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May 25: Happy Birthday Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is turning 78 today. One of the distinguished stage actors of his time, he is a six-time Olivier Award winner, winning for everything from Shakespeare (his famous portrayal of Richard III) and Ben Johnson (The Alchemist) to modern dramas like Martin Sherman’s Bent. A few of his other Shakespeare roles have included the title characters of Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear, and Iago in Othello. He has played the title characters in Marlowe’s Edward II and Doctor Faustus, and in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, and was a Tony nominee as Salieri in the original Broadway production of Amadeus.

McKellen’s film career started to take off in the nineties, when he drew favorable notice for films like Six Degrees of Separation and Gods and Monsters. He is recognized by audiences everywhere for his roles in two big-budget franchises, as Gandalf the Grey/White in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and as Erik Lensherr/Magneto in five X-Men films. And he made many Shakespeare fans all over the world very happy when he and Richard Loncraine brought their famous production of Richard III to the big screen in 1995, with a supporting cast including two of yesterday’s birthday notables, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jim Broadbent.