Entertainment

Ian McKellen to host London bus tours for Shakespeare film season

Eminent thespian and star of TV and film Sir Ian McKellen has landed perhaps the strangest role yet of his stellar career - hosting a series of literary bus tours of London.

McKellen, known to fans of The Hobbit movie series as Gandalf, will be the well-modulated voice behind the microphone on tours of locations used in his movie adaptation of Richard III.

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Clip: Richard III (1995)

Sir Ian McKellen stars as Richard III in this 1995 film adaptation of Shakespeare's play.

McKellen, 76, who has starred in numerous Shakespeare adaptations, will take fans to London's St Pancras station and Battersea power station, both used in the 1995 film in which he played the tyrant king in a 1930s setting.

The tours are part of the British Film Institute's BFI Presents Shakespeare on Film program, which was launched by McKellen on Monday and will feature screenings of movie adaptations of The Bard's works to mark the 400th anniversary of his death.

Tickets, please ... Ian McKellen, here playing the title role in an RSC production of King Lear, will take on the role ...
Tickets, please ... Ian McKellen, here playing the title role in an RSC production of King Lear, will take on the role of tour guide. Photo: Supplied

"I thought it might be fun to take a bus ride around those buildings and say, 'Look, that's where we were', and then the bus show extracts from the film," McKellen said. "It's a little idea that I've long treasured."

The BFI will host events looking at how filmmakers have been influenced by Shakespeare works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Henry V and Macbeth.

"The beauty of Shakespeare is that he was so perceptive about human nature. He was so interested in the whole range of people from the top of society to the bottom and everything in between," McKellen said.

"He was so accurate in understanding our emotions ... and our motives for doing things, that he goes on being relevant."

- with Nick Galvin