Ian McKellen reveals ‘worst movie-making experience’ of his career

Ian McKellen wears a dark shirt, blue patterned silk scarf and dark grey jacket as he stares towards the camera

Legendary actor Sir Ian McKellen isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to sharing the “worst movie-making experience” in his stellar career.

The 84-year-old star of screen and stage reflected on his career spanning over six decades and if he had any plans on slowing down soon in a lengthy chat with Variety

While he fondly looked back on some roles, McKellen had less than stellar memories about his leading role in Michael Mann’s 1983 war horror The Keep. In fact, the six-time Olivier Award-winning actor described the film as his “worst movie-making experience” to date – ouch. 

“Michael Mann said to me, ‘You’re playing this Romanian’,” McKellen recalled. 

“So I went to Romania to scout it out, and I learned how to speak with a Romanian accent. 

“Then on the first day of shooting, Michael told me he wanted me to speak with a Chicago accent. 

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“Well, I couldn’t do that, and it got worse from there.”

The film, which was critically panned when it was released but has since gained a cult following, follows a group of Nazi soldiers who unknowingly awaken a malevolent supernatural force in Romania during World War II. 

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The X-Men star said he’s “very dependent” on filmmakers telling him what’s not working so he can “take advantage” of the sensation of what he did right, which then “started to spread throughout [his] DNA”. 

Ian McKellen added he’s not planning on retiring any time soon. He said he’s “never been out of work”, but he’s aware that something could “prevent [him] from ever working again” at any moment. 

“But while the knees hold up and the memory remains intact, why shouldn’t I carry on?” he said. “I really feel I’m quite good at this acting thing now.”

McKellen also recalled how his decision to come out as gay in 1988 “changed for the better” how he approached his work and his personal life. 

“Almost overnight everything in my life changed for the better — my relationships with people and my whole attitude toward acting changed,” he said.

The Lord of the Rings star came out while appearing on the BBC Radio programme Third Ear during which he argued against proposed laws in England that would have made it illegal for local authorities to “promote homosexuality”. 

Since then, the actor has championed various LGBTQ+ organisations and proudly advocated for the rights of queer people worldwide.

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