Ian McKellen reveals ‘worst moviemaking experience’ in his 54-year film career

Ian McKellen has identified the “worst moviemaking experience” he’s ever endured during his decades-long acting career.

Perhaps best known for his iconic role as wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings franchise, the 84-year-old British actor has more than 100 TV and movie credits to his name from his 60-plus years of acting.

However, it was his leading role in Michael Mann’s 1983 war horror The Keep that he credits with being his “worst moviemaking experience”.

“Michael Mann said to me, ‘You’re playing this Romanian.’ So I went to Romania to scout it out, and I learned how to speak with a Romanian accent,” McKellen recalled in a new interview with Variety.

“Then on the first day of shooting, Michael told me he wanted me to speak with a Chicago accent. Well, I couldn’t do that, and it got worse from there.”

McKellen starred alongside Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs) and Gabriel Byrne in The Keep, which told the story of Nazi troops who awaken an evil force when they set up camp in Romania during World War II.

The actor can next be seen in Anand Tucker’s period thriller The Critic, which makes its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Sir Ian McKellen among special honourees at 2023 Pantomime Awards (PA) (PA Archive)
Sir Ian McKellen among special honourees at 2023 Pantomime Awards (PA) (PA Archive)

Gemma Arterton, Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Alfred Enoch, Alfred Enoch and Mark Strong also feature.

The Critic is a story of ambition, blackmail and desire with a dazzling anti-hero at its dark heart. A whodunnit wrapped in a Faustian pact which winds tighter and tighter,” according to IMDb.

He is also beginning a limited Off West End run of Frank and Percy at London’s Other Palace theatre on Friday (8 September), continuing through 3 December.

McKellen stars opposite Roger Allam in the comedy production about a pair of older gentlemen who form an unlikely friendship while sitting on a park bench.

Asked by Variety about the thought of retiring, McKellen scoffed: “Retire to do what?

“I’ve never been out of work, but I’m aware that any minute now something could happen to me which could prevent me from ever working again,” he said.

“But while the knees hold up and the memory remains intact, why shouldn’t I carry on? I really feel I’m quite good at this acting thing now.”