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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Ian McKellen

1 year agoby:

Last week, we took a look at the career veteran badass extraordinaire, Kurt Russell. If one were to tally the box office results of an given performer, this week’s subject would be one of the highest grossing actors of all time, thanks to central roles in three huge franchises. It doesn’t hurt that he also happens to be one of the finest actors of this or any other generation....

Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is someone who I can confidently say is as badass in real life as he is in the movies. After all, how many actors of his generation can say that they've anchored three major franchises, constantly poked fun at themselves through a mastery of the internet that seems unlikely for an English gentleman in his seventies, and also had the courage to boldly come out-of-the-closet years (decades actually) before it was considered fashionable?

The only downside about McKellen is that his younger fans – such as myself – never got the chance to see him onstage where he was renowned for his incredible presence. In fact, McKellen only really began to devote himself to film in the nineties, where he occasionally classed-up big movies like LAST ACTION HERO (where he played the Grim Reaper), and THE SHADOW, while also starring in riskier indies, like the modernized RICHARD III, and a slew of English films. It took until the late nineties for him to hit his stride as a film star, but once he did – look out!

One thing McKellen is especially good at is humanizing larger-than-life characters, be they heroes or villains. His Magneto hits the perfect balance between being a super-villain/victim/anti-hero, while his Gandalf is iconic to the point that if he hadn't agreed to come back for THE HOBBIT, I have my doubts the new trilogy would have ever happened.

Of course, we should also acknowledge that his best-buddy bromance with X-MEN co-star, and lifelong pal Patrick Stewart is possibly the greatest thing to hit the internet since the invention of the MP3, with their slew of happy-go-lucky photos providing countless hours of entertainment for their massive fanbase which – let's face it – includes just about everyone these days.

His Best Performance

For most of us, McKellen – despite his immense body of work – will always be Gandalf. That's not a slight to the many other things he's done, but just like Peter O'Toole will always be LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and Sean Connery will always be James Bond, McKellen will be Gandalf. It's crazy to think that he almost didn't play the part, with Connery being heavily courted at one point. Even in THE HOBBIT trilogy – which I don't think anyone would ever say quite matches up to LOTR – McKellen is superb, and seems to be having a grand-old-time in the part. Also worth mentioning is his Oscar-nominated turn as FRANKENSTEIN director James Whale in Bill Condon's GODS & MONSTERS, a terrific movie ripe for discovery if you haven't seen it.

His Most Overrated Performance

Like many others profiled in this column, I doubt McKellen has ever given a bad performance. However, one project of his that I did find to be ill-conceived is the AMC reboot of THE PRISONER, where he played Number 2. McKellen is the best thing about it, but it's really a pointless show that mercifully only lasted six episodes. The original series by Patrick McGoohan remains untouchable, and should only be updated if the people involved really have a handle on what made the original so great in the first place.

His Most Underrated Film

APT PUPIL is an important movie for several reasons. First, it was Bryan Singer's first post-USUAL SUSPECTS movie, and second, it was through this movie that McKellen wound up as Magneto in X-MEN, and by extension Gandalf. While not a hit, APT PUPIL is nevertheless a really interesting film, with a show stopping performance by McKellen as Nazi war criminal hiding in suburbia who's blackmailed by an unhinged teen, played by the late, remarkable Brad Renfro. It's a terrific film and one that's too often overlooked.

His Most Memorable Scene

Really, what else could it be but the famous “You shall not pass!” scene in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING where Gandalf blocks the path of the pursuing Balrog Demon, thus allowing the fellowship to survive and fight another day.

His Top-Five Films

5. X-MEN
4. APT PUPIL
3. X-MEN UNITED
2. GODS & MONSTERS
1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY

Up Next

In addition to THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, McKellen is also re-teaming with his GODS & MONSTERS director Bill Condon, for his Sherlock Holmes tale, A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND, where McKellen takes on yet another iconic character. I have no doubt he'll be incredible.

Extra Tidbit: McKellen also did a great job hosting SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in 2001.
Source: JoBlo.com

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8:39AM on 05/20/2014
His most underrated for me is Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm. He's hilarious.
His most underrated for me is Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm. He's hilarious.
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2:45PM on 05/19/2014
X-Men United? Richard III and X-Men: Days of Future Past should be on that list way before X-Men United.
X-Men United? Richard III and X-Men: Days of Future Past should be on that list way before X-Men United.
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1:03PM on 05/19/2014
While the scene at the bridge might be his most "badass," his most memorable in LoTR certainly would be a toss up between his conversation with Frodo earlier in Moria; or his conversation with Pippin in Gondor in RotK.
While the scene at the bridge might be his most "badass," his most memorable in LoTR certainly would be a toss up between his conversation with Frodo earlier in Moria; or his conversation with Pippin in Gondor in RotK.
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10:50AM on 05/19/2014
His most underrated performance has to go to The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews. He's a great Chauvelin and it's bizarre to see him with black hair and so young (despite being in his 40's already)
His most underrated performance has to go to The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews. He's a great Chauvelin and it's bizarre to see him with black hair and so young (despite being in his 40's already)
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10:05AM on 05/19/2014

