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January 25, 2020

A Look Back at Sir Ian McKellen From the 1960s to 1980s

Sir Ian McKellen’s professional on-stage career began in 1961, but it was not until four years later that he gained a notable success for his first West End performance in the play A Scent of Flowers. At the 1969 Edinburgh festivals, with the Prospect Theatre Company, he made two breakthrough performances as Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II. In the 1970s and 1980s, having become well-known in British theatre, he performed regularly at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. McKellen also took film roles throughout these three decades, but he only became more recognized in this medium until the 1990s.

Let’s take a look at the British cultural icon from the 1960s to 1980s through these 22 vintage photographs:

Ian McKellen in conversation, October 1965. Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times.

Ian McKellen on a motorcycle, October 1965. Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times.

Ian McKellan and Tina Packer in costume for the BBC serialization of the Charles Dickens novel 'David Copperfield', London, December 1965. Photo by Harry Todd.

Ian McKellen in rehearsal for the Noel Coward play 'Hay Fever,' March 1968. Photo by Warner.

Ian McKellen in rehearsal for the Noel Coward play 'Hay Fever,' March 1968. Photo by Warner.
Ian McKellen, UK, October 1969. Photo by Evening Standard.

Ian McKellen photographed at his flat in West London, October 1969. Photo by Charlie Ley.

Ian McKellen on a moped with L-plates in London, January 1970. Photo by McCarthy/Daily Express.

Ian McKellen and James Laurenson playing a love scene between Edward II and Gaveston during a dress rehearsal of Marlowe's 'Edward II' at London's Piccadilly Theatre, January 1970. Photo by Central Press.

Ian McKellen in costume as the poet John Keats in a scene from the television series 'Solo', February 1970. Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times.

Ian McKellen in costume, as he appears in the television drama 'The Tragedy of King Richard II', circa 1971. Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times.

Ian McKellen, UK, April 1979. Photo by Evening Standard.

John Barron, Fenella Fielding, and Ian McKellen holding placards used in the march through London's West End protesting against Value Added Tax on theatre tickets, July 1979. Photo by Mike Moore.

Sir Ian McKellen photographed for Framed: For L.A. Eyeworks in Los Angeles, California, January 1982. Photo by Greg Gorman.

British Labour Party politician Neil Kinnock and Ian McKellen at a protest in Hyde Park to support theatre grants, London, August 1983. Photo by Hilaria McCarthy/Daily Express.

Ian McKellan at the theatre of Europe in Paris, November 1983. Photo by Patrick Aventurier.

Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, August 1985. Photo by PA Images.

Ian McKellen looking serious, mid-1980s. Photo by Gemma Levine.

Ian McKellen, Lauren Bacall and James Earl Jones, April 1987. Photo by Frank Leonardo.

Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen among people protest against Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, Manchester, February 1988. Photo by Holborn.

Ian McKellen ahead of his forthcoming production 'Acting Shakespeare' at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 1988. Photo by Mirrorpix.


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