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Ian McKellen Says Goodbye To ‘X-Men,’ ‘Hobbit’ Franchises, Reflects On Iconic Career & Talks LGBT Rights

Larry King NowDec 02 '15

Iconic actor Ian McKellen discusses his departure from the 'X-Men' and 'Hobbit' film franchises, the upcoming 'Beauty & The Beast' movie, and a potential Oscar nom for last summer's 'Mr. Holmes.' Plus, Ian weighs in on LGBT issues & comments on the Syrian refugee situation.

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QUOTES FROM THIS 'LARRY KING NOW' EPISODE WITH IAN MCKELLEN:

"She does put a sword; it is not a heavy sword. It is a épée sword, sort of the sword that Hamlet uses. She pushes it down, and she pushes it down hard, so you feel it through your shoulder pads, it is very considerate of her. She asks you two questions, and off you go. She said to me, 'you've been doing this for an awfully long time.' I came back with, 'well not as long as you have,' I got a laugh out of her." - Ian McKellen on meeting the Queen and being knighted

"The first actor to play Sherlock Holmes, he was an American. William Gilette, stage actor, he took a Holmes story, adapted it to the stage, toured it everywhere, all over the states and in Europe as well. He was, I think, the first Sherlock Holmes ever on film. It was a very, very delicate film performance." - Ian McKellen on the first Sherlock Holmes

"Whenever I was going out to middle earth to do the Lord of The Rings, from London, I would stop in LA and stay with him and his partner. We have stayed friends and hope to find another film. I asked if I could be in Beauty and the Beast because Bill is doing the remake with live action. I get to play Cogsworth, the clock. Not an extensive role, but a fun role." - Ian McKellen on Bill Condon, their friendship, and Beauty and the Beast role.

"Audra McDonald, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Stanley Tucci, it was a thrill to meet him, we are all sitting around this table and unbeknownst to me, behind us there was a choir and an orchestra. Whenever it came to a musical number they would rehearse it, we turn around and there they were doing the dance. It was the most thrilling show I've ever been to. The film is going to be fantastic." - Ian McKellen on Beauty and the Beast Table Read

"Next summer I am going to be on stage with Patrick Stewart in London doing a Harold Pinter play, which we did on Broadway last year. 'No Man's Land,' John Gilbert did it first." - Ian McKellen

"Anthony Hopkins, we got him out of his sanctuary in Malibu. He came over to London, and we did a remake of 'The Dresser' which is about an old actor." - Ian McKellen

"I think I have had it with Gandalf; though I love going to New Zeland where they film it all. They were great times, but I had about 15 years with Gandalf. I thought a few years ago I would give up, or just work for part of the year. I found that I was a little bit bored. I was enjoying seeing friends and going and doing things; I really like the stimulus of work. While I am still capable, while I can still remember the lines, while I can hear what the other guy says, while I can still walk, I think I might as well do it. So one day I might not be able to do any of those things." - Ian McKellen on aging and his thoughts on retirement

"It is a terrible event. There are many terrible events around it. At the moment in the Northern coast of France, trying to get into England, there are 6,000 refugees who have walked across half the world to get there. They are in a camp. Then in Paris, this terrible devastation. I suppose a terrorist wanted to make our lives hell, I think our answer is to carry on. It is dreadful. So extreme in their views, I am sure that the legitimate complaint that your country and my country has meddled in their affairs is a fair one. It doesn't justify this kind of act." - Ian McKellen on Terror in Paris

"We have MI-5 to check that the refugees are looked after. Most of the refugees don't want to come to the west; they want to stay in their own country. But they can't, because there is a terrible civil war going on if we are talking about Syria. These are brave, brave people, I think they should be looked after and cared for until such time that they can go back home, which is what I think most of them want to do." - Ian McKellen on refugees

"I think reality is a cheap way of television putting on drama. In the old days a drama was something that was written, and learned, and presented, and performed. Now they can get these people to have their own mock-dramas, and it is probably cheaper than working up a whole production. I suspect that is the reason that happened." - Ian McKellen on reality tv

