Sir Ian McKellen was born in Burnley in 1939. He was drawn to the theatre from the age of three following a trip to Manchester's Opera House to see Peter Pan. At the age of 18 he attended St Catherine's College in Cambridge where he became a member of the Marlowe Society. His contemporaries included Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi.
After a period working in repertory theatres around the UK, he became a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company in 1965. McKellen performed frequently in the Royal Shakespeare Company during the 1970s and 1980s, taking leading roles in Macbeth in 1976 alongside Judi Dench.
Outside of his theatrical work he is probably most recognised for his roles as Gandalf the Grey/White in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Hobbit Trilogy, and as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto in the X-Men franchise.
2007 marked a return to the RSC and to working wth Trevor Nunn appearing in productions of The Seagulland King Lear, both shows had a residency at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. In 2009, he appeared in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot alongside his X-Men co-star Patrick Stewart at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. They would go on to reprise their roles on Broadway in Godot in 2013, the production running in rep with *No Man's Land* by Harold Pinter.
In September 2016, he and Stewart once again re-united on the West End Stage at the Wyndhams Theatre in No Man's Land. A year later, McKellen provided the voice of The Demon in the West End premiere of The Exorcist.
In summer 2018, Ian McKellen played King Lear in a transfer of Jonathan Munby’s Chichester Festival Theatre. McKellen played the role in Chichester, and told the press it was likely to be his ‘last big Shakespearean part’. King Lear transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre. For his 80th birthday, he gave a nationwide tour filled with stories, anecdotes and monologues, including a three month run at the Harold Pinter Theatre.
7 September 2016 - 17 December 2016
20 October 2017 - 10 March 2018
21 October 2023 - 9 December 2023