Sir Ian McKellen

One of Britain's finest actors, from Shakespearean splendour to celluloid immortality. The gay-rights activist starred in the iconic role of Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Sir Ian McKellen, knighted in 1991 for his services to the performing arts, is one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, having been honoured with more than 40 international awards for his work on stage and screen.

He received Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild awards for his outstanding portrayal of Hollywood director, James Whale, in Bill Condon's 'Gods And Monsters' (1998).

Sir Ian was born in the north of England on 25 May 1939, the son of a civil engineer. He first acted at school and at Cambridge University, where he studied English Literature and appeared in 21 undergraduate productions, before performing in repertory companies. He gained a reputation for his powerful portrayals of characters, from Richard II to Napoleon and Hamlet.

His film career began with 'The Promise', 'Alfred The Great' and 'Thank You All Very Much' all in 1969.

In addition to 'Gods And Monsters' and 'Richard III' (1995), Sir Ian's numerous credits include 'Bent' (1997), 'Jack And Sarah'(1995), 'Apt Pupil' (1998), 'And The Band Played On' (1993), 'Six Degrees Of Separation' (1993), 'Last Action Hero' (1993), 'X-Men' (2000) and 'Scandal' (1989).

Perhaps his biggest role in recent times was that of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's adaptation of JRR Tolkein's epic trilogy, 'Lord Of The Rings' (2001-2003). He earned an Oscar nomination and an award from the Screen Actors Guild for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his work in 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

In 2006, he enjoyed huge success as 'The Da Vinci Code's' Sir Leigh Teabing, a rich and eccentric expert on Holy Grail mythology, who aids colleague Tom Hanks in his attempt to unravel a worldwide conspiracy involving secret Christian sects and albino killers.

He has since voiced Zebedee in 'The Magic Roundabout' (2005) and in 'Doogal' in 2006. In 2005, Mckellen tried his hand at soap acting and appeared in ten episodes of 'Coronation Street'.

In 2007, he narrated the fantasy film 'Stardust' and lent his voice to 'The Golden Compass' before returning to Shakespeare by acting in the TV movie 'King Lear' as the title character in 2008.

McKellen then appeared in 'The Academy' parts one and two in 2009, which was followed by the miniseries' The Prisoner'. After appearing in a series of shorts, McKellen has reprised Gandalf. He is portraying the wizard in Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' in 2012 and its sequels.

This is not the first character that he has returned to as he played Magneto again in 'X2' in 2003 and in 'X-Men: The Last Stand' in 2006, as well as 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' (2014).

Sir Ian is a co-founder of the UK pressure group Stonewall, which lobbies for equal legal and social rights for lesbians and gay men in the UK. He famously went for tea at Downing Street to discuss gay rights with then prime minister, John Major.