X Men 3 Ian McKellen Interview



like coming home for Ian McKellen. For the third time, the
Burnley-born actor is sinking his teeth with relish into the role of
Magneto in X-Men: The Last Stand. The actor returns alongside his
co-stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen,
Anna Paquin, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn from the first two
global hit X-Men movies.

Brett Ratner’s stunning sci-fi film, the third contribution to
this massively popular franchise, a cure for mutancy has been found.
The discovery sparks off a war between rival groups of mutants. The
progressive Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) has once again to
confront the evil Brotherhood under the command of the dastardly

at least a decade younger than his 65 years, McKellen seems in fine
fettle. He is dressed in rimless spectacles, a dark tweed jacket, a
stripy blue shirt, grey trousers, white sock and _ nice touch, this _
sky-blue clogs. The actor, who has also featured as Gandalf in the
Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, is sporting a particularly
dashing salt and pepper moustache.

a coffee in the elegant wood-panelled library of a central London
hotel, he leans forward and begins with almost childlike enthusiasm
to tell me how delighted he is to be reprising the role of Magneto.

What initially appealed to you about the role of Magneto?

I hadn’t read the X-Men comic before, but it was explained to
me that it was an outsider story, and I was instantly drawn to that.
Also, how could I not be attracted by the idea of a great big cloak,
huge boots and the ability to fly where I want? In this latest film,
I do one of the most spectacular stunts ever seen in the cinema. I
can’t reveal what it is, but rest assured, it will take your
breath away! Also, while you don’t expect great long speeches
in X-Men, all the films are very, very stylish. They

a great look

Why has the character of Magneto struck such a chord with audiences

The demographic of our audience is young. It also contains a high
proportion of black, Jewish and gay people, who have all been
encouraged by society to think of themselves as oddities or mutants.
I hope that’s why X-Men chimes with them _ it’s certainly
why I was attracted to the idea in

first place.

So the film supports the idea that “different is good”?

Absolutely. There is a famous scene in X2, where the character of
Bobby comes out to his parents as a mutant. His mother says to him,
’have you always known?’ Similarly, in X-Men: The Last
Stand, a cure for mutancy is discovered _ mutants are encouraged to
have an injection that will make them ‘normal’. Magneto
is dead against the idea, just as I’m dead against

idea that you should try to ‘cure’ people of being gay.

What effect has X-Men had on your career?

It’s given me an immense amount of street cred. On the day
after 9/11, I walking through the smoke and the smells of New York.
There were knots of policemen everywhere. As I went past one officer,
he called out, ‘hi, Magneto’. That’s an indication
of X-Men’s extraordinary reach. Rather gratifyingly, Magneto in
the X-Men comic now has a look of Ian McKellen


What was it like filming X-Men: The Last Stand?

I had an absolute ball. I was in Vancouver for fifteen weeks and
spent most of my time outdoors. The actual filming was an occasional
interruption to our sybaritic life in the open air. We all had such a
brilliant time that if the third X-Men does well, there is no reason
why we shouldn’t make another one.

was lovely to hang out with the cast again _ we’ve all become
close friends. Hugh Jackman and I are great chums _ it was wonderful
to see him again. Vinnie Jones is in this film, too, and you’ve
got to get on with him! He’s unfailingly jolly, the life and
soul of the party. To have cred with him is quite something!

How did you get on with Patrick Stewart?

Patrick and I completely bonded. It’s odd _ although we’re
both English and have done a lot of theatre, we’ve only ever
worked together in Vancouver. When we first met, he was still feeling
an exile in LA. He loved to hear my stories about London, just as I
loved to hear his stories about Hollywood. We’re so close,
we’re the same person really!

hoping to work on his long-planned film version of The Merchant of
Venice, set in Las Vegas. I’m really interested in playing
Antonio, the only gay character in Shakespeare. And it would be a
marvellous chance to

opposite Patrick’s Shylock.

Have you found your global fame hard to handle?

No. A few years ago, a friend said to me, ‘you do realize, Ian,
when X-Men and Lord of the Rings come out, your life will totally
change?’ I didn’t know what he was talking about, but he
was right. My life has totally changed _ but in a good way.
Unbeknownst to me, it’s given me a lot more confidence.

instance, people said to me, ‘you can’t possibly appear
in [the long-running British TV soap opera] Coronation Street _ what
a ridiculous idea!’ But they were wrong. Viewers’
reactions to my role in Coronation Street last year were entirely
complimentary. I discovered I could slip into the special form of
acting required for that show. I don’t know if I would have had
that confidence a few years ago. Success in the movies has pushed me
to places I didn’t know I was allowed to go.

Does the public attention ever get out of hand?

No, I really like the fact that people are interested. I’m
rather a shy person, but I love the fact that there are very few
places now where I don’t get a really friendly welcome. Whether
it’s a classroom, a Quaker meeting hall, a nursing home or a
restaurant, people are always very warm towards me.

got used to it happening now, although it is still a very odd thing
because most people don’t have it. But it’s still a very
nice experience because it makes me feel a bit more secure _ ‘oh,
I’m going to be all right.’

I don’t have it anything like Tom Hanks does. He has to go
around disguised. He doesn’t even go in taxis anymore because
he can’t stand in the street and hail them without being
pestered. Who’d want that, having to live in a fortified castle
in Hollywood? That sort of fame is really troublesome. It’s
never been at that level for me. It’s much more manageable
for me, and really quite pleasant.

So how do you stop all the adulation becoming oppressive

I know Magneto and Gandalf are the superstars, not me. They’re

on those characters’ backs that I ride. They’re mighty inventions and
whoever had the luck to play them first would have been the
beneficiary of people’s respect. I feel like I’m their representative
on earth. People keep coming up to me and saying ‘hey, Magneto’
or ‘hello, Gandalf.’ They’re not my fans, they’re the characters’
fans. Which is fine by me because it stops me getting a swollen head!

You’re one of the finest theatre actors of your generation. Do
you ever get the slightest bit peeved that you’re being
up-staged by a comic-book character and a 7000-year-old wizard?

Not at all. Journalists often ask me, ‘aren’t you sorry that after
all the work you’ve done, you’re best known as Magneto and Gandalf?’
But that’s what I’ve always wanted _ not to be known as myself. I
want to draw attention to the characters. JRR Tolkein and Shakespeare
are the really great guys. Actors are merely the medium through which
a story happens.

That said, these roles have boosted your worldwide profile
immeasurably, haven’t they?

Oh yes. Prospective employers can now place me in a way that they
couldn’t before. The trouble is, a lot of them think I’m as old as
Gandalf _ 7000 years old. I get offered a lot of old parts, which I’m
not interested in. The other day, I was offered God _ and you don’t
get any older than that!

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