Sir Ian McKellen (born May 25, 1939), English actor and gay rights activist, born in Burnley, Lancashire, but raised in Wigan. His mother died when he was 12 and his father when he was 24. He attended St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where he majored in English literature and began his acting career by appearing in college productions of Shakespearean plays such as Henry IV (featuring another latterly openly gay actor, Derek Jacobi) and Cymbeline. He made his professional debut in a 1961 regional production of A Man for All Seasons and, in 1965, became a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic. Through the next two decades, he became one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated stars of the theatre, appearing in such notable productions as The Promise (1967, film version 1969), Edward II (1969, television version 1970), Hamlet (1971), Doctor Faustus (1974), Macbeth (1976), Pillars of the Community (1977, Olivier Award), The Alchemist (1978, Olivier Award), Bent (1979, Olivier Award), Amadeus (1980, Tony Award), and Wild Honey (1984, Olivier Award). Although he had been out to friends and family, and had shared his life first with Brian Taylor, a history teacher, from 1964 to 1972, then with Sean Matthias, an actor-director, from 1978 to 1988, he took the then risky decision to come out publicly in 1988 in opposition to a proposed law, known as Section 28, which prohibited local authorities from “promoting homosexuality,” which was passed by Parliament, and not repealed until 2002. Subsequently, McKellen become one of the most vocal gay rights activists in the U.K., as well as spreading his message of tolerance and equal rights throughout the world: in 1989, he was one of the co-founders of Stonewall, an LGBT rights lobby organization named after the Stonewall Riots. Despite any fears of backlash, McKellen’s career soared after coming out: although he had appeared in several earlier films (such as playing D.H. Lawrence in Priest of Love  and politician John Profumo in Scandal ), he began appearing in many Hollywood productions, such as Six Degrees of Separation (1993), The Shadow (1994) and Restoration (1995). He received Academy Award nominations as Best Actor for his portrayal of gay director James Whale in Gods & Monsters (1998) and as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Gandalf the wizard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), a role he subsequently repeated in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). He also played the role of the villainous Magneto in the popular X-Men series of films beginning in 2000 and has appeared in other notable films including Apt Pupil (1998), The DaVinci Code (2006), Stardust (2007) and The Golden Compass (2007). In 2013, he reunited with college friend Derek Jacobi to play elderly lovers in the popular British sitcom Vicious. He was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979, knighted in 1991, made a Companion of Honour (CH) in 2008 and received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Cambridge in 2014. Today, Ian McKellen is one of the most celebrated, respected and beloved actors and gay rights activists in the world.