Sir Ian Mckellen
You may not have heard of our focus for #FilmJourneys today – he’s not had much of a career; hardly been in anything on screen and certainly doesn’t have a revered reputation as one of the UK’s finest stage actors. His name is Sir Ian McKellen. *turns off sarcasm tone*
FILM 1: MR. HOLMES (2015)
This delightful film plays a delicious twist on the Sherlock Holmes, which is released in UK cinemas on the 19th June, stars Sir Ian as a ‘real-life’ Sherlock. The premise is lovely – he is the real Sherlock upon whom the books and films have been written about – with what he describes as ‘considerable embellishment’ from Dr Watson.
The film is based on a novel, (A Slight Trick Of The Mind), and, along with Sir Ian, stars Laura Linney, (THE TRUMAN SHOW), Roger Allam, (V FOR VENDETTA, THE BOOK THIEF and radio comedy CABIN PRESSURE) and Frances de la Tour (RISING DAMP, HARRY POTTER).
The plot concerns centres around the now, long-retired Sherlock Holmes, aged 93, who lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her young son, Roger. Holmes reflects on his life while writing in his journals, tending to his bees, and dealing with the deterioration of his once incredible mind. The film, like the novel, uses flashbacks to reveal events of the past, when he was still at the height of his fame and mental ability at his Baker Street consulting rooms, and during a visit to Japan.
The main delight in this film is Sir Ian’s performance. It’s a study in subtlety, using light humorous touches to lift the whole proceedings form your average crime-drama.
Sir Ian recently gave an interview to the Museum of London, for their Sherlock Holmes exhibition, where he described Holmes as, “…the daddy of them all”, (fictional detectives).
FILM 2: All the X-Men films (various)
In stark contrast to the likely audience for MR.HOLMES, I’m going to collect up all the X-Men films – where Sir Ian McKellen plays the anti-hero Magneto. I say anti-hero because essentially, the character believes that what he is doing, what he is fighting for throughout all these movies is the right thing for his kind … mutants.
What do you do when you’ve got one veteran of stage and screen cast as your main antagonist? Cast another as your hero; in this instance it’s Patrick Stewart playing Professor Charles Xavier – or Prof X. The films really crank up the dramatic tension when these two are at loggerheads; such as in their iconic chess scenes, which echo their real-life battle of wits.
The X-Men films, and I’m talking about the main line of X-films – not the character spin-offs – are a cut-above your average super-hero movie. The combination of director Bryan Singer and these legendary actors McKellen and Patrick Stewart, that really elevate proceedings.
As an example, for the second film Ian McKellen worked with screenwriters to make the scene in which Bobby Drake (who plays Iceman) tells his parents he is a mutant to look more like a common gay ‘coming-out’ scene. Taken out of context that sounds like a gimmick, but within the story line of the films – where mutants are ousted, hunted and sidelined – it makes perfect sense.
All films feature great action scenes and the through-story that follows from film-to-film for both Patrick Stewart, and McKellen’s Magneto is a nice touch that doesn’t happen enough in these kinds of sagas.
McKellen last played Magneto in 2014s X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST; which included a time-travelling element to allow the older Magneto and Prof X to meet their younger counter-parts, (played by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy respectively).
There have been a couple of entries in the saga that were less well received; but McKellen’s performance is worth the running time alone.
FILM 3: APT PUPIL (1998)
There is a connection between this film and McKellen’s role as Magneto in the X-Men films. Magneto is a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust and saw, first-hand what happened in the camps. In Apt Pupil, Sir Ian plays Arthur Denker who, it turns out, is actually a fugitive Nazi war criminal, (real name Kurt Dussander). His real identity is discovered by high school student Todd Bowden, (played by Brad Renfro – SLEEPERS, GHOST WORLD). The boy befriends the German, but to what end…?
Bowden, (the teenager), is obsessed with Nazism and acts of the Holocaust, and persuades Dussander to share his stories, and their relationship stirs malice in each of them. This film was based on a Steven King novella and is directed by Bryan Singer. It was mildly successful on opening; however has gained a following subsequently. Both of the main actors won awards and McKellen is on top form in a part he himself described as “a nice, meaty part … and difficult”.