Four years ago, Ian McKellen signed a deal worth more than £1m for his memoirs before pulling out nine months later, saying that it had been “painful” to work on. That pain might be lessened by a new biography from Garry O’Connor, who first met McKellen when they were Cambridge University students 60 years ago. Despite their friendship, this is no hagiography. The actor has not collaborated with O’Connor, but nor has he prevented the book.
McKellen comes across as the consummate professional, “wedded”, as the author puts it, both to acting but also to gay causes. McKellen firmly believes he did not win a best actor Oscar, despite being nominated, for Gods and Monsters and then for The Fellowship of the Ring, because of Hollywood’s homophobia. He even had hard-hitting speeches ready in which he would have castigated the movie world’s attitude. While McKellen has been publicly out for 31 years, he has always been pretty private about his relationships – two of them each lasting a decade.
However, O’Connor, who has previously written biographies on Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft, claims to have discovered an affair with Gary Bond, a star in the 1970s of two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Bond died of Aids-related illness in the 1990s. The book, published later this week (5 September) by Orion, includes stories of how the young Rupert Everett stalked McKellen at the Royal Shakespeare Company – even inveigling himself into the actor’s dressing room. Before that, McKellen had himself “been in love” with Derek Jacobi at Cambridge, though it was unrequited. More than half a century later the two played a sniping gay couple in the ITV comedy Vicious.
After 32 years, John Humphrys finally leaves Radio 4’s Today later this month. He wants a low-key departure, maybe even simply announcing his on-air farewell at 8.59am one weekday. In fact he may not actually have stepped down now but for his agent and publisher HarperCollins earlier this year forcing his hand so that his memoir, A Day Like Today, could appear in early October. After all, he had signed a contract nearly a decade ago.
Humphrys will not pull his punches in his book – in the same way that he still draws blood on Today. As he did last Tuesday, when skewering the vacillating Keir Starmer. His memoir will cover tussles with Jim Naughtie over the key 8.10am interview, and his pay, always more than any female presenter, including Sue MacGregor, when he joined her on Today in 1987. I will hugely miss Humphrys, who remains, at 76, razor-sharp and terrier-like.
This Peter Pan did not fly. A staging of the acclaimed JM Barrie book closes on Sunday at a new venue, the Troubadour White City, ending eight weeks earlier than planned after opening in July. With pedigree credentials as a joint production of the National Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic (it originally opened in Bristol in 2012, transferring to the National in 2016), its early demise is a shock. My guess, however, is that Peter Pan is essentially a winter-time watch and that White City is too much of a schlep unless you’re a local.