"When I was growing up it was against the law to be gay; you couldn't have sex. You didn't start talking about it; you didn't come say, 'I am a gay man' because you would have the police knocking on the door. That was the basis of my reticence; I think I thought perhaps if people knew I was gay I wouldn't be able to play certain sort of parts in movies and on stage. It turned out not to be the case at all, my career took off as soon as I came out." - Ian McKellen on his hesitance when coming out of the closet

"Civil rights are all connected. But the gay civil rights movement, at least in my country, has gotten rid of all the bad laws and brought in some positive ones, like the right to get married, for example. I think the world sort of changed and is ready for it, but the politicians hadn't realized. We worked hard for twenty years. Now I visit schools and talk about the old days of being gay; I encourage them to be nice to each other and not bully each other. I find kids at the age of 13, and 14 who are exploring their sexuality, who want to talk to their parents about it. Don't necessarily put a label on themselves, but it is out in the open. There are trans kids going through certain schools in the U.K. I am so hopeful for the future." - Ian McKellen on social attitude changing in England

"I think when you explain to people the obvious thing, that we must all be treated equally. It is not a choice; it is just a right. Once two gay people do get married, the ripples that that cast on society on their friends and friends of their friends... the sky hasn't fallen." - Ian McKellen on gay marriage

"There have always been strong women in Hollywood, haven't there. Think about Mary Pickford was one of the people who started United Artists, with her own studio. It is not a new idea that women should be up there with the guys, but they are not. If women are feeling that they are being treated as second-class citizens, that absolutely won't do." - Ian McKellen on gender pay inequity in Hollywood

"When I get a script or an idea for a script, I ask a simple question. Do I want to see this? Would I enjoy this movie? Would I enjoy this play? If the answer to that is yes, then I go back into it and then think, is this a part I want to play?" - Ian McKellen on how he chooses his roles

"I had an audition with Woody Allen once to be in a movie; I was so excited because it is every actor's dream to do at least one Woody Allen. He sat behind a screen; he was rather nervous, I met the cast. What was astonishing about the script was every 'um' and 'errrr' was written into the script, so that it sounded as if you were making it up as you go along, but all the hesitations were actually written in the script. I didn't get the part. I said, 'so you write this out exactly as you want this to be spoken?' He said, 'Yes, I am a scriptwriter. Not a director, I'm a scriptwriter.'" - Ian McKellen on being rejected for a Woody Allen role.

"I think film producers probably make films of comics because the comics have got a track record, 'ahh this is popular stuff, maybe if we put it in the cinema it will be as popular as it is on the page.' and it is. I like X-men because it is about something more, its a civil rights movement. What do you do as a mutant, do you fight? Which is Magneto's way. Or is it like Professor X, accommodate, fit in. That argument is always going on in the civil rights movement, and there it is in X-men." - Ian McKellen

"My proudest accomplishment is producing the Film Richard III, I had done it on stage. Annette Bening, Robert Downey, Jr. Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, the butler from Downton Abbey, Jim Carter. A fantastic cast. Anyway, I put all that together, and I raised the money for it. I will never do it again." - Ian McKellen

"With regard to my work, I think there is always a point when I am rehearsing or getting ready when I think I have been absolutely miscast. I often go to the director and say, look if you want to change your mind please do. That is a good spur for me; there is a challenge, a barrier that must be overcome." - Ian McKellen on something no one knows

"I was asked to be in a film with Gary Oldman called 'Prick Up Your Ears.' That was about an English playwright named Joe Orton, who was murdered by his boyfriend and I was to be cast as the boyfriend. I needed a holiday, I had been working so hard, so I just kept saying, 'no, no, no,' and when I saw the film I really regretted it."

"I didn't while they were alive, tell my parents about being gay. My mother died while I was twelve, so that conversation couldn't happen. My father didn't die until I was 24. I was a man, and I was living with another man. I could have told him and asked his approval, and he would have given me a hug... and I'll never get that." - Ian McKellen on his biggest regret

"Act wherever you can, you don't have to break into the business to act in school or college or community theater. Go and see other people acting. Judge what they are like, how are they doing it, why is that person good or not so good. Every actor I ever saw inspires me." - Ian McKellen on breaking into the industry

"We are living in an age of great actresses at the moment. Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney." - Ian McKellen

"My advice to others who are like me, single, wishing they weren't; don't walk in the street with your bloody iPhone because the love of your life has just walked by." - Ian McKellen