‘I lied the whole time’: McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen's latest movie role is a painful reminder of the double life he was once forced to live.
"There was a period in my life when I lied the whole time, every single day," he told news.com.au ahead of the worldwide premiere of The Good Liar in London.
"I hated it and I hate it now," he said.
The 80-year-old actor, known for his iconic roles in The Lord of the Rings and X-Men, spent almost 50 years of his life having to hide his sexuality before finally coming out to the public in 1988.
"I was required to (lie) by the law because I was gay and if I'd said that I was gay, I could have got into trouble with the authorities," he said.
"Now that's serious lying isn't it? And for self-preservation."
It's this lived experience that McKellen draws upon alongside Oscar-winning actor Helen Mirren (The Queen) in director Bill Condon's (Chicago and Gods and Monsters) twisty new thriller due to hit cinemas this week.
The film follows cunning conman Roy Courtnay (McKellen) as he plots to swindle a cashed-up widow, Betty McLeish (Mirren), out of her multimillion-dollar fortune.
After carefully hooking her on an online dating site, Courtnay reels her in with buckets of charm and a convincing sob story about never having found true love.
But the closer he slinks towards his prize, the more precarious Courtnay's lies become and the more suspicion he raises with McLeish's leery grandson Steven, played by Russell Tovey (Being Human).
What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse where each player must choose their next steps carefully.
Add to that a dramatic soundtrack and flashes of surprisingly brutal violence, including a fight scene you'll never forget, and the film is sure to entertain viewers both young and old.
"It's a contemporary, pretty dark thriller with a lot of fun in it," Condon told news.com.au.
"It's not about mortality, it's not about Shakespeare … it's these two incredibly seasoned but just top-of-their-game actors doing something that's just so modern."
But it's also the sheer calibre of the film's cast that, ironically, may be its biggest flaw.
Courtnay is a delicious role for McKellen - one that truly shows off his extraordinary range as an actor.
It will send shivers down your spine how easily he switches from charismatic old man to full-blown Machiavellian crook throughout he film.
But Mirren is far too good of an actor to simply play his unsuspecting prey. It's a dead obvious giveaway that she too will probably have a few tricks stuffed up her sleeve.
Fortunately the movie's storyline, which is based on the hit debut novel by former British intelligence worker Nicholas Searle, is winding enough to keep you guessing until the very end.
You'll enjoy the full 1 hour and 49 minutes even if you can sense the general direction the film is heading.
If you like mind games, tricky crime puzzles and James Bond-style action, this is the film for you.
The Good Liar is in cinemas from December 5.