World-renowned actor Ian McKellen will visit China for BFI Presents: Shakespeare on Film, as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives - a major programme of events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s work in the 400th anniversary year of his death.
Ian will launch Shakespeare on Film at Shanghai International Film Festival on 13 June. Curated by the BFI (British Film Institute), Shakespeare on Film is a collection of films showing how British cinema has transformed and reimagined Shakespeare’s work. Most famous in China for his role as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Ian is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest actors. Twice nominated for an Oscar, and recipient of every major theatrical award in the UK, Ian has been praised as one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of our time. As part of Shakespeare on Film, Ian will attend an exclusive screening of Richard III, in which he plays the leading role. With no other writer impacting so greatly on cinema, Shakespeare on Film explores how filmmakers have adapted, been inspired by and interpreted Shakespeare’s work for the big screen. The collection includes films such as Richard III, with Ian; Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli; Henry V and Hamlet starring; Laurence Olivier; King Lear directed by Peter Brook, Macbeth directed by Roman Polanski, Hamlet starred by Sir Kenneth Branagh, and the BFI’s new silent Shakespeare compilation, Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film.
Ian McKellen said: “400 years on, Shakespeare’s plays continue to dominate stages worldwide, mostly of course in translation, challenging actors, directors, designers and audiences. The BFI’s Shakespeare on Film is more than just timely, it is a glimpse of the matchless collection of brilliant endeavour from world-beating Shakespeare experts whose films have popularised over the years. Their theatre-roots are evident. They have respect for the text and cut lines with regret. Other directors have successfully translated the stage plays for the screen, aiming, perhaps to make great cinema rather than great Shakespeare.” Ian’s impressive career spans six decades during which he has appeared in over half of Shakespeare’s plays, on stage and on screen. From breakthrough performances as Henry V and Edward II at the Edinburgh Festival (1969) to the title role in Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed production of Macbeth with Judi Dench in 1976 and at the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics (2012), when he portrayed Prospero from The Tempest. Smart Talk with Ian McKellen at SIFF: Shakespeare on Screen, Stage and Elsewhere
On June 12, Ian will deliver an exclusive Smart Talk at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. A flagship of British Council China programme, Smart Talks brings the UK’s best minds and creative experts to China to share their personal experience and professional insights. Previous Smart Talk speakers include Sir Richard Branson, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jimmy Choo and Thomas Heatherwick.
In this exclusive Smart Talk Ian will call upon help from the audience to bring Shakespeare to life with a series of anecdotes, monologues and film clips exploring the problems and pleasures of interpreting Shakespeare for the theatre, television, radio and cinema. Taking the audience on a 90 minute journey through all things Shakespeare and occasionally disappearing into character to perform some of his favourite lines from Shakespeare’s plays, Ian will demonstrate why he is regarded as one of the world’s finest actors.
Nick Marchand, Director of Arts and Creative Industries at the British Council China said: “The reaction in China to Shakespeare this year is beyond our wildest dreams – with audiences responding enthusiastically to works from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Halle Orchestra. In Ian McKellen, we are privileged to welcome another great UK cultural icon. In one of the most menacing and powerful Richard III’s ever to grace the screen, his presence is a highlight of Shakespeare Lives in China, and the Shakespeare on Film programme at Shanghai International Film Festival.”
BFI Head Curator, Robin Baker said: “No writer has had greater impact on cinema – or inspired more films. At the latest count, IMDb lists Shakespeare as the ‘writer’ of 1120 titles. For me the best adaptations of Shakespeare are those that have taken his themes, situations, characters or language and presented them in ways that are purely cinematic: from the immediacy of the epic, bloody battles of Branagh’s Henry V to the intimacy of the close-ups used in the love scenes of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Film and TV makes Shakespeare’s work more accessible than any other medium and the BFI National Archive looks after the world’s largest collection of film adaptations of his work so I’m delighted that so many of them are going to be shared with audiences across the world.”