Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Interview: Ian McKellen

A Royal Shakespeare Company veteran who is equally at home in Gandalf’s long, pointy hat, Ian McKellen wears his greatness lightly. When we spoke this week at the Lowell Hotel, he started by raiding the sandwich plate and eating with enthusiasm while interviewing me a bit about how Slant makes money. Exhibiting a skeptical curiosity, a talent for close observation, and a healthy if self-mocking ego, all of which must serve him well as an actor, he was a delightful conversationalist, peppering his remarks with playful gestures and tart or mischievous asides.

McKellen was in town to promote Mr. Holmes, a lovely character study in which he plays an aged Sherlock Holmes who struggles with memory loss and the dimming of that great mind while trying to solve the mystery of his own prickly personality. He also talked about being a grand marshall of last month’s historic gay pride parade here in New York and about the art of finding a character’s DNA through the way that he moves.

So this was just your first time as grand marshal for the New York gay pride parade?
Yeah. I have done it before in San Francisco and Oslo. And next month I’m going to do it in Manchester, for the second time. But this was the first time in New York. This was a biggie. Actually reminded me of San Francisco, which, you can imagine, is a big one.
But this was obviously a special year. It was interesting because the march kept stopping. So I’m in the car, stopped, saying hello to people, and up close, suddenly, is the whole of humanity. There were children, old couples, out-of-towners watching the free show, gay people, clearly straight people. And they were all cheering with the same joy, because of the Supreme Court ruling, seemed to me. And the fun for me, as you can imagine, is that suddenly, just at that moment, you’re the focus of all that joy. You haven’t caused it, but you share it. So. For someone who likes showing off… But that was the remarkable thing. It wasn’t just—when we started the gay pride marches, it was just gay people. And a few people gawping. But now! The march went on for eight hours!

You know that Gandalf recently got married to Dumbledore after Ireland legalized gay marriage.
What do you mean?

You didn’t know that? They had a big wedding in Ireland.
I thought they were the same person. I thought I played Dumbledore. But apparently I didn’t.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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