Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen portrayed Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Significant roles

  • David Copperfield in David Copperfield (1966)
  • King Edward in Edward II (1970)
  • Hamlet in Hamlet (1970)
  • King Richard II in The Tragedy of King Richard II (1971)
  • Macbeth in A Performance of Macbeth (1979)
  • D. H. Lawrence in Priest of Love (1981)
  • Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
  • Dr. Theodore Cuza in The Keep (1983)
  • Adolf Hitler in Countdown to War (1989)
  • Death in Last Action Hero (1993)
  • Bill Kraus in And the Band Played On (1993)
  • Geoffrey Miller in Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
  • Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow (1994)
  • Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
  • Richard III in Richard III (1995)
  • Tsar Nicholas II in Rasputin (1996)
  • Uncle Freddie in Bent (1997)
  • James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1998)
  • Kurt Dussander in Apt Pupil (1998)
  • Creakle in David Copperfield (1999)
  • Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  • Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout (2005)
  • Mel Hutchwright in Coronation Street (2005)
  • Zebedee in Doogal (2006)
  • Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code (2006)
  • The Toad in Flushed Away (2006)
  • Narrator in Stardust (2007)
  • Iorek Byrnison in The Golden Compass (2007)
  • King Lear in King Lear (2008)
  • Murray in The Academy (2009)
  • 2 in The Prisoner (2009)
  • Murray in The Academy Part 2: First Impressions (2009)
  • Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
  • Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
  • Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)


  • "He had known about X-Men no more than I, until a friend showed him and introduced him to X-Men. He got really excited about the idea of the story. So we were all not alarmed but interested in what new direction Brett Ratner's arrival would take the film. There was no worry because Brett was so in love with the first two films that he wanted to make a third that was looked at as if it was directed by Bryan Singer, his own words. We'll see whether or not he's achieved that or not. I think the plot is more interesting than the previous two so it's fair to be at least as excited and Magneto gets to do an awful lot in this film which he didn't in the second so I'm very happy about it. It's not going to be a change of direction. It's not like Tim Burton suddenly coming in and doing his stuff. Brett Ratner is basically doing what Bryan did."
  • "It's never just the part; it's who is going to direct it and how well is the part written and all sorts of things. I had to take this on trust, because I didn't know Brett and I didn't know much of his work either. I was pretty well committed to doing the film, and he arrived very late in the day, eight weeks before we starting shooting. It was a very, very difficult job, and I felt quite sorry for him. You need eight months to prepare for a movie like this. I did the last bit of voicing of Magneto two days ago."
  • "I've often said that the way of defining a good director: well, you can't be a good director unless you can hold a good party. At a good party, you've specifically brought together a group of people because you'll think they'll get on and you're job is to make them get on. You're job is not to have a good time but to make sure they have a good time. You treat each of them differently. You make sure they've got the right drink in their hand. You say the right words of encouragement. You introduce people to them. Brett is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but Bryan's not very good at it. I've never been to a party of Bryan's, but I dread to think what it would be like. Bryan is much more internal and self-obsessed and neurotic. That comes out in the films he makes. That's part of what he does. Brett's a party animal. Brett wants everyone to have a good time. If they're enjoying themselves then so is he. That's a very good atmosphere for a movie of this sort. There are long, long waits while things are being set up. Where the scenes aren't that intense. You can easily get lost in the dialogue of an X-Men movie, so it's very good to have the leader keeping everyone's spirits and that's what he does."
  • "We had the Golden Gate Bridge built in Vancouver. You didn't have to use your imagination, because there it was, but flying through the air you have to use your imagination. We were on a bit of a road and there were lights and there was a breeze. Wind was blowing in our hair and our cloaks and it felt as if we were flying a bit. So I think they just have to tell you what it's going to be like, and whether it looks convincing on the monitor as you're waving your arms around."
  • "The demographic for the comic is young blacks, young Jews and young gays, and they respond most to the idea of mutancy. More than what most teenagers think, feel or taught that they are mutants. So when you get a story like this one where there a cure is found--a cure for being black, a cure for being gay, a cure for being a mutant--it comes right home. But actually, in the circles I move in, the gays have never heard of X-Men. I think it's more of an American phenomenon than British and maybe younger than the crowd I mix with, but it's not just an adventure story to a lot of people."
  • "What a gas! I mean, Patrick Stewart and I have just been playing Waiting for Godot throughout England and in the West End of London. So, we've stayed in touch. We can't believe it [laughs]. I thought these were Fassbender and McAvoy's parts, but -- no, no -- we're back. We'll give them a run for their money. I mean, I haven't read the script, so I don't know how much we've got to do. But, to be back in that world, and for Bryan to be doing it -- with all the success he's had in the meantime -- it's wonderful. Wonderful."
  • "I thought he was exactly that: first class. Excellent... I thought he was better than me. But, we weren't quite playing the same character because he was so much younger than me."
  • "I have to say I haven't signed a contract, nor have I read a script. But when Bryan Singer calls, on the whole, I follow."
  • "Wouldn't that be fun. I'd hope he'd enjoy it as much as I would. I don't know how it's going to work. I suspect it's a flashback. The comics do go to and fro in time."
  • "[regarding DOFP following the comicbook story] I don't think it'll be quite as simple as that."
  • "Why don't I need a helmet in Days of Future Past? That would be telling and I'm not allowed to."
  • "I don’t always understand the plots of these films until I actually see them with an audience. It’s all about going into the past, basically. And so I don’t get to go into the past. I don’t think I’m spoiling it by saying that. But we are there in the beginning when the plot is hatched."
  • "The odd thing about a Gandlaf is that he’s good through and through. Magneto is a bit of both. He’s well-intentioned, but he perhaps politically is not very sound, and I’m not sure that I quite agree with his tactics."