Ian McKellen is not holding back when it comes to talking about his least favorite filmmaking experience.
The “Lord of the Rings” and “X-Men” actor said in a Variety cover story that starring in Michael Mann’s 1983 horror film “The Keep” was among his worst memories as an actor. The film, which was critically panned upon release, follows a group of Nazi soldiers who unwittingly awaken an evil supernatural force in Romania during World War II.
“Michael Mann said to me, ‘You’re playing this Romanian,’” McKellen recalled. “So I went to Romania to scout it out, and I learned how to speak with a Romanian accent. Then on the first day of shooting, Michael told me he wanted me to speak with a Chicago accent. Well, I couldn’t do that, and it got worse from there.”
McKellen continued, “I would define a good director as an honest one who says, ‘Look, this is mostly not working. But, Ian, at that moment where you decided not to sit down, you were absolutely the character.’ If I can then remember that moment and what it felt like and how my body was positioned, I can take advantage of that sensation. Then it starts to spread throughout my DNA.”
He added, “I’ve never learned Meisner or any technique of acting. I didn’t go to drama school. I’ve often wished that I did have a foolproof approach to how to prepare. Each play or movie stands by itself for me. And every time I begin with this terror of just, ‘Here we go again, making the same mistakes.’”
McKellen also shot down the notion of retiring anytime soon, saying, “I’ve never been out of work, but I’m aware that any minute now something could happen to me which could prevent me from ever working again. But while the knees hold up and the memory remains intact, why shouldn’t I carry on? I really feel I’m quite good at this acting thing now.”
McKellen is currently starring in “The Critic” which is premiering at TIFF. “The Keep” director Mann is also on the fall festival circuit with “Ferrari,” which debuted at Venice.
Mann, who is from Chicago perhaps hence the direction for McKellen’s accent, revealed in 2014 that sophomore directorial effort “The Keep” is one of his past films he’d like to revisit since it was “never completely realized” to its full potential.
“It was a script that wasn’t quite ready, and, (a hard) script to schedule, because of how the picture (was) financed,” Mann said. “And a key guy in the making of it, a man named Wally Veevers, who was a wonderful, wonderful man, a very talented visual effects designer from ‘2001‘ all the way back to ‘The Shape of Things to Come,’ tragically passed away, right there in the middle of our post-production. And so it became for me a film that was never completely realized.”
Meanwhile, Mann has also continued his “Heat” universe, penning a sequel novel and a film follow-up titled “Heat 2.”