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SIR IAN McKELLEN is the most acclaimed actor of his generation, honored with more than 20 international awards for his performances on stage and screen.

He was born in the industrial north of England on May 25, 1939, the son of a civil engineer. He first acted in school and at Cambridge University where he studied English literature and appeared in 21 undergraduate productions. Without any formal dramatic training, he made his professional debut in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and for three seasons worked his apprenticeship with other regional companies. This apprenticeship culminated in the opening of the Nottingham Playhouse, where he was directed by his childhood hero, Sir Tyrone Guthrie.

His first London appearance in A Scent of Flowers (1964) won him the Clarence Derwent Award and an invitation from Sir Laurence Olivier to join his new National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre. This was followed by two seasons with the touring Prospect Theatre, where McKellen took the 1969 Edinburgh Festival by storm as Shakespeare's Richard II and Marlowe's Edward II. These played for two sell-out seasons in London and were televised. Hamlet followed and established McKellen as the leading classical actor of his generation. In 1972, he co-founded the democratically-run Actors' Company.

His work with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon and London (1974-78) included plays by Brecht, Chekov, Ibsen, Marlowe, Shaw, Stoppard and Wedekind. For Trevor Nunn he played Romeo, Macbeth, Leontes, Toby Belch and Iago.

On Broadway, he won every available award, including the Tony as Best Actor for his portrayal of Salieri in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1980-81).

At the Royal National Theatre, where he is a member of the Board, his hits include Wild Honey, Coriolanus, The Cherry Orchard, The Critic, Bent, Napoli Milionaria, Uncle Vanya, An Enemy of the People and, last winter, Captain Hook and Mr. Darling in Peter Pan. As Richard III, he toured the world from Tokyo to Los Angeles and for the acclaimed movie version, which he co-scripted and co-produced, he was "European Film Actor of the Year" and Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor (1996).

His solo shows, Acting Shakespeare and A Knight Out, have toured the UK, Europe and USA raising funds for local charities. His recent screen successes include Scandal, And the Band Played On (Emmy nomination and CableAce Award), Cold Comfort Farm, Rasputin (Golden Globe Award), Bent, and Swept from the Sea. Gods and Monsters (Lions Gate) will be released in October 1998.

Sir Ian was knighted in 1991 for his services to the performing arts.

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