Sir Ian McKellen credits Richard III role for film success


Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen has said that without his starring role in the film version of Shakespeare's Richard III he might never have landed his famous roles in Lord Of The Rings and X-Men.

The actor wrote, produced and starred in the 1995 film directed by Richard Loncraine, which also featured Annette Bening, Kristin Scott Thomas and Robert Downey Jr.

His portrayal of the tyrannical king, set in 1930s England, was his first leading role on the big screen.

In a short video introducing a screening of the film at the BFI Southbank in London, Sir Ian said: "Without it I might never have played Gandalf and Magneto."

In a Q&A after the film, which was watched by audiences in 70 cinemas around the country, the Oscar nominee revealed the one question he would like to ask Shakespeare.

He said: "I would ask Shakespeare, 'Did you write the plays?' And of course he would say yes."

Richard also detailed the financial struggles of making the film, saying: "Three weeks in we went bankrupt and Ian and I put in our own money. We started out knowing we couldn't get through the movie but we thought a Hollywood studio would cover us.

Sir Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine
Sir Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine attending the launch of the new Shakespeare app at the BFI on the Southbank in London (Ian West/PA)

"Three weeks in we ran out of money and the studio head went berserk to the producers when we asked for more money."

Sir Ian added: "Neither of us made a penny from it, we gave all our salaries to make it and I'm very proud of it."