Adrian writes: I’ve written a short review of the ITV documentary about Ian McKellen that was shown on the 29th June. If you think it is good enough, you’re welcome to publish it on your site.
On Tuesday, 29th June 2004, ITV transmitted an hour long programme whose subject was Sir Ian McKellen. The documentary maker had followed Ian around for a year, and presented us with an intimate portrait of an actor in his prime during one of the most acclaimed periods of his acting career to date.
The programme commenced with backstage shots of the last night of “Dance of Death” in London’s West End (in which Ian starred with Frances De La Tour and Owen Teale, and which I was fortunate enough to attend, becoming a back-door Johnny by waiting for his autograph, and managing to thank him for his portrayal of Gandalf, and particularly for his vocal support of Gay Rights).
The programme then moved onto Ian’s final day of re-shoots for the Return of the King. We were treated to Ian getting made up as Gandalf the White and delivering his lines of “Now comes the Days of the King, may they be blessed….). As it was the last day of re-shoots, Ian and the crew decided to play a joke on Peter Jackson – they had created a white bouffant beehive wig adorned with pink flowers, which Ian proudly donned and then, dressed in Gandalf’s robes, delivered the line “Now comes the Days of the Queen, may they be blessed…..”. Both Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood cracked up – they even filmed the event, so hopefully it’ll make the blooper reel. Peter then gave Ian a peck on the cheek, which I thought was a fitting way to say goodbye to an actor who has for millions embodied Gandalf in a way no other actor could.
The documentary then moved onto the press junket and crowd hysteria at the premiere on the red carpet in Wellington. It was good to see the banter between Ian and the cast – with Ian commenting on Liv Tyler’s dress – she said she was going after a Polynesian princess look – which he said he thought was very apt.
In between all the hullabaloo of the worldwide whirlwind tour, Ian managed to find time to visit a school in Los Angeles whose pupils tended to come from underprivileged backgrounds, but who have cultivated a sincere love of the works of William Shakespeare. It is this shared love of the bard that connected Ian and the children and he said that he felt at home amongst them because of this shared passion.
Other highlights included seeing Ian on the set of a forthcoming film called Asylum in which he plays a psychiatrist, at home in London dealing with piles of correspondence, giving a lecture to students in Cambridge (his old university), and throughout the programme dealing openly and frankly with issues of being gay in an occasionally homophobic world.
The programme left us on a positive note with Ian gamboling on a beach having reached retirement age, (but with no intention of retiring!) – his next venture is to play a dame – Widow Twankie in Aladdin, but who knows, there’s always the prospect of reviving the role of Gandalf in a couple of years time when the rights to “The Hobbit” have been resolved and Peter Jackson feels ready to take on Middle Earth again….