Ian McKellen: ‘Working with Anthony Hopkins was bliss’ – BBC News

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Image caption Hopkins( Sir) prepares to play King Lear with the help of his dresser, give full play to McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen tells the BBC why working with Sir Anthony Hopkins on The Dresser was “bliss”, why participates make good Tv and what it was like filming Disney remake Beauty and the Beast.

There’s merely one ground Sir Ian McKellen signed up to star in a new modification of The Dresser, and that’s “because Anthony Hopkins was in it.”

He says he’d witnessed Sir Ronald Harwood’s 1980 play on theatre, watched the 1983 film starring Sir Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney and made: “They’d comprised it. Who necessity me?

“Then they said, ‘well, Anthony Hopkins is playing Sir’, ” he tells the BBC. “So I said, ‘well, that would be a rejoice! ‘ And it was.”

The recent adaptation of Sir Ronald’s play, filmed at Ealing Studios for BBC Two, is the first time the pair have shared a screen together.

Image caption Sir Ian( left) plays Sir’s dedicated dresser Norman

“We should be old friends, ” says Sir Ian. “We were in a company together under Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic when he led the National Theatre, but we didn’t actually act together.

“And since Tony went to live in the District, there haven’t been numerous alternatives when our tracks could have traversed, we’ve never done a film together. So this was just bliss.”

The drama in The Dresser takes target backstage at a theatre during the course of its Blitz, where tyrannical and aging actor-manager Sir( Hopkins) – who is deteriorating in torso and intellect – prepares for his starring role in King Lear, with the help of his devoted dresser Norman( McKellen ).

The camera ensures the audience are right up close to all the action. Did having such an esteemed sparring partner entail both actors upped their competition?

“It may surprise you,[ but] acting isn’t a competition, ” smiles Sir Ian. “It’s not a race, it’s a communal work we do together. It’s more like their own families, so no.

“[ Sir Anthony] said after the first week he’d not enjoyed doing a place so much better for years. At the end of six weeks he said, ‘I can’t bear it, it’s coming to an culminate! Can we work together again? ‘”

Image caption Emily Watson( right) plays the wife of ‘Sir’, known as ‘Her Ladyship’

According to Sir Ian, after years in Hollywood, Sir Anthony is now considering taking to the stage again.

“That was the effect this play had on him! It prompted him to seeing how often he experienced theatre, ” says Sir Ian.

“He was working with parties of his own age, who persisted in the business. Ronald Harwood,[ director] Richard Eyre,[ co-star] Edward Fox and me – so he experienced very much ascertained, he was very relaxed.”

Co-star Emily Watson – who plays Sir’s wife ‘Her Ladyship'( and King Lear’s daughter, Cordelia, in the gambling they’re staging) – says working with the two actors was an nearly religion ordeal.

“We weren’t fairly kneeling in the offstages, but virtually, “its like” being in church. It was so brilliant, ” says Watson.

“To be going into work every day and having long, complex, large-hearted acting vistums with, the working day it was Ian McKellen, the next day it was Anthony Hopkins. Both of them merely playing to the top of their play,[ it] was just thrilling.”

‘Great drama’

Sir Ian says parties shouldn’t be put off by The Drssser being a “backstage story”, full of so-called ‘luvvies’.

“It’s surprising how often actors are asked to play impersonations of themselves. But “thats really not” imitations – they’re inflated personas, but they are absolutely plausible and true to life, ” he says.

“You hear people striving against the curious, you discover parties razzing high-pitched, you construe beings with desire, people who know it all and people who don’t know anything – all mixed together, trying to get on and I think that’s the attractivenes of it all and the ability of it all.”

The Dresser’s makes say it is “harking back to the great eras of Play for Today”, when single dramas were a staple on British video.

Sir Ian anticipates plays “should be more available” on Tv now too, as “plays work very well on television. You can get in very close, you can see it, but you sounds all the words.

“I’m not quite sure why British broadcasters renounced the one-off romp. I think it’s because they found it difficult to sell in the Radio Times,[ which] enjoys series.

“You know where you are[ with serial ]. ‘Oh, it’s this again’, ‘come and watch the same occasion all over again’.

Image caption The Dresser was previously turned into an Oscar-nominated film

“It’s lost that, and it’s a pity. You cut yourself off, you’ll cut the gathering off from assembling enormous, great drama.

“Unless I’m starring in it and playing Sherlock Holmes, of course, ” he adds quickly laughing, in reference to his recent film Mr Holmes, in which he plays a retired Sherlock.

‘Astonishing anticipation’

Mr Holmes learnt him making again with Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon, who has since sorted Sir Ian out with important roles in Disney’s live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

“I did frankly just say to him, ‘what’s my part in Beauty and the Beast? ‘ A few weeks later he said, ‘I think there is a part, but not a large one, ” says Sir Ian.

“I didn’t do much work on it, because for most of the cinema my character’s actually a clock. But when the clock becomes back into a human being, that’s when I come into my own.”

Sir Ian says he has no hypothesi how favourite the film – starring the “wonderful” Emma Watson as Belle – will be.

“It is astonishing to me how many beings tell me that the animated form of Beauty and the Beast is their favourite film of all time and they can’t wait for this, ” he divulges.

“The anticipation is more than it was even for the filming of The Hobbit book after Lord of the Rings, so I’m very lucky to be involved.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Ian is well known for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings cinemas

Before we get to see it – likely to be in 2017 – there will be more of his ITV sitcom Vicious, in which he and Sir Derek Jacobi play a lesbian couple who’ve been together more than 50 years.

“I think we’re hopefully going to do a few more chapters of Vicious to give those reputations literally to berthed – a little radical[ of episodes ]. “

He’s too taking to the stage next summer with another friend and former co-star, Sir Patrick Stewart, for a production processes No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter.

“Two old-fashioned actors will be on the road, two Sirs will be on the road, ” he titters, “but hopefully[ we’ll be] nothing like the character Anthony Hopkins plays in The Dresser! “

The Dresser is on BBC Two on 31 October at 21:00 GMT .

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