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TV Watch: Ian McKellen On ’60 Minutes II’

March 15, 2002 at 5:20 pm by xoanon  - 

A big thank you to Quinn for transcribing the 60 Minutes II segment. Take a look at the great pics as well!

CR = Charlie Rose, SIM = Sir Ian McKellen


CR – Sir Ian McKellen has been called the world’s greatest living Shakespearean actor. But his latest role is one you wont find in Shakespeare, it’s movie star. At 62, an age when many movie stars have faded, McKellen is just getting started. He could walk away with an Oscar for his role in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s a fantasy about Wizards and Elves and Hobbits. The movie itself has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture. It has left an indelible Mark on Sir Ian’s career, and, we discovered, on the man himself.

CR – You guys were such a team that you had tattoos printed all over your bodies.

SIM – We did.

CR – You’ve got a tattoo somewhere?

Sir Ian is wearing a denim shirt over a grey t-shirt. He pushes back the denim shirt and rolls up the right sleeve of his t-shirt.


SIM – I’ve never shown anybody this, to a stranger before

Reveals the tattoo, CR leans forward to look closely at it.

CR – What does it say?

SIM – Well, it’s nine, because there were nine in the fellowship, and that’s elvish for nine. Don’t ask me what the word is.

SIM – upside down…

CR – So this is the bonding that went on…

SIM – Upside down, which is how I see it, it says Gucci.

They laugh.

Show “Is it Secret, is it safe…” then burning the ring in the fireplace bit.


CR over the clip – In Lord of the Rings, McKellen plays Gandalf a seven thousand year old wizard. The movies is based on the classic fantasy by JRR Tolkien [note: Charlie Rose is getting better at pronouncing this but doesn’t quite have it yet!] and is loaded with special effects. Like a monster made of fire [clip showing the Balrog is playing] created entirely by computers.

SIM – When I, Gandalf, was facing off this monster on the Bridge of Khazad Dum, he wasn’t actually there, I saw him when everybody else saw him, in the cinema. I had to have an eyeline, there had to be a point at the center of this monster that I could talk to, shout at. And it was, yes, a yellow tennis ball stuck on a pole.

They show “You shall not pass!”

SIM – “You shall not bounce!” was a joke I made at the time.

CR (laughing) – you shall not bounce?? You shall not do what tennis balls do.


SIM – That’s the difference between acting in the theatre and the cinema. Well it’s moments like that they come very close together. An actor is a grown up kid using his imagination. Make believe, let’s pretend that this tennis ball is a monster.

Showing some behind the scenes shots.

CR – To film The Lord of The Rings McKellen had to move to New Zealand for a year and put the rest of his life on hold. It was a risky, expensive project, shot as 3 separate movies, each to be a year apart. The first installment has already earned nearly 300 million dollars.


SIM – This is one of the most successful films of all time, and I’m in the middle of it.

CR – But why you?

SIM – I know, why me? I think because I’m cheaper than other actors of my experience.

CR – No longer

SIM – Well, we’ll see about that.

Showing Sir Ian entering the Baftas, crowd is going bonkers for him.

CR – In rainy London a few weeks ago McKellen was the toast of the British film awards. Lord of the Rings was honoured as Best Picture.


Showing Sir Ian being fitted for a new tux. CR is with him

CR – And now he is getting ready for what could be an even bigger night, complete with a new tuxedo.

Sir Ian consults with the tailor (designer?) asking what he recommends regarding having the jacket buttoned or not. (he’s laughing at himself a bit here)


SIM – Americans love a party don’t they? They love a parade and it’s lovely to join in. I feel I’m an outsider who’s been allowed inside. It’s of course very alluring when your friends turn out to be Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. People you don’t normally think of yourself as being an equal of (looks kind of bashful saying this.)

CR – But you are now.

SIM – Do you think so? I don’t know.

Showing Sir Ian giving a talk somewhere, looks like a school maybe.

