By Leah Garchik
October 13, 2015
The Mill Valley Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Armistead Maupin to Sir Ian McKellen on Sunday night, Oct. 11. The two are old friends and more: As they shared with delight at a Saturday cocktail party hosted by the writer; Maupin’s husband, Christopher Turner; and Roadside Attractions and Miramax (makers of “Mr. Holmes,” McKellen’s new film) at the Ritz-Carlton, Maupin played a pivotal role in McKellen’s life.
The chronological punctuation marks of McKellen’s tale are professional. The two met in the late ’70s, when McKellen was making “Priest of Love,” in which he played D.H. Lawrence, and was on his way “to do ‘Amadeus’ on Broadway.” They met again through mutual friends in Santa Fe, N.M. Later, when McKellen was appearing here in “Richard III,” Maupin took him sightseeing.
In 1988, McKellen was here in “Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare,” and the two had supper. “And then we went back to his house,” said McKellen, “and out of my mouth popped the question, ‘Do you think I should come out?’”
Maupin has always been a fierce crusader for openness. They talked late into the night, and “he persuaded me to come out,” said McKellen. “He is my godfather.” It was in a debate with conservative journalist Peregrine Worsthorne over England’s Section 28, a law regulating mentions of gayness in schools, that McKellen blurted the truth.
Standing at the edge of this party in San Francisco in 2015, it seems incongruous that McKellen, so celebrated professionally, ever could have wrestled with the decision. He’s more than comfortable in his own skin; he seems to relish inhabiting it.