HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIR IAN McKELLEN

CELEBRATING A TRUE FREE SPIRIT

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS
By Lily Meek
22nd May 2020

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

A very serious discussion broke out at my dinner table but a few weeks ago, when a BuzzFeed quiz told me I was Gandalf in a "Which LOTR character are you?" quiz. I'd like to reiterate for any family members reading, that it did say I was Gandalf. After holding a vote that I did not agree to or participate in, they said I'd likely be more like Boromir. Strong words were said.

I've resorted to believing that although I may not be him... I really wish I was. He's one of those characters that everyone has a soft spot for, and hopes in some way his attributes reflect theirs. The mentor, the wise, the patient, the supportive, king of pep talks, magical in morals and an overall top-notch wizard. Only one man really could have pulled it off... and although Christopher Lee had hoped it had been him, there isn't a single nerd out there that doesn't smile when they think of Sir Ian McKellen.

McKellen is versed in everything from Shakespeare to Magneto. He's fought dragons, waited for Godot, solved crime (and committed it), he's been a clock, unfortunately, been a cat, fought wars, cast spells, and since 1988 been at the forefront for championing equality. Founding Stonewall UK, McKellen has been a patron and petitioner for gay rights, from speeches at schools to speaking in front of 50,000 people in New York. At a 2002 LGBTQ Pride parade in San Francisco, McKellen stated the best thing he ever did was give himself the freedom to be himself when he came out. I think he is too humble. In doing this, he not only grants himself grace but also bestowed upon the world a kind, quirky and authentic man that people so wanted to follow and listen to.

In all his interviews, McKellen is just fun to watch and to listen to. He is an atmosphere changer, and seems to bring about a positive presence that is tangible to any room he enters. I can only assume this is a by-product of the unconditional kindness and acceptance he must extend. His charisma becomes him. It is very rare to find someone who could just talk and entrap listeners from near and far, but I imagine if McKellen were to sit down and read the dictionary out loud, people would find it marvellously entertaining.

After recently listening to his podcast with David Tennant, it was interesting listening to snippets of this man's tale. He did what he loved - and because he loved it, people noticed. This, of course, doesn't take into account the long hours, hard work and criticism that was endured. And I guess that brings me to my point. The list above (the one with all his roles and marvellous things he's done) isn't about just listing McKellen's parts and films; I wanted to show his diversity. Talking of doing what he loves is definitely in regard to acting, but it's also in regard to roles - to his chasing after the different.

He's the man who calls us all darlings, swishes his red wine and rocks that little pink scarf.

After 'The Lord Of The Rings', McKellen admits to being offered more roles like Gandalf. "Well, I'd already played a wizard, hadn't I." He's always in it for the new and if he's not sure about it, he digs deeper - telling Graham Norton that he only agreed to act in 'X-Men' because of the advocation of minorities portrayed in the film. He has always gone after exactly what he wants, and never sold out (except 'Cats'... let's not talk about that, but even then... the man's 80. If he wants to have a little fun, we should just let him).

That's what it all comes back to, and that's what I meant before when I said he bestowed on us all a gift by coming out. He's the man who calls us all darlings, swishes his red wine and rocks that little pink scarf. Sir Ian McKellen, you are a true free spirit - atrociously funny, bold and just so beautiful. I opened with the quote because, in actual fact, he did make decisions with what to do with the time he had. Amazing decisions. By being exactly who you were meant to be - and in embracing that - you give us permission to follow suit.

Keep doing you, you beautiful queen. And happy birthday!

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