This first-person documentary, in which English actor Ian McKellen reflects on his life and career, begins by sharing his belief humans are always acting, constantly deciding which part of themselves to reveal.

This is how he's dealt with media interviews his whole life - by giving a performance. It makes you wonder which McKellen you'll get.

Comfortably ensconced in a red armchair, McKellen talks through his childhood and teenage years in North West England, putting on plays as an outlet for his repressed emotions over the secret of his sexuality. At the end of his first year at Cambridge University, he made the decision to become a professional actor – which McKellen considers the last "crucial" decision he's made in life.

The interview format is simple, but director Joe Stephenson livens things up with re-enactments of McKellen 's stories. Actors play McKellen as a child and young man, but when they open their mouths McKellen's voice comes out. It's a clever idea and works well with the use of archive footage and photographs.


He talks of his incredible rise in the theatre world, first making a name for himself at university then, on a recommendation by Dame Maggie Smith, at The Old Vic, before moving to work on the independent stage with the likes of Dame Judi Dench.

It's at this point it would be lovely to have the Dames pop up to talk about their friend – but that's another documentary, this is purely McKellen on McKellen.

From here he takes us through his years as an LGBT activist and his late foray into film – he's most well-known these days as Magneto from X-Men and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

McKellen remains guarded about his personal life, he's still editing himself, and most comfortable with what he's already presented to the world, the actor, and activist. But as the documentary ends with him discussing his funeral plans you appreciate what a treat it is to have the Oscar-award winner telling his own story in his own words.


Joe Stephenson

Running Time:

91 mins



M (Offensive language & sexual references)


McKellen on McKellen is a real treat