Usually we feel vaguely sad and dispirited when a talented actor continues to accept lucrative starring roles in crowd-pleasing blockbusters, like, say, Nicolas Cage in the National Treasure franchise, or Samuel Jackson, who apparently hasn’t turned down a part since 1996. So why is it that we feel giddy and delighted to learn that Sir Ian McKellen has more or less agreed to return as Gandalf in the Peter Jackson–produced The Hobbit?
Is it because McKellen spent a lifetime as a venerated stage actor before breaking through to Hollywood? Is it because he elevates everything he does, from the cartoonish X-Men series to the pretty terrible Bryan Singer misstep Apt Pupil? Is it because he seems to be having such a damned good time as an unlikely, late-life movie star, whether it’s hosting SNL, showing up at the Oscars with his studly young boyfriend, or generally being totally, loudly, proudly gay in a town of fake hair and real-life beards?
We’re so generally in awe of Sir Ian that we propose a new verb: to McKellen.
McKellen (v) (mk kl´ ln´´)
Definition: When a distinguished actor sells out late in his/her career in a way that feels earned and great and non-reprehensible because he/she is awesome and totally deserves it.
Usage: Let’s say Dame Judi Dench accepted the role of Hippolyte, Wonder Woman’s mother in a Wonder Woman film. (Don’t get excited, fanboys, we’re just blue-skying here, though we now expect to see this rumor on Ain’t It Cool by Friday.) You can say, “Yes, I heard she’s McKellening the role.” Or, “She’s reportedly McKellening it over.” As for Sir Ian, we’re ecstatic to hear that he’ll once again be McKellening the white-bearded wizard. —Adam Sternbergh