vic Theatre.
In 2007-2008 he played King Lear, directed by Trevor Nunn, in repertory with “The Seagull” in Stratford followed by a triumphal World Tour and a West End run. The play was filmed for TV and DVD which will be shown in Japan, UK, and US winter 2008-2009.
In 2009 he and Patrick Stewart will tour the UK in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” directed by Sean Mathias, ending in a limited run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London.
He has been an eloquent advocate for gay rights since he came out in 1988. In 1990, he was knighted for his contribution to the performing arts. A complete biography plus occasional diary entries and regular e-posts by McKellen can be found on www.mckellen.com.