Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne has revealed how Sir Ian McKellen inspired him to become an actor, as he was named the new ambassador of the film education charity Into Film.
The 33-year-old star, who won the best actor Oscar for his performance as astrophysicist Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, said watching McKellen's portrayal of King Richard III in the 1995 big-screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's play sparked his passion for stage and movies.
Redmayne, who studied at Eton College in the same year as Prince William, said: "When I heard about Into Film, one of the things that I thought was so extraordinary was how little of that I had when I went to school."
The Cambridge graduate explained: "I went to probably the most privileged school in the country, and there, somehow because our country - because of Shakespeare - we have this extraordinary theatre legacy and we all feel like it's very important and wonderful - and it is - but what I found is that I got into Shakespeare when I saw a film version of it with Gandalf playing Richard III, and that was when I first got really interested in theatre and in film."
The London-born star made his major stage debut in 2002 as Viola in the Shakespeare's Globe production of Twelfth Night. He has also played King Richard II in the Donmar Warehouse production of Shakespeare's play, Richard II, as well as roles in films such as Les Miserables, My Week With Marilyn and Jupiter Ascending.
Redmayne, who next plays transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl and is set to play "magizoologist" Newt Scamander in the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, admitted he did not watch many films when he was growing up.
"My life is film, but it wasn't when I was a kid. My family weren't massively into film, I didn't see a huge amount myself when I was at school - theatre was the thing," he said.
"I always thought that film was entertainment, it wasn't something you could learn from and my God, I was mistaken.
"So since then I've been trying to up my film literacy and it's been an extraordinary adventure and it continues to be. Often with film we love watching it because it's immersive and it's entertaining ... but if you look a bit harder and you ask the questions after, it can be so inspiring. It's an amazing time to be supporting Into Film."
Redmayne first worked with the UK charity when he joined pupils last year at Westminster Academy to launch Into Film, which aims to educate children and young people aged five to 19 about the benefits of movies. It is supported by the BFI with Lottery funding.
The actor, who married publicist Hannah Bagshawe in December 2014, said the film version of some of his roles can help bring a book to life.
"I've done some adaptations of famous books but quite difficult books, whether it was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is a massive tome of a thing, which is terrifying and difficult to read, or Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, which again is a brilliant book, and I've had so many people write to me, subsequent to seeing those films, saying it has made them curious to learn more about that period or to read the book," he explained.
"To really see the specifics and the original material, I think film can be useful in that sense."
Into Film CEO Paul Reeve said he is "absolutely thrilled" to have Redmayne as its ambassador.
"As a hugely respected artist, and with his clear love of film and genuine enthusiasm for enabling young people to engage with it, he is a brilliant advocate for what we do. We hope his involvement in Into Film will inspire young people from all corners of the UK," he said.