Happy birthday Ian McKellen or to call him by his full title: Sir Ian McKellen. The British thespian turns 81 years’ old on May 25th 2020, and with that milestone comes a career filled with memorable performances and exceptional acting skills.
Ian McKellen is arguably one of our greatest living actors, alongside the likes of Meryl Streep, Sir Patrick Stewart and looking a little younger, Hugh Jackman. His acting career includes film, television and where he made his debut; the stage. In this article, we’ll look at Ian McKellen’s best performances from the world of film. Without further ado, let’s begin.
#5 Cogsworth – Beauty & The Beast
When director Bill Condon from the Twilight saga was announced as the film-maker helming a live-action adaptation of Disney’s classic animation, Beauty & The Beast, I was more than a little apprehensive. After all, this was one of the House of Mouse’s most-loved cartoons and with that came a set of expectations as big as Mt. Everest.
Thankfully, the resulting film was great, helped by a very strong cast that included McKellen as Cogsworth, the cranky carriage clock. His delivery was on-point and the motion capture used to create Cogsworth’s iconic face was spot on. A small role to begin with but an important one nonetheless.
#4 Sherlock Holmes – Mr. Holmes
This little-known low-budget film saw Ian McKellen portraying brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes. The twist here however, was that McKellen’s version of the iconic character was one who suffered from Alzheimers and was growing older by the day.
The film may have flown under the radar for many, but McKellen’s performance was stellar. Beautifully anchoring the film with an understated and emotional portrayal, this was Holmes like we’d never seen him before, and for that, we had Ian McKellen to thank. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth checking out for his performance alone.
#3 James Whale – Gods & Monsters
McKellen teamed up with director Bill Condon in 1998 for Gods & Monsters. This period drama recounts the partly fictionalised last days of the life of film director James Whale, whose experience of war in the First World War is a central theme.
Although criticised for being overly-simplistic, McKellen’s performance received rave reviews, and he was nominated for his first Academy Award in the Best Actor category. Unfortunately, he didn’t go on to win this time around, but it remained a highlight in a career filled with fabulous work.
#2 Magneto – X-Men
Another iconic character and McKellen’s first foray into superhero territory. When the first X-Men film was released way back in 2000, superhero franchises were something of a risk. Fast-forward 19 years and Marvel and DC each have their own, but it was X-Men that kicked them into the mainstream.
His performance as the wise-cracking and supremely intelligent Magneto won him some serious praise from fans of the comics and those new to the stories too. He went on to play the character a further four times in X2, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
#1 Gandalf – The Lord of The Rings
One of the most successful movie franchises of all time, McKellen played yet another iconic character in Gandalf. This wise wizard was a mainstay in the series and became a fan favourite thanks to his brilliant line-delivery and magical abilities.
McKellen was also asked to audition for the part of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series but declined after suggesting he’d had enough of wizards. He did of course return to the role of Gandalf in the Hobbit trilogy that ran from 2012 to 2014.
A supremely talented man who clearly still has a long and bright career ahead of him. Happy birthday Sir Ian McKellen, thank you for bringing so many amazing characters to the big screen! What are your favourite Ian McKellen performances? Leave a comment in the box below to share your thoughts. We reply to each and every one.