Sir Ian McKellen

  1. Daniel Massey, Star!, 1967.      McKellen screen tested as Noel Coward, performing Coward’s Parisian Pierrot – to great applause from the crew. But Massey, Coward’s Godson, got the part, a Golden Globe trophy and an Oscar nomination.  He had made his screen debut as Coward’s son at age nine in the UK classic, In Which We Serve, 1941.
  2. Emrys James, Doctor Who #112: State of Decay, TV, 1980.       There were 21 potential Aukons and all – except James – had been this way before, standing at the Whoverse portal, awaiting a callback. McKellen, Peter Arne, Colin Baker, Steven Berkoff, John Carson, David Collings, Peter Gilmore, Michael Gothard, John Hallam, Donald Houston, Martin Jarvis, Michael Jayston, Ronald Lacey, William Lucas, John Normington, Patrick Stewart, Anthony Valentine, Peter Vaughan, David Warner, Peter Wyngarde.  
  3. Ben Kingsley, Betrayal, 1982.        Sam Spiegel’s final (and ill-chosen) production from his The Last Tycoon scenarist Harold Pinter’s semi-autobiographical play dissecting a love affair. At first, Sam said Ben was too old and that was that…  until Ben seduced him at their meeting. Next, Sam was upset by his fledging director David Jones. Why?  “Because he’s never worried and that worries me  a great deal.”
  4. Ian McCulloch, Doctor Who  #130: Warriors of The Deep, 1984.       The 13 possible Nilsons were McKellen, Peter Arne, Ian Holm, Dennis Lill, Alfred Lynch, Clive Merrison (BBC Radio’s Sherlock Holmes),  John Normington plus  five of the army of  203 candidates for just 18 roles in that year’s Lifeforce movie mess: Nicholas Ball, Tom Chadbon, Michael Gothard, Ronald Lacey, Edward Peel. Not the happiest of Whovian shoots  – and not just because Doc5 Peter Davison folllowed Doc2 Patrick Troughton’s  golden rule.  Three seasons and out.   In 2012, McKellan was the voice of Great Intelligence in Doc11 Matt Smith’s  adventure,  #231 : The Snowmen. This is his sole Whoverse activity among his 100-plus screen roles since  1964.
  5. Martin Jarvis, Doctor Who #138: Vengeance on Varos, TV, 1984.       McKellen, Jarvis, George Baker, Keith Barron, Brian Blessed, John Carson, Frank Finlay, Julian Glover,  John Hallam,  Terrence Hardiman,  John Hurt, Derek Jacobi, Michael Jayston, Dinsdale Landen, Anthony Valentine, and  David Warner were the 16 choices for the beleaguered Governor  of Varos, a kind of  Pontius Pilate.
  6. Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986.        Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective.  Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Five  Americans:  Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider;  four Brits: McKellen, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Terence Stamp;  two Canadians: Christopher Plummer and  Donald Sutherland; plus French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris and  Italian Vittorio Gassman.  Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
  7. Alfred Molina,  Prick Up Your Ears, 1986.      “I was going to first do it with Ian as Halliwell, Joe Orton’s lover,” director Stephen Frears revealed.  “Then, Ian withdrew, for reasons I really don’t know, although I believe  he  expected  to  be on Broadway.”
  8. Paul Scofield, Henry V, 1988.      He passed on actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s request to be King Charles VI of France. Seven years later, Sir Mac directed himself as another Shakespearian king, Richard III.
  9. Alan Rickman, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, 1990.    As Rickman kept passing, the Sheriff of Nottingham was offered to McKellen, Jon Finch, Michael Gambon, Richard E Grant, Sam Neill, Oliver Reed, Patrick Stewart – even John Cleese.  Then, Rickman won the right to play him his way  – stealing much more than Robin. (Like the entire movie!).  This had Robin, aka Kevin Costner, allegedly, ordering  the curtailing of the Sheriff’s scenes.
  10. Jonathan Freeman, Aladdin, 1991.  Disney’s voice choices for Jafar, our hero’s foe, the Sultan’s evil vizier, were Tim Curry, Kesley Grammer, John Hurt, Christopher Lloyd plus the future X-Men co-stars McKellen Patrick Stewart. Channeling Boris Karloff meets Vincent Price, Freeman remained in Jafar mode (for sequels and video games) for the next  20 years.

