Sir Ian McKellen said it was clear to him that Hamlet was bisexual, before he returned to the role in an ageless performance.
he theater veteran, 82, first played the Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s tragedy 50 years ago and will play the role again in a premiere production at Theater Royal Windsor next week.
Hamlet is believed to have been around 30 years old.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row: “When you come to see me you won’t see an old man pretending to be a young man, you will see a man pretending to be a prince, pretending to be an intellectual, pretending to be a neurotic, pretending to love his mother, pretending to love girls and boys.
“You didn’t know it was in Hamlet, did you?”
“There it is, Rosencrantz to Hamlet: ‘You loved me once.”
Discussing returning to the role in his’ 80s, Sir Ian said: “I guess I was thinking I was playing Polonius, ‘No we would like you to play Hamlet,’ said Sean (Mathias, theater manager).
“There was a pause, I thought that sounded like a bit of a silly idea, and then I thought no if that’s what you wanna do, if you just wanna say at the start of the show; “Here is a bunch of actors – of all sizes, shapes and ages, colors and ethnicities, and backgrounds – and we’re going to tell the old familiar story, but maybe not the old fashioned way,” that struck me as a l adventure is worth living.
Sir Ian came out in a BBC radio appearance in 1988 and said he couldn’t remember if it was planned or if it was a spontaneous decision.
He said, “I can’t tell you for sure, but I know I had thought about it and chatted with friends who were open about their sexuality to see if it would be an appropriate thing for me to do.
“The people I spoke to, mainly Armistead Maupin, author of Tales Of The City, said it would be important for me in my development as a person, but he said it would be important for others.
“Well, I liked that rather, coming from a family of ‘blessings’.
“I had not felt disadvantaged until then by the laws of the land which prohibited me from having sex, because I had simply broken the law.
“But of course, when I grew up and understood what the real laws were – and this new pernicious little law (article 28) that was introduced, very nasty, preventing children from being introduced to the fact of homosexuality in the society – it It was only when I realized that there was a grave injustice, that I realized that it was a grave injustice against me and I took it personally, and once I had it I took it personally, it became clear not what I needed to do, but what I wanted to do. “
When asked if that had freed him, he replied, “Totally, oh yes.
“Once you are free like everyone else to choose to be your own person and to express yourself in your own way – which when you are in the closet you cannot and do not do – your life changes. sure in every aspect for the best, especially in dealing with others.
“Is it any wonder my acting has improved?”
“It happened, almost overnight.
“Now my game is not about disguise but about revelation.”
The full interview is on Front Row on June 18th from 7pm on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.
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