“I’m only an actor. I’m not a writer. I’m not going to leave any legacy … All I’ve ever done is learn the lines and say them.”

In 2001, Ian McKellen put on the robe and pointed hat of a wizard named Gandalf and won a place in the hearts of Tolkien fans worldwide. Though his role in the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings introduced him to a new audience, McKellen had a thriving career a lifetime before his visit to Middle Earth.

In Ian McKellen: A Biography (St. Martin’s Press), author Garry O’Connor writes the definitive biography of the renowned actor and activist. He probes the heart of the actor, recreating his greatest stage roles, exploring his personal life and detailing what makes a great actor tick.

McKellen made his West End acting debut in 1964 in James Saunders’s A Scent of Flowers, but it was in 1980 that he took Broadway by storm when he played Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Tony-Award-winning play Amadeus.

He has starred in over 400 plays and films, and is that rare character: a celebrity whose distinguished political and social service has transcended his international fame to reach beyond the stage and screen.

The breadth of his career — professional, personal and political — has been staggering: Macbeth (opposite Judi Dench), Iago, King Lear, Chekhov’s Sorin in The Seagull and Becket’s tramp Estragon (opposite Patrick Stewart) in Waiting for Godot. In addition to all this, McKellen’s tireless political activism for LGBTQ equality makes him a veritable phenomenon.

O’Connor was given thorough access to McKellen’s life, and is well acquainted with him, having directed him in stage productions.

He writes, “McKellen wholly inhabited the actor’s role in his own time and continues to do so.”

Ian McKellen is available for purchase.

About Garry O’Connor:

Garry O’Connor is a biographer and novelist, noted for his publications on theatrical and literary figures. He has written acclaimed biographies of Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, Peggy Ashcroft and Alec Guinness. O’Connor has written and presented programs for radio, including Campion’s Ghost for Radio 4, adapted from his novel about John Donne.