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was a knight to remember at the Canon Theatre on Monday, as Sir Ian McKellen, SAG Actor and Oscar nominee for his performance as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, held forth in a casual Q&A format with a capacity crowd on the subjects of acting, theatre vs. film, and being out as a gay man in his life and career. He spoke from the heart about his inspirations, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Sir Laurence Olivier among them; about his acting process, which, though not learned in drama school, includes such Method techniques as substitution and becoming the character, and about his admiration for American actors. He was also wickedly funny on occasion, confessing that his recent spate of public appearances can be explained simply: "I'm Oscar-hunting," he said. And when asked about shooting Lord of the Rings scenes in which he was acting opposite a blue screen, with special-effects monsters to be added later, he recalled that the Balrog, the huge creature who menaces the fellowship in the mines of Moria, appeared to him as a tennis ball on a stick, and offered the alternate Gandalf phrase, "You shall not bounce!" When asked about whether he minded being tagged as Gandalf for the rest of his career, much as Sir Alec Guinness came to resent his association with Obi-Wan, McKellen replied matter-of-factly, "Well, the difference is, I had a much better part." And though he demurred from speaking about the current war against terrorism, he did close the evening with a stirring speech from Sir Thomas More, a little known bit of Shakespeare apocrypha, in which More accuses his countrymen of "mountainous inhumanity" to the "strangers" in their midst. The Canon's basic lighting plot stayed unchanged during this finale, but it was a testament to Sir Ian's theatrical sorcery that the lights indeed seemed to refocus on his face as he spok
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