March 19, 2000Acting
He hints that he may be getting too old for the stage, but
Sir Ian McKellen tells Alan Samson that he will never give up his role as a campaigner for
Sir Ian McKellen peers over his spectacles with
schoolmasterly seriousness and says he doesn't believe in evil. 'I don't accept Stephen
King's notion that there are people who are evil, there's no evil lurking in every
cellar... evil is what some people do, but I don't believe it exists.'
The point he is making is not lost on the meeting of the Gay
Association of Professional People he is addressing in Wellington.
McKellen is in Wellington to play the part of the wizard
Gandalf, a character embroiled in battles between good and evil, in Peter Jackson's Lord
of the Rings. But McKellen is not talking about wizards and hobbits tonight ... The man
who has played Romeo, Macbeth, Leontes, Iago, Richard III, Salieri, as well as a Nazi war
criminal, a homosexual film director and a comic-book character, is speaking to
Wellington's professional gay men and women. He says there is still plenty of homophobia
and prejudice in the world. But, nodding his head toward his 'old friend', gay
Christchurch MP Tim Barnett, he also expresses optimism.
'It's heartening to see the advances being made... as a
symbol of what's happening here, you can link Tim's achievement with others all over the
Last year, McKellen threatened to use the Oscars ceremony -
should he have won for his role as the homosexual movie director in Gods and Monsters - to
make an impassioned plea for gay rights. To the almost audible relief of the Hollywood
hierarcy, he didn't win.
He was not too disappointed. Hollywood, he says, is a
'fantasy land', too caught up in commercialism to have the courage to confront
homosexuality, or any other aching issue, such as racism and the plight of American
Earlier this year there was criticism on the Internet,
calling him a 'gay Gandalf'. Overwhelmingly, however, reactions to the casting were
positive, he says.
'My male - M A I L - is a nuisance, it's so nice. I get death
threats only about once a year... It's disarming if you get into a debate with someone who
doesn't accept that we should all be treated the same, and you find the same person
fervently believes in Adam and Eve... there's nowhere to start a discussion.'
Regarding Lord of the Rings, he says: 'This is the craziest
film ever made. It's the most ambitious film ever made anywhere in the world, technically.
On any one day there are four camera crews with Jackson, dashing around the sets. He's
absolutely calm. If you want to know what a hobbit is like, meet Peter Jackson.'