Sir Ian McKellen is the subject of a documentary feature, McKellen: Playing the Part, in theaters this spring.
“It used to be that it was my secret—my life, my profession,” McKellen says in a new trailer for filmmaker Joe Stephenson’s authorized doc. “What side of Ian McKellen am I going to present?”
Playing the Part makes its U.K. premiere May 27 with a special screening at London’s BFI Southbank, hosted by Graham Norton and followed by a Q&A with McKellen. The event will be broadcast live to cinemas across the U.K. and Scandinavia.
Built around an in-depth 14-hour interview, Playing the Part “features unprecedented access to private photo albums, a wealth of never-before-seen archive material, including diaries written when he was 12, and unseen behind the scenes of theatre shows and films, alongside his personal thoughts on a life long lived,” according to a Trafalgar Releasing synopsis.
“My professional life is devoted to strangers,” McKellen continues in the trailer. “Stories bring human beings together.”
The celebrated 78-year-old actor may be best known as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films and as Magneto in the X-Men franchise, but he’s also an outspoken activist who has played an integral part in advancing LGBT rights in the U.K. and abroad.
At 48, although he had yet to discuss his sexuality with his family, McKellen came out as gay during a BBC radio interview in 1988 to criticize Section 28, a British law prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality.”
This marked the first of McKellen’s many actions as a vocal LGBT rights advocate; the following year he became a founding member of the activist organization Stonewall, which campaigns for gay equality. Section 28 was finally repealed in 2000.
“I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out—including myself,” McKellen tweeted earlier this year, celebrating 30 years as an openly gay actor and activist. “Life at last begins to make sense, when you are open and honest.”
I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out – including myself. Life at last begins to make sense, when you are open and honest. Today is the 30th anniversary of the BBC radio discussion when I publically said I was gay. So I’m celebrating!
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) January 27, 2018
During a 2015 interview with Charlie Rose, McKellen recalled that it was “just the right time” for him to declare his sexuality to the world. “A law was being passed I didn’t approve of which disadvantaged gay people, and that’s when I came out,” he said. “I wish I’d felt able to come out earlier.”
While promoting his documentary, McKellen, seen in last year’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, recently noted that he would like to be remembered more for his activism than his acting.
“I’m very proud of my small contributions to changing the law in this country and changing attitudes, all for the better,” he said. “And I suppose in the scheme of things that is more important and the more merit and longer lasting than any acting that I have done.”
McKellen has shared his opinion that gay people are “disregarded” by the film industry, comparing the struggle of gay actors to that of both female actors and actors of color. However, he still urges gay Hollywood actors to come out.
“A closet’s a really nasty place to live, you know?” McKellen told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s dirty, it’s dusty, it’s full of skeletons. You don’t want it. Open that door—fling it wide and be yourself.”
For Playing the Part screening information visit mckellenfilm.com.