Richard III

Sorry to say I haven't had the chance to watch this one yet. After the reccomendations below I'll definitely have to check it out.
Sorry to say I haven't had the chance to watch this one yet. After the reccomendations below I'll definitely have to check it out.
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9:40AM on 05/19/2014

A brilliant actor

However, I have to disagree with his best scene, despite the fact that I'm a massive LOTR fan. For me, it's in RICHARD III, when he says, "You have a daughter." With that one line, he introduced himself to me as a major badass.
However, I have to disagree with his best scene, despite the fact that I'm a massive LOTR fan. For me, it's in RICHARD III, when he says, "You have a daughter." With that one line, he introduced himself to me as a major badass.
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9:14AM on 05/19/2014

great actor

Death in The Last Action Hero, or his performance in The Keep are among his most underrated performances IMO.
BUT everything becomes better with a touch of McKellen.
BTW, he's hilariously funny with the (also) great Derek Jacoby in his English sitcom Vicious
Death in The Last Action Hero, or his performance in The Keep are among his most underrated performances IMO.
BUT everything becomes better with a touch of McKellen.
BTW, he's hilariously funny with the (also) great Derek Jacoby in his English sitcom Vicious
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8:24AM on 05/19/2014
Love Ian McKellan and what he's able to bring to any performance.

And I believe The Prisoner was a mini-series and was supposed to last six episodes. But you're right that it wasn't very good.
Love Ian McKellan and what he's able to bring to any performance.

And I believe The Prisoner was a mini-series and was supposed to last six episodes. But you're right that it wasn't very good.
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8:09AM on 05/19/2014
I am utterly enamored by this man, and have been ever since I saw Fellowship when I was eleven (and then my dad told me that Gandalf was also Magneto and holy shit my life was never the same). My lifelong love of Lord of the Rings means I probably would have to list Gandalf as his best performance too, especially in Fellowship, but Richard III would have to be up there, man. No one plays Shakespeare like McKellen, not even Olivier.
I am utterly enamored by this man, and have been ever since I saw Fellowship when I was eleven (and then my dad told me that Gandalf was also Magneto and holy shit my life was never the same). My lifelong love of Lord of the Rings means I probably would have to list Gandalf as his best performance too, especially in Fellowship, but Richard III would have to be up there, man. No one plays Shakespeare like McKellen, not even Olivier.
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6:05AM on 05/19/2014
To me he will always be that Dracula guy from that Pet Shop Boys music video :D
To me he will always be that Dracula guy from that Pet Shop Boys music video :D
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5:21AM on 05/19/2014
I'd say his best performance is Richard III. His most underrated performance, though very short, is the grim reaper in Last Action Hero. Even with a few words, you'd fear him to take you away. I'd like to see him play opposite with Michael Caine. Should be fun. Sidenote: his bromance with Patrick Stewart should be live-action version of Thompson and Thompson of Tintin cartoon. Look at their bowler hats. They ARE Thompson and Thompson!
I'd say his best performance is Richard III. His most underrated performance, though very short, is the grim reaper in Last Action Hero. Even with a few words, you'd fear him to take you away. I'd like to see him play opposite with Michael Caine. Should be fun. Sidenote: his bromance with Patrick Stewart should be live-action version of Thompson and Thompson of Tintin cartoon. Look at their bowler hats. They ARE Thompson and Thompson!
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2:34AM on 05/19/2014

RICHARD III

I might have placed that one at the top of the list. When he reveals the monster he hides insides he is amazing.
I might have placed that one at the top of the list. When he reveals the monster he hides insides he is amazing.
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12:33AM on 05/19/2014
Him and Fassbender are two of the most perfect comic book castings ever; hero or villain. The only reason I mentioned Fassbender as well was because he's just as brilliant playing Magento as McKellen is.

Him and Fassbender are two of the most perfect comic book castings ever; hero or villain. The only reason I mentioned Fassbender as well was because he's just as brilliant playing Magento as McKellen is.

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2:37AM on 05/19/2014
Agree wholeheartedly. Whenever the series explores the dynamic between Magneto and Xavier, it's at its best character-wise. When I first saw the trailer for X-Men: First Class 4 years ago, I wasn't familiar with Fassbender but said "whoever they cast as Magneto is perfect", and that still stands. In Days of Future Past, Fassbender further proves how perfect a Magneto he is and I'm glad that the relationship between Erik and Charles remains an anchor point for the plot.
Agree wholeheartedly. Whenever the series explores the dynamic between Magneto and Xavier, it's at its best character-wise. When I first saw the trailer for X-Men: First Class 4 years ago, I wasn't familiar with Fassbender but said "whoever they cast as Magneto is perfect", and that still stands. In Days of Future Past, Fassbender further proves how perfect a Magneto he is and I'm glad that the relationship between Erik and Charles remains an anchor point for the plot.
5:22AM on 05/19/2014
Totally agree with you. Aside from Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen as Prof. X and Magneto respectively are the best comic book casting. Period.
Totally agree with you. Aside from Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen as Prof. X and Magneto respectively are the best comic book casting. Period.
12:17AM on 05/19/2014
At first sight, he may not look like gravitas incarnate, but you can be darn sure he is.
At first sight, he may not look like gravitas incarnate, but you can be darn sure he is.
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