A woman has come forward to say she was the passenger who mistook Sir Ian McKellen for the ghost of the late Sir Michael Gambon on the Docklands Light Railway.
Appearing on The Graham Norton Show on Friday, 84-year-old acting legend McKellen explained that for years people would mix him and Sir Michael up as both had portrayed famous white-haired wizards on screen - with him playing Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films and Sir Michael portraying Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.
He was left shocked however when that confusion re-occurred recently, despite the fact Sir Michael died last year.
“Michael Gambon, who played the other wizard, and I were often mistaken for each other, and an odd thing happened last week,” he told the Irish chat show host.
“I was waiting for a train and two women in their 20s said, ‘Are you Michael Gambon?’. I told them that he was dead, and they said, ‘Yes we know but are you him?’ I think they thought they had seen a ghost.”
Speaking to The Standard, Aliyah Loughlan, 27, says she is “mortified” to admit that it was her who had asked the question.
Miss Loughlan, a freelance digital PR from Milton Keynes, says she and best friend Clara Franklin had been out in the capital celebrating Miss Franklin’s 28th birthday at a “boozy brunch” when on the way home, they noticed a man who looked “strangely familiar, but couldn’t put a name to the face”.
“I was walking from the Northern Line to get the DLR. Loads of people were coming up the escalator and turning around noticing him as well,” she explained.
“I was with my best friend, we’d had dinner at a bottomless brunch for the day and this couple next to us was like ‘yes! We recognised him too! We think it’s Michael Gambon’.
“I kind of took that information and ran with it completely forgetting that Michael Gambon had died, which obviously is very sad and I was very sad about it at the time because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.
“So I kind of I guess got caught up in the moment and went up to him and said ‘I’m really sorry, I don’t normally do this but are you Michael Gambon?’ It literally makes me cringe inside now.”
Recalling his reaction, Loughlan said “he kind of laughed about it at the time,” however admitted that she clearly hadn’t fully taken on board what he’d said about Sir Michael no longer being with us.
Sir Ian’s version of events on the BBC chat show continued that she and Franklin had then “followed” him onto the train “laughing and giggling”, with him suggesting he thought she was “texting her friends saying ‘I’ve just seen a ghost!’”
Loughlan however tells another tale.
“We didn’t intentionally follow him onto the Underground, we weren’t actually getting off at the same stop as him despite it sounding like we followed him, we definitely didn’t!” she laughed.
“I honestly am not quite sure what went through my head at the time. Maybe, yeah, maybe I’d seen a ghost or this person just looked very, very like Michael Gambon. Obviously now I realise it was Ian McKellen and I’ve massively messed up.”
Leading up to Sir Ian’s appearance on the Graham Norton Show, Loughlan says that she had felt “embarrassed” about the incident all week.
“I’d spent the whole week really worrying,” she explained. “I was just mortified about the whole situation.
“I would love to get the message to him that I am so, so sorry, although I’m glad he clearly saw the funny side and found it a good story to share on the show.”
A representative for Sir Ian McKellen failed to return The Standard’s request for comment.