“It’s very difficult to just be yourself, so I treat it as a bit of acting”

Originally from the small town of Wigan in the North of England, Ian McKellen grew up idolising theatre and the thrill that came with putting on a show. Directed by Joe Stephenson, McKellen – Playing the Part is a credit to one of the greatest actors and humans this world has ever seen; a beautiful and inspiring documentary about one man and his passion for life, showmanship and LGBTQ+ rights.

This feature length documentary contains 14 hours’ worth of interview footage, along with real photos and videos from his private life and cinematic reconstructed scenes. He discusses everything and gives you the insight into his life, from being a young boy and enjoying the theatre for the first time with his parents, to being terrified of working in films to discussing his sexuality and coming out at the age of 49. McKellen may only be an actor you’ve seen from a film or on stage at a theatre, but he’s more than that – he’s compassionate, witty and candid.

With each topic McKellen talks about, you see from his expression and enthusiasm his love or sadness for it. He talks about the death of his parents from a young age and how it should’ve affected him more, his love for a man he couldn’t openly be with, and the way he plays his characters with such heart and individuality. He brings these memories back to life and for the enjoyment of the audience. His love for theatre, you can tell, started from a very young age and since then he never stopped working hard for what he loves. He uses so much energy in every character and every performance that it’s simply inspiring. “I walk differently in every character I play”.

But for McKellen, it wasn’t always about his career as an actor. He was also very emotional and loyal to the cause of human rights, especially those that affected the gay community. In 1988 he fought very hard against Section 28 which prevented local authorities from promoting any form of homosexuality. McKellen wanted this to stop. When he goes into detail about this, you can feel nothing but awe and admiration for him. “My professional life is devoted to strangers”. This one man who was so new to any form of politics, opened himself up to the public eye on something other than his acting – something he was strongly passionate about and believed so hardheartedly in.

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McKellen – Playing the Part is heart-warming, emotional and will have you grinning from ear to ear. It’s a documentary to celebrate the life of a national symbol that everyone has come to adore, whether you know him from playing Richard 2nd, Macbeth, King Lear, Magneto or Gandalf. Sir Ian McKellen is simply a national treasure that we all adore.