Top 10 Reasons to Love Sir Ian McKellen

by Elisa Lichtenbaum

London Lovebirds: Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in Vicious. (Photo: ITV/Brown Eyed Boy Limited 2013)

Vicious, the latest addition to THIRTEEN’s popular Britcom line-up, stars Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as London partners who bicker so much they make the Golden Girls seem like Care Bears.

Sir Ian plays Freddie, an egomaniacal actor. What’s not to love? In each episode, he descends a spiral staircase with a grandeur that would make Norma Desmond eat her turban. What’s not to adore? With every arch of his brow and flick of his wrist, with every exquisitely elocuted line, he elevates sitcom fodder to Shakespearean splendor. What’s not to worship?

Having watched the entire series, I’ve officially become a Sir Ian McKellen superfan, and I’m here to share the McKellen magic with you. After reading The Top 10 Reasons To Love Sir Ian, perhaps you’ll fall under his enchanting spell too.

#1: From Macbeth to Magneto

Throughout his illustrious career, Sir Ian has done it all , from classical theater to blockbuster movies. He has played nearly every major Shakespearean role, from Macbeth to a highly touted King Lear in a Royal Shakespeare Company production that aired on Great Performances in 2009. He also made a splash as Magneto in X-Men and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Talk about range!

#2: Six Degrees of Harry Potter

Masterpiece fans will recall Sir Ian’s chilling portrayal of the villainous headmaster Mr. Creakle in David Copperfield in 2001. His co-star? A 10-year-old Daniel Radcliffe as young David.

#3: Sir Ian IS the Dowager Countess

Okay, so maybe he’s not the famed Downton Abbey diva, but he did play Dame Maggie Smith in a Weekend Update skit on Saturday Night Live featuring a very young Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey.

#4: The Simpsons Factor

There are fewer testaments to an actor’s stardom than a cameo in The Simpsons. In the episode “The Regina Monologues”, the Simpsons family visits London and encounter Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling — and Sir Ian, who invites Homer & Co. to see him in a Shakespeare play that mustn’t be named for fear of bad luck. When Homer and Bart say the play’s name – Macbeth – Sir Ian is struck by lightning. Who said an actor’s life was easy?

#5: A Fine Bromance

While taking Broadway by storm in Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart — a.k.a. “The Sirs” — posted amazing Twitter photos chronicling their adventures in The Big Apple, from a faux Elmo encounter in Times Square to a Nathan’s nosh in Coney Island. Hot dog, anyone?

#6: The Wedding Wizard

Speaking of The Sirs’ bromance, did you know Sir Ian married Sir Patrick? To clarify: he officiated the marriage of Sir Patrick Stewart and jazz singer Sunny Ozell in September 2013. He’s a seasoned marriage officiator, having presided over a civil partnership ceremony between two men in England. Marry on, Sir Ian!

#7: Barbary Lane’s Elite

Sir Ian appeared in the popular PBS miniseries Amistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, delivering zingers like “Harold, we’re ready for the bon-bons!” in this delectable dinner party scene (starts at 2:14). Can you spot costume designer Bob Mackie at the fabulous fête?

#8 Suddenly Sherlock

Move over, Cumberbatch. There’s a new Sherlock in town! Sir Ian’s playing the beloved detective, at age 93, in the upcoming film Mr. Holmes. The film reunites him with director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) and features a starry cast including Masterpiece Classic host Laura Linney and Frances de la Tour, who plays Violet in Vicious.

#9: The Freshest Prince of All

You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Sir Ian sing the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — or voiceover actor Hunter Davis do a spot-on impression of Sir Ian doing a dramatic reading of the song.

#10: He Hearts Public Television

Here at WNET, we love Sir Ian – and he loves us right back! Last September, he and Sir Patrick Stewart visited WNET’s Starr Studio to tape a segment for American Graduate Day, a pledge ticket offer, and an interview on the importance of public television. Watch the complete interview here.

Vicious airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. through August 3rd on THIRTEEN, and Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. through August 13th on NJTV.