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We’re not sure what’s better: watching Sir Ian McKellen play King Lear on stage, or take part in a spontaneous Q&A with the Lord of the Rings star instead.

The audience at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre expected the former on Saturday (August 4), as that’s where Sir Ian is currently playing the lead role in a production of King Lear. Sir Ian began his career performing Shakespeare, of course, having trodden the boards alongside actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Richard Griffiths, Sir Ben Kingsley and BFF Sir Patrick Stewart.

But Sir Ian was forced to cancel, for only the second time in his 54-year career. An announcement was made that, due to a strained calf muscle sustained while running for the train, Sir Ian would not be able to perform the matinee performance of the play, but that he would remain on stage for the duration.

The audience was then treated to a full 90 minutes of Sir Ian as he answered any question they asked, kind of like a real-life Reddit AMA in the plush environs of a London theater.

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Needless to say, some of those present quickly jumped on social media to tell the rest of us what we’d missed, including Sir Ian’s answers to questions such as “Why did you become an actor?” (It was the only thing he was good at, apparently), “What are your tips for auditions?” (“Just relax“), “What is your favorite non-Shakespearean role?” (“Gandalf“), and “What advice do you have for aspiring actors?” (“Don’t.”)

In a brilliant choice of words, one audience member reported Sir Ian “Gandalfed twice” and “acted several Shakespeare scenes off the top of his head.” And then there were the anecdotes, about such luminaries as Peter Jackson and Dame Maggie Smith. (We do hope Sir Ian did his brilliant impression of Maggie.)

After an hour and a half, Sir Ian wrapped things up, and received a standing ovation.

Would you have been happy with this change of program?

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Filed Under: Sir Ian McKellen
By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.