25 May 2006


Ian McKellen E-Posts

30 July 2005 (Revised 21 November 2006)


From: Linda

Q: Is there any chance you will play Antonio to Patrick Stewart's Shylock? I believe he is still intending to do a film version. That would be magic casting.

A: Magic mmmmm — if only I really were a wizard. Patrick has asked me to play Antonio. But there is no start date for filming yet fixed.


From: Chieko

Q: It was a great news that you will join Donmar Warehouse's production. Why did you decided to do such a small but provocative one? I'm really impressed your challenging attitude as an actor. Anyway,I'm dying to have a script of 'The Cut'. Because I'm not a native speaker of English, and I cannot comprehend the lines well without reading script in advance. I know I can get the other scripts of Mr.Ravenhill's works.

A: We don't perform The Cut until February 2006, by which time I suspect Mark Ravenhill's text will have been published. It is a three-act play about a family's dealing with the father's degrading professional life.


From: Ted Larkin

Q: Is there anything you use to remember your lines if you have very long speeches?

A: It's a universal complaint from aging actors that memory declines as the years advance. Learning a new part every two weeks when I was 22 years old in Coventry seemed the easiest part of acting. Nowadays I have to really work at hammering the lines in.  Michael Grandage has asked the cast of The Cut (as he asks all his actors) to arrive at rehearsals knowing every line.  Mine is a sizeable part, with only six months to go. So at the moment I have that script and the screenplay of Da Vinci Code daily to hand and nightly by my bed.


From: dorinda

Q: Pooh-pooh to all these people telling you off for 'lowering' yourself, and fancy asking indignantly if you've dared to gain a little weight recently - how rude! I am studying clowning/impro for the end-term essay in my theatre perf. course and am currently waiting for a copy of 'Journey Of Man' to arrive; with added anticipation now I know you are the narrator, sir, and HAVE turned up in the Cirque Du Soleil as well as everything else (populist or not) this year!

A: I've never been a snob when it comes to good writing whether it's classical or new, tragic or farcical, theatrical or televisual. As for the weight, I've slimmed off 16 pounds and am at the gym three times a week. Good luck with your essay.


From: Becky Morris

Q: My dad informed me the other day that whilst drivin one of the local tour buses, he spotted you riding a bike in Stratford On Avon.Whether this is true or not, I dont't know but is there any chance of you coming back to Startford as the RSC is in great need of great Shakesperian actors such as yourself returning to star in some of their productions.

A: On one of my early visits to Stratford in my teens, I cycled down from Bolton where we lived up north. I do still occasionally bike around London but your dad mistook me in Stratford. I haven't ridden a bike in Stratford since I worked there in 1976 Maybe when I'm back there in March with King Lear, I should take my trusty wheels with me. Great exercise and ecologically immaculate of course..


From: Mike Rouse-Deane

Q: As a published author, when writing characters for my short story books, I often take personalities and appearance from actors, actresses and people I know. I wonder, do you prefer parts that are specifically written for you or do you like a challenge, characters that people would never associate with you?

A: As far as I know only one play, Martin Sherman's Bent, was written with me in mind. Sometimes unsolicited scripts reach me, with a letter claiming that the author wants me and only me to play in it. I suspect that is a standard letter!

I've always enjoyed the challenge of variety. Like you, I have sometimes based a characterisation on a real person who reminds me of the part I'm playing. It gives me confidence that I'm dealing with someone familiar rather than distant from me.


From: michael mccall

Q: What recent texts would you recommend to chase up regarding shakespearean acting these days. i find the John Barton book and tv series "playing Shakespeare" fab, but has there been anything else that's caught your imagination recently? as a young actor in australia i don't always get the opportunity to explore classic texts. we have become a bit burdened by exploring underworked pieces in a bid to realize who we are and where we fit and apart from john bell, everything's a bit askew for a shakespearean lover. just saw "Emile" and thought it was  some of the best screen work i've had the opportunity to see you do.

A: A good introduction to Shakespeare's verse which compliments John Barton's book is one by his colleague the director Peter Hall who in his youth founded The Royal Shakespeare Company. "Shakespeare's Advice to the Players" (Methuen paperback).  Barton is to my mind the master in these matters and of late has been heard to say that there are no hard-and-fast rules about speaking dramatic verse perhaps because he recognises that each actor's personal contribution of passion and thought is more vital than obeying the structure and rhetorical devices of the words on the page.  My own approach (as I currently prepare King Lear) is to examine the text with the help of the reliable editors the Arden edition and thereby to note the regularity and the irregularity of the rhythms which reveal Shakespeare's indication as to where he recommends the stress be placed. After that academic exercise, the words begin to sink in, so I can then get on with imagining the character who speaks them. I find it impossible to ignore where the line ends nor the antitheses and all the rest but I don't want to draw the audience's attention as to how the effect is achieved. The poetry in the verse and indeed the prose is there to help the actor and not bewilder the audience. It is after all dramatic verse and the drama is all.  Good luck and I'm so pleased you enjoyed Emile. It was never much released so all thanks to the DVD.


From: Chandelle

Q: I'll never forget your performance on tv as Edward II. Is there a possibility it will ever be available on video or dvd? I also saw you in London as Hamlet. From then on you are the Hamlet I have measured all others against. Are there any Hamlets you admire?

A: Neither Edward II, nor Richard II which I played concurrently in 1969, nor Hamlet which I also did for the touring Prospect Theatre have been released on DVD. I saw each of them recently and think they may be more impressive in your memory than in reality!

I think it's true that the first Hamlet we see stays as one's favourite, although I haven't yet been totally convinced by any of the many I've sat through. Nearest to the best was Mark Rylance for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1989.


From: Jim McCusker

Q: Will A KNIGHT OUT ever be published is some form or another? Saw it in NYC and loved it! Many Thanks.

A: I doubt I will publish it , as there are so many copyrighted extracts from writers. One day perhaps I will revive the show and then reconsider publishing it. Meanwhile my previous solo show Acting Shakespeare is available for free on this site.


From: Amanda Elizabeth

Q: I have recently noticed a heightened popularity for Shakespeare in the Park. Unfortunately, living in South Carolina, we are not blessed with such wonderful events, but I was wondering if you had ever been involved in this event? It sounds like a lot of fun!

A: If you mean Central Park in New York, I have enjoyed Shakespeare there over the years. The audience who watch for free are at least as entertaining as anything from the stage. I haven't acted out-of-doors since our undergraduate productions visited Stratford-upon-Avon in 1960. Shouting and Shakespeare don't go well together: nor do microphones or loudspeakers.



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