To promote his performance as the world’s most famous detective in the upcoming “Mr. Holmes,” Sir Ian McKellen took to Reddit to answer fan’s questions in an AMA. The newest cinematic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes focuses on him in his final years, succumbing to the weight of old age while trying to figure out one last unsolved case. The film is adapted from Mitch Cullin’s “A Slight Trick of the Mind” and will be released July 17.
Here are some highlights from the AMA:
How do you feel about playing Sherlock Holmes, a character so famous and beloved by many generations?
The simple unique idea of Mr. Holmes is that he is not a fictional character. [He] was a real person. We meet him first at the end of his life, when he is looking back at the mystery that sent him into retirement. So my Holmes is different from all the rest in that he is so old. He is a real man. And the Holmes everyone thinks they know through the Dr. Watson version is incorrect. So it’s a mystery to learn what Mr. Homes was really like. I loved playing the part.
Many. Many. Many. The scenery that was built in the studio was sensational. And I think my favorite set that I didn’t act in was the golden lair, where the dragon was hiding. Hundreds of thousands of golden coins, specially made. And if you don’t tell anyone, I can tell you that I have some of those coins. Along with the front door key to Bag End, which I know Peter Jackson is looking for, but will never find.
How do you feel about the recent groundswell of acceptance in the United States for the LGBT community, especially as one who has seen it change over the years?
Social change usually happens slowly. The Supreme Court decision comes at the end of the process of argument and confirms the change that has already happened. I’m just sorry that there are still people in the USA that are not yet ready to accept that the law should treat everybody the same. But they too will change.
How has your relationship with Sir Patrick Stewart impacted your career and your life?
Patrick and I have known each other since we [were] in the Royal Shakespeare Company in the ’70s. I’m the guy who advised him not to do “Star Trek.” We’ve recently become friends through “X-Men” and we did two plays together. I married him to his lady Sunny. So all and all we’ve become very close to each other.
There is a rumor that Christopher Lee always wanted to play Gandalf, but you got it instead. Is there anything that Christopher Lee did that you always wanted?
It’s not a rumor, it’s true. He told me at our first meeting that he always thought he would be good casting as Gandalf. It turns out he was better casting as Saruman. Of all the parts he played, the one I hankered after was Sherlock Holmes. I’m sorry he doesn’t get to see “Mr. Holmes,” the movie, I think he would have enjoyed it.
Does being knighted have any perks?
Not really. There’s no money involved. You get a medal. And a lot of respect I suppose. The one slight problem is that sometimes the title gets in the way. Particularly backstage or on set when I much prefer not to have it used.
Which role did you have the most difficulty getting into?
There’s usually for me a moment of despair for every part I play, worrying that I will never convince myself that I inhabit the character. The worst case of that was “Wild Honey,” based on Anton Chekhov’s first play. I tried to leave the production at the dress rehearsal. It’s one of the biggest successes I ever had at the National Theatre in London. So, what do I know?