Ian McKellen takes act to film, TV -- and gay rights

Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:25pm EST
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Venerable English stage actor Ian McKellen has played all the great parts from Hamlet to Richard III, but in the twilight of his career, he is finding new roles in mainstream film and TV -- and as a gay icon.

Once known for his theater work, McKellen has enjoyed recent box office success in movies like the "X-Men" series, and he found a younger fan base playing the wizard Gandalf in film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and the upcoming "The Hobbit."

Speaking before his new role in a remake of the late 1960s TV series "The Prisoner," which debuts on U.S. cable TV network AMC on Sunday, McKellen said that people who associated him more with Shakespeare than Hollywood were dismissive of his latest film and TV ventures, but that didn't bother him.

"What somebody else chooses to think about it doesn't really worry me," he told Reuters. "In my life I have done many jobs that other actors wouldn't have done, because they were in odd places for no money."

At 70, McKellen said, his acting choices are governed by a variety of reasons, including with whom he gets to work and that he no longer has a full lifetime ahead of him.

"I am running out of time and you always think you have got 20 years left when I don't know that I have. I hope I have got ten, but it might be three," he said.

ROLE MODEL

In his latest co-starring role in the six-part miniseries "The Prisoner," McKellen portrays "No. 2," the main adversary of a man trapped in a village and stripped of his identity.   Continued...

 
<p>Actor Sir Ian McKellen in a scene from AMC Network's remake of "The Prisoner". REUTERS/Keith Bernstein/AMC/Handout</p>