From left, Ian McKellen in Lear; John Simon.Photos: Courtesy of BAM (McKellen); Patrick McMullan (Simon); iStockphoto (package)
Ian McKellen is proud of his junk and sensitive to those who might criticize it. A few years ago, during an interview about another McKellen project, he asked us about his “old friend” John Simon, our former, exacting theater critic. Like many actors, he was still nursing a grudge regarding a negative review. In this case, though, he claims the negative review was of his junk. For what it’s worth, a long search through the magazine’s archives — and John Simon’s collected theater reviews — failed to bring up much more than a reference to McKellen’s performance in 1984’s Wild Honey: “McKellen mugs, struts, fidgets, prances, erupts, and shrivels expertly” (emphasis ours). Surely this can’t be what McKellen was so upset about, can it?
“I was quite surprised by the review,” McKellen told us archly at the time. “As I recall, Mr. Simon is the only person who has ever complained.”
And now Simon’s complaining again! Or … is he?
In his Bloomberg News review of King Lear, Simon gives McKellen a B+ for his performance (“better than I expected but less than I would wish for”) but takes another jab at McKellen’s manhood, so to speak:
As for Lear (and this, surely, is more McKellen than Nunn), although he is supposed to be “every inch a king,” he gives us several inches of frontal nudity that neither Shakespeare nor we bargained for, though they may work as a form of self-advertisement.
Actually, this one might be laudatory. It’s sort of hard to tell. —Logan Hill
McKellen’s Naked Lear Reveals Only So Much Royalty [Bloomberg]
Earlier: Ian McKellen Strips Down in ‘King Lear’