  11. Tony Jay, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1995.   Fellow Brits Derek Jacobi, McKellen and Patrick Stewart (twogether again) were listed for Judge Claude Frollo.  Until directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale went back to their deep-voiced Monsieur D’Arque from  Beauty and the Beast, 1990.
  12. Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.  
  13. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.  
  14. Brian Blessed, Tarzan, 1999, McKellen and Patrick Stewart were both up for the villainous Clayton until the directors fell for Blessed, the walking boom box. He also provided Tarzan’s yell in this 48th apeman movie – the first cartoon, and the first  with a one word title.

  15.  Anthony Hopkins, Mission: Impossible II, 1999.
    Too busy  on stage to be Tom Cruise’s M, Commander Swanbeck – first person in  the films to use the words: mission, impossible.  “If I’d decided to do that, I wouldn’t have been in X-Men and… Lord of the Rings.” Following his Oscar-nomination for Gods and Monsters, McKellen was offered M:I. “But they wouldn’t let me see the whole script, because I might have spilled the beans. I only got my scenes. Well, I couldn’t judge from reading just those… So I said no. And my agent said: You cant say no to working with Tom Cruise! And I said: I think I will.”  The next day, Bryan Singer asked him to be Magneto and soon afterwards, Peter Jackson offered Gandalf. When X-Men ran behind schedule, Jackson told McKellen he’d hold the part for him. Singer promised to finish  with him in time. Meantime, John Woo’s M:I II was “put off, put off, put off,” costing Doug Scott, the role of Wolverine.

  16. Max von Sydow, Minority Report, 2001.     In the mix (as Tom Cruise’s Pre-Crime boss) when Steven Spielberg first planned the 2054 neo-noir sf thriller in 1999 – with Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Jenna Elfman. Following Stanley Kubrick’s death, Spielberg decided to first make the Kubrick-discarded AI Artificial Intelligence. And so Peter Jackson was able to secure McKellan (and Cate Blanchett) for TheLord of the Rings.
  17. Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2003.      McKellen was better suited than realised at the time – author JK Rowling  only revealed that  Harry’s headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, was gay in 2007. Anyway,  Lord of the Rings and X-Men were hit series enough, without adding Mission: Impossible and Harry Pott to his surcoat. He also stated it would have been inappropriate to succeed the late Richard Harris – since he had always called McKellen a “dreadful” actor.
  18. Jeremy Irons, The Merchant of Venice, 2003.      UK director Michael Radford’s film with Al Pacino as Shylock, nearly fulfilled one of the gay knight’s burning ambitions – “to play Antonio, Shakespeare’s major openly gay character:  ‘In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,’ the play opens. Well, everybody knows why he’s sad; his boyfriend’s just told him he’s going to get married. That’s what it’s all about but you don’t seen it played like that.”

  19. Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. 
    Director Tim Burton’s 30 fancies for chocolatier Willy Wonka  were his ole Betelgeuse, Michael Keaton. Plus McKellen, Rowan Atkinson, Dan Aykroyd, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chaze, Warwick Davis, Robert De Niro, James Gandolfini,  Dwayne Johnson, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Rik Mayall, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, John  Neville, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Peter Sallis, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams.  And the surviving Monty Python crew (also up for the 1970 version): John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. Among the five exec producers,  author
    Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy, wanted her husband’s favourite Willy – Dustin Hoffman.   If not possible she voted for  UK comics, Eddie Izzard or David Walliams. She was quite happy with Depp… who  found Willy’s voice while riffing on  a stoned George W Bush!

  20. Jeremy Irons, Eragon, 2006.       X-Men III got in  the way of “One boy… One dragon… One world of adventure.” Then again, after Shakespeare and Tolkein why mess with Christopher Paolini.
  21. Max von Sydow, Rush Hour 3, 2007.       Director Brett Ratner asked McKellen (from  their X-Man: The Last Stand, 2006), to play Renard but…
  22. Colin Salmon, Doctor Who #195: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead,  TV, 2008.    Two theatrical knights, McKellan and Michael Gambon, had to pass on being Doctor Moon opposite Doc10 David Tennant.
  23. Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas, US-Germany-Hong Kong-Singapore, 2011.         The Wachowski siblings (Lana  and Andy at the time, now Lana and Lilly)  offered not one but  five roles to McKellen.  (Doona Bae, Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving had six each).  When a script needs gimmicks…

 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  23