Birthplace: Burnley, England
Knighted in 1990, McKellen is one of the century's finest Shakespearean actors. In addition to his prodigious stage career (including roles as Richard II and Hamlet and a Tony Award for Amadeus, 1981), McKellen has appeared in several films, most memorably in the lead roles of Scandal (1989) and Richard III (1996), a Shakespearean drama set in a 1930s fascist state. He is slated to play the good wizard Gandalf in the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003). A gay rights activist, McKellen acted in the TV movie about the AIDS crisis, And the Band Played On (1993).