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IAN McKELLEN (Earl of Southampton) had just completed 100 performances of his second "King Lear" when he shot his scenes in ALL IS TRUE, an appropriate way to celebrate that run by meeting Shakespeare himself, in what appeared to be Stratford 500 years ago. Since his teen years of queuing overnight at the old Memorial Theatre, McKellen has felt the thrall of Stratford. The acting giants of his youth triumphed there in Shakespeare's plays-and he was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's good fortunes in the 1970s and 1980s, as Macbeth to Judi Dench's Lady Macbeth, Romeo to Francesca Annis's Juliet, Iago to Willard White's Othello, as well as in productions of Marlowe, Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht.

At Stratford, in London, on tour in UK and worldwide, he played Coriolanus, Leontes, Toby Belch, Henry V, Hamlet, and Iago. His recognition as a classical actor came in 1969 with "Richard II" at Edinburgh International Festival. Alternating with Marlowe's "Edward II," he toured, played two sold out seasons in London, which were televised. He will be reprising these and more Shakespeare in his forthcoming solo show: "It's not so much a farewell tour as 'Here I am Again!' I'm mainly revisiting theatres I remember with affection from Wigan Little Theatre where I saw my first Shakespeare to the Duke of York's in London where I made my professional West End debut in 1964. But I'll also be in Ballymena (where the McKellens hail from), Inverness (more ancestors) and my local Theatre Royal Stratford East-all for the first time."

McKellen's film work stretches from RICHARD III and GODS AND MONSTERS, to Middle Earth and Marvel's X-MEN. He will soon be seen in Bill Condon's THE GOOD LIAR (with Helen Mirren) and as Gus the Theatre Cat in the Tom Hooper movie of CATS, opposite Judi Dench as Deuteronomy. "This has made up for the Earl of Southampton's not meeting Judi as Anne Hathaway at home," he says. "In the stills I particularly like her tall hat, though the Earl has a dashing one of his own."

His favorite roles include the title role in Stephen Frears' "Walter," the very first "Film on Four"; Widow Twankey in "Aladdin," two years running at the Old Vic; Mel Hutchwright for ten episodes of "Coronation Street,"' fooling with Rick Gervais in "Extras" ("How do I act so well?"); and with Derek Jacobi in "Vicious."

ALL IS TRUE is the first time he's worked with Kenneth Branagh, although he was asked to be in the film of HENRY V. "I was busy elsewhere, alas," he says. "I remember Simon Rattle saying his orchestra was tearful recording the "Te Deum" retreat from battle. If Ken had not so completely achieved that film and subsequent Shakespeare, I wouldn't have dared try and film RICHARD III. I've admired his theatre work too-its purposefulness and daring. Working with him at last was potentially unnerving. Not only was I facing the Branagh persona, there too was Shakespeare and they were both the director! It was a great relief to be told by all three at the end of our day together, that all was well."


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