CR – It’s hard to imagine such uncertainty in one of Britain’s most honoured actors. Noted and knighted, for nearly 50 years in theatre. He’s played the lead in hundreds productions from modern plays to the classics. He learned by watching Lawrence Olivier, perhaps the greatest British actor of all, in performances like Richard the 3rd.


Olivier hired the young McKellen to play supporting parts at Britain’s National Theatre. McKellen idolized Olivier, but didn’t work with him for long. He wanted to play lead roles in Shakespeare.

Show clips of some Shakespearean roles and film clips.

SIM – Shakespeare’s the Himalayas and if you’re gonna be a mountain climber, you’ve got to try and get up there.

CR – And you have to bring some talent. A command of language.

SIM – Shakespeare’s all words, you know what I mean? The pictures are all in the words.

CR – McKellen became interested in movies seven years ago, after he starred in a controversial adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” set in a world that resembled Nazi Germany.


SIM – Once Richard III had been made and I judged it to be good – it doesn’t matter what other people thought, I thought it was good – I wanted to do more of it”

CR – Because?

SIM – Because it was a wonderful challenge to my professionalism.

CR – So in his mid-50’s he became a student, taking roles, in effect, to learn film acting. . He was in a suspense movie by Stephen King, acted the villain in “X-men,” based on the popular comic book, and received an Oscar nomination for his role as an aging film director in “Gods and Monsters.”

That movie brought him one step closer to what he really wanted: to act great parts on both stage and film, just like Lawrence Olivier. In fact, McKellen’s admiration for Olivier is so deep that when a briefcase that once belonged to the legendary actor came up for auction, McKellen had to have it.


SIM – I bid, at this charity auction, for this briefcase,because it said ‘L.O.’, Lawrence Olivier, on the outside. And I thought this would be a wonderful thing to have – to carry my own scripts in it. But bidding against me was the singer, Sting, and his wife, Trudi Styler. And so I had to give up bidding against them, as their resources were more considerable than mine. And they – they won. They got it.

The day after I didn’t win the Oscar for “Gods and Monsters,” I was in my hotel in Hollywood, not feeling sorry for myself – I’d had a great evening. But a package arrived. And inside it was the briefcase. Saying, “We’d intended this for your 60th birthday, but we thought you might need cheering up today.”

CR – Great story, so all along they knew they were going to give it to you.

SIM – And they had added the initials ‘I.M.’ right next to the ‘L.O.’

CR – With “Lord of the Rings,” Hollywood has embraced McKellen and so have movie fans. There were lines around the block when he recently appeared at a bookstore in Los Angeles to sign autographs.

Show him signing etc.

SIM – You know I’ve had a little taste of fame and it’s fun.

CR – It says something about the power of movies.

SIM – Yeah, My only interest in that fame is that it will make producers believe that it’s all right to have me in their next movie. Of itself, it could be nothing but a nuisance, really, not to be able to go around the world privately.

Shows SIM and CR walking in a garden.

CR – But he willingly gave up that privacy in 1988 when he publicly announced that he was gay on a British radio program. Since then he says his acting has only gotten better.

CR – So why then I say, that before he came out and freed himself, we only saw Ian McLellen half as good as he could be?

SIM – You saw a wonderful technician There was something about his acting that was deceptive, deceitful, lying.

CR – A liar?

SIM – But then I was a liar. That’s what society had forced me to be.

CR – Have you thought about the fact that this Character, Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings is now and idol to a lot of young people?

SIM – I know because the nearest I get to hate mail these days is “How can you play Gandalf, you’re gay and we don’t want a gay man to play Gandalf.” It’s silly and since it came out no one’s made that point because I’m an actor. I kept saying “Shut up, I’m an actor.”

Shows clip of “one ring..” scene and then him reading the same ring in the same wonderful voice to a group of children.

CR – For all his success, Sir Ian McKellen remains down to earth. While many movie stars yearn for theatre roles to prove themselves as actors, McKellen has done it the other way around. Movie roles have made his career complete.

SIM – I do hope most of all what happens is that those who have enjoyed me on the screen will go and seek me out in the theatre, because then I’ll really give them their money’s worth.

Posted in Old Special Reports on March 15, 2002 by

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