But he revealed his comedic flair during the Sunday night premiere of his new one-man show “A Knight Out in LA” at UCLA’s Freud Theatre.
Brimming with new material, the one-knight-only (figuratively and literally) show was a delightful hodgepodge of poetry, Shakespeare and amusingly droll memories of past co-stars such as Ava Gardner, who got her ex-hubby "Frank" to arrange for a suitable trailer for "Priest of Love."
He had the hall howling over his Queen Elizabeth imitation, especially his horrified reaction to her “lime green frock” worn to his knighthood ceremony. He even read from Roget’s Thesaurus and made it sound like the bard.
For film buffs, McKellen did a show-and-tell with props such as director James Whale‘s portrait of a very young John Derek, Gandalf’s gleaming sword, and a cryptice from “The Da Vinci Code.” But most entertaining was his blended film roles, doing bits from the fire and brimstone-spewing preacher Amos Starkadder in “Cold Comfort Farm,” crippled grail scholar Sir Leigh Teabing, the cat-petting Nazi Kurt Dussander from “Apt Pupil,” and the wizard Gandalf’s stand-down with the Balrog in the mines of Moria.
“They say all actors play only one role,” he shrugged, as the audience applauded his seamless transitions. “These are all just variations on a theme.”
After the show, which benefited The Los Angeles Young Actors Company, McKellen and friends Gore Vidal, Armistead Maupin, Annie Lennox and Trudie Styler, gathered at the Napa Valley Grille. Also on hand, his agent Chris Andrews, who just executed a real coup, snatching away McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ben Kingsley and other hot properties from ICM and taking them with him to rival agency, CAA.
But McKellen’s next gig will not be another big blockbuster movie. Instead, he’ll star in “King Lear” on stage.
“The Royal Shakespeare Company is doing all of Shakespeare’s plays in twelve months next year,” McKellen explained. “Trevor Nunn will direct "Lear," which will open at Stratford-on-Avon. Then we’ll go on that old English-speaking route: Canada, Brooklyn, Minneapolis, hopefully here at the Mark Taper, then Melbourne, Wellington, Bombay, Capetown, and finally London.”
But what about the buzz about a “Magneto” movie? The script is said to be about a young Magneto who seeks revenge on the Nazis who killed his family while befriending a young Charles Xavier.
“Ah, yes, “Magneto,”" McKellen said with a sly smile. “Well, it’s really only me saying it should be a movie, so perhaps if I say it often enough, it will be.”
But the project is listed on the Internet Movie database website as “announced.”
“Yes, but that’s only because I said it.”
Still. rumors are that Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard”) has written the script and his X-Men co-stars Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Romijn are already cast. But Sir Ian has had enough movie talk. Until he starts Lear rehearsals, this knight’s only plans are to take time off.
“I’m going on holiday, starting now,” he stated. “I’m not doing anything until I start rehearsing on January 6. I’m not drunk yet, but I soon will be!”
"Magneto" will just have to wait.
Photo Credits: Will Sir Ian McKellen bring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart – seen together at Cannes – into his "Magneto?" We’ll have to wait until after he does King Lear to find out.