Mckellen: playing the part

★★★★

DIRECTOR: joe a. stephenson (the alchemistic staircase, chicken)
documentary

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

From his upbringing living through the war, working through repertory and West End theatre becoming a pioneering stage star, coming out and being a leader in the campaign for equality, to his mainstream film breakouts as Magneto and Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen is one of the most loved actors of our time. 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was my generations Star Wars. My friends and I couldn't wait for the summer holidays because that meant heading to our local cinema and being transported into the world of Middle Earth. Sir Ian McKellen was a large part of Middle Earth, of course, and of the cultural world in which I grew up. So its a very good thing to be in his company once again. 

 

McKellen: Playing the Part is a tender documentary filled to the brim with the life and work of Ian McKellen and so much more. 

McKellen recounts his first memories of the theatre; of being completely enthralled with every aspect of it and knowing, from an early age, that he wanted to be a part of that world. He tells of his love of his mother, his distance from his father, and his struggle with finding his place in the world as a young homosexual. 

McKellen talks about his triumphs on the stage, both in the UK and the USA, and the beginning of his film career. I was surprised to learn that McKellen didn't officially come out until reasonably late in life and his tireless work advocating for the rights and dignity of the LGBT community.

 

Inevitably the conversation turns to X - Men and The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit Trilogy but unfortunately there isn't too many fresh insights to be found.  

At the beginning of the documentary McKellen asks if they are going to attempt to get a 'human moment' from him and that he finds it hard to just be himself in interviews, instead putting on a performance as it were to whoever the audience that he may be in front of at the time. 

Suffice to say the best moments of McKellen: Playing the Part are when McKellen lets his guard down and you see the real him and there are plenty of times when we see that. When he talks about losing friends and former lovers to the AIDs virus, his relationship with his father, the loss of his mother, and his constant thoughts about death, McKellen: Playing the Part truly soars. 

A tender, funny, and at times heartbreaking exploration of the life, career, and loves of a wonderful actor and human rights campaigner. 

★★★★

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