McKellen at the Toronto Internation Film Fest
Ian McKellen at the Toronto Internation Film Fest

Soloman Lam writes: I should have written this a few days ago, but I’ve been busy with starting a new year of university. But here goes:

I met Ian McKellen! Here’s my story…

I go to school and live at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, and we own the beautiful Isabel Bader Theatre which is used during the Toronto International Film Festival. The theatre is practically on my front yard, and many of my friends have ushering jobs during the school year, and they also work during the festival. Last Saturday, I dropped by outside the lobby to say hi to a friend of mine who was working, and I asked him what movies were screening that night. He showed me his worksheet, and it said, “Emile.”

Now, I knew from TORn that this was Ian McKellen’s new movie, the one he did with a Canadian indie filmmaker in Vancouver right after “X2.” I also knew it was going to have its world premiere during the Toronto film festival….but I never would have through it would premiere at my front doorstep!

A sidenote here: Ian McKellen has always been my favourite actor. I absolutely love his work in Shakespeare (he is the greatest Macbeth, ever), and his powerhouse performances in films like “Gods and Monsters” and “Richard III” have blown me away. Actually, it was Ian McKellen who introduced me to Lord of the Rings; when I first heard he was cast as Gandalf, I got curious and read the books. Needless to say, I fell in love with the books and the movies and Peter Jackson….but it all began with my interest in Ian McKellen’s career.

Anyway, I lined up for rush tickets, got in, and Carl Bessai (the director), Ian McKellen (right before my eyes and ears!), and the rest of the cast introduced the movie. Then “Emile” made its world premiere. It was a very poignant film – it’s about a man who abandons his home in Saskatchewan to be a professor in England, only to come home 40 years later and face the guilt of leaving his family behind. It has that slow pace that distinguishes Canadian films, but the interesting and unconventional narrative style (Sir Ian plays his younger self in psychological flashbacks) builds to a graceful and poetic ending.

After the Q & A with the audience, I ran out to the stage door (since I’ve performed at the theatre before, I knew where the stage door was — other autograph seekers did not), and waited with two others for Sir Ian. Of course, I brought my ‘Fellowship’ EE DVD. He came out, signed some stuff for them, then came to me and signed my “Fellowship of the Ring” Extended Edition DVD! I thanked him for a beautiful performance (I should have said “beautiful performanceS,” from Gandalf and James Whale to Richard III and Edward II), and told him how proud I was that he was playing a Canadian! He laughed at my joke, smiled with those twinkling eyes, and boarded his limo. And that was that!

Of course, I’ve been on a constant high since! I just met Gandalf! And he signed my Fellowship Extended Edition DVD! On my front lawn! How exciting is that? =-)