Sir Ian McKellen is many things. He holds a variety of honors bestowed by the British crown, including Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood and, most recently, a Companion of Honor. These titles come from McKellen’s inestimable contributions to the world of theater, as well as his dedication to the cause of social equality at home and abroad. Now, Sir Ian is also an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.
McKellen’s love of acting began at a very young age. He saw his first Shakespearean play at his sister’s school, inspiring him to pursue the dramatic arts at Cambridge when he was 18 years old. By the late 1950s, an eager Ian found himself on stage taking up Shakespeare for himself with the Marlowe Society’s production of Henry IV. By the 1960s, McKellen was a professional actor at the West End Theatre, later expanding his presence to many drama companies throughout the United Kingdom.
Sir Ian also occasionally worked in film starting in the late 60s, though he only achieved acclaim equal to his stage fame in the 1990s. His work in And the Band Played On garnered him several awards and echoed his real-life activism for LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS awareness. McKellen became an outspoken supporter of social equality beginning in 1988 in response to a British parliamentary measure that made it a crime for the government to promote or educate concerning homosexuality. With the help of activists like Sir Ian, the law was repealed in 2000.
Today, Sir Ian McKellen has found unlikely fame in decidedly un-Shakespearean movies, specifically as the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the movies in the Hobbit series, as well as the part of Magneto in the X-Men franchise. McKellen pursued his ordination with the Universal Life Church so he could perform the wedding of his X-Men co-star, Patrick Stewart.
As an actor, an activist and a public figure, Sir Ian McKellen embodies class and excellence, with a warm heart and a wry sense of humor. Though it didn’t require royalty to give him the title, the Universal Life Church is still proud to count him among our ministers.