Credo: Sir Ian McKellen

Actor, 69

Interview,Rob Sharp
Sunday 21 December 2008 01:00

If there's one thing being successful has taught me, it's that there are many actors equally as talented as I am who haven't had my luck.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or the camera lens, but age is inevitable.

Ignorance and lack of empathy towards others are perhaps the root causes of our selfishness and greed. The more we see of the way other people have to live, the more we will question our own responsibilities to improve the world.

Whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, don't gulp it all down in one go, or it really will be totally empty.

Hollywood has taught me that constant sunshine can curdle the brain.

If someone recognises me in the street, first I worry that I haven't remembered an old acquaintance. As it doesn't happen all the time and reference is usually made to a performance they have enjoyed, it can be very pleasurable.

You should just get on with your life, doing the jobs you want to do, rather than what is expected of you.

My top priority is keeping healthy so I can continue working whenever I want.

A good basis for performing a convincing Lear is long experience of acting Shakespeare, as well as knowing how to handle the intricacies of the text. Most helpful of all is a strong cast playing the dozen major parts. Lear is not a solo show.

Lear's previous life is very helpful to the actor (whether or not the audience picks it up in the performance). I decided, for instance, that Cordelia was the daughter of Lear's second wife who died in childbirth.

I don't resemble Lear as a person. I am a decade or more younger, without any children to cope with. I am an atheist – though perhaps Lear is, too, by the end of his life.

'King Lear', directed by Trevor Nunn, will be broadcast on More4 on Christmas Day, as part of the Ian McKellen